I’ve read a lot of horror stories in my [redacted] years on earth. I got a taste for them with a little book called The Stand back in middle school and I’ve been reading everything I could get my hands on since. I’ve met a lot of monsters – both supernatural and human – but it’s been a while since I’ve come across anything original and thought-provoking in one of these horror stories. Did Andrew Jones’ Shadows Falling hit a unique nerve, or is it one to just be lumped together with all the rest?
Shadows Falling is a book of short stories, most of which are swirled together into a larger, pitch black goulash of Lovecraftian horror. The first three quarters of the book are about the American-Iranian-Iraqi Oil Company and the things they do to keep drilling oil, no matter what the cost. Like any well-funded international agency, the American-Iranian-Iraqi Oil Company sweeps all bad news under the rug, shoots off insurance claims like they’re everyday correspondence and pays off families of accident victims without a second thought. Scary as it is, this isn’t even the horror of these tales, however. The inky black terror is hidden in the earth itself and retaliates in the only way it knows how, trying to keep what lies beneath hidden from prying eyes and deep pockets.
What, exactly, is hidden beneath the oil rigs and drilling wells that spring up like bloodsucking mosquitoes in the far reaches of the world? Is the earth itself revolting against the constant siphoning of its most natural resources? Or has the American-Iranian-Iraqi Oil Company released something monstrous and timeless in their continuous drive to drain the earth of her tarry lifeblood, something that revolts at being disturbed after its million year sleep? Could it be that something earthbound has reached its breaking point and now feels the need to retaliate against the ones responsible for sucking the earth dry and has figured out a way to get revenge? Worse yet, could these examples of unknown horror be par for the course, something every natural resource recovery company has dealt with since the industrial revolution made the world dependent on the oil, coal and natural gas that has so far been safely tucked away beneath the hard crust of the planet?
In the first three quarters of Shadows Falling titled “Blood and Shadows,” the reader gets a fly-on-the-wall look at what goes on behind the scenes of the fabricated American-Iranian-Iraqi Oil Company, told in military reports, diary entries, video transcripts and company emails. Much like Max Brooks’ World War Z, Shadows Falling hides the horror in dry, matter-of-fact prose and emotionless reporting that makes the story itself so much more terrifying. Jones combines current events involving terrorism, archaeology, world leaders and their greedy fight for oil and money with the true story of the infamous Dyatlov Pass Incident, insanity, underground horrors, demons and Lovecraftian nightmares that effect the highest company CEO to the lowliest ship worker.
The last quarter of the book goes in a totally different direction with seven short stories of ever increasing, gory terror. “Grace” gives us an inside look at window-watching obsession that goes above and beyond anything Jimmy Stewart ever had to deal with in Rear Window. This story was, by far, the funniest of the bunch. I’m still waiting for that badger attack. “Memories” makes you wonder if the things you recall from your childhood are true or if they’re really just a product of your overactive imagination. The last line of this story made my skin crawl. “Bound” was goretastic. Jones did not shy away from any of the disgusting and bone-popping details of a woman caught in a homemade BDSM device as her lover lies dead on the floor.
Next in Shadows Falling was “Gagged,” where Jones almost makes you feel sorry for the unnamed main character, a man whose lust drives overwhelms and drives him to do things he doesn’t want to do. As his crimes increase in ever-so-violent ways, you can only imagine every pedophile and pervert being able to relate to this sick albeit helpless individual. I loved how both “Bound” and “Gagged” ended with the same word… “Bastard.” “Any Easy Way to Bleed Your Breaks” could have come whole and unfettered from an episode of Tales From the Crypt and leaves you with the most satisfying ending.
My least favorite story in the bunch was “Augmented.” The crime of the protagonist was never really explained, although the science fiction in the story is certainly trippy and mind altering. The last story, “Traction,” starts off with the best argument for a return to real horror that I’ve ever read. If I could, I would print the entire thing here just so you all could enjoy it as much as I have. Of course, the reasons for that argument are put to the test in this story in the most agonizing and descriptive way possible.
All in all, I thought Shadows Falling was a fabulously cringe-worthy first novel from Andrew Jones. It did take awhile for me to cut through the red tape and get into the initial story, but once I found my pace, I couldn’t stop reading. The gems of the book, in my opinion, are the seven short stories at the end. Written in gory, gut-wrenching yet humorous description, these tales would all make fantastic horror shorts. Directors, take note!
You can purchase a copy of Shadows Falling on Amazon here. Be sure to check out the author’s website at Jonesaw.com and listen to one of his hilarious podcasts at Mindfudge Comedy Podcast, hosted by Justin Corbett.