reality

Book Review: Torn Realities

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I was first introduced to this anthology at Ad Astra, when Matt Moore read his story Delta Pi. After talking with a few other people online (Facebook? Twitter? Google Plus? I don't really remember anymore...) about the book, I picked up a Kindle Edition.

Torn Realities is a Lovecraft inspired anthology, with a focus on how reality twists and tears, revealing something unknowable, something malevolent, which shifts all our frames of reference. In addition to Matt's story, this anthology also includes Rawhead Rex, a story by Clive Barker. My other favourite stories in the anthology include Amsterdamned, and Hallowed Ground.

Torn Realities Cover Image

Delta Pi by Matt Moore Delta Pi was the first story I turned to, as I was already familiar with the story. As I read it, my mind echoed the punctuated rhythms of Moore's reading. Its energetic and passionate. If you ever get a chance to attend one of his readings, you should. The story itself draws upon the fears some have expressed in recent years, that a high energy particle accelerator experiment could tear the Earth apart in some recreation of the Big Bang. Moore doesn't focus on the science, but on the psychology of a researcher on the outside. Someone who accepts, nay, embraces the conclusions of a paper which other scientists have ignored as the ramblings of a madman.

Opt-in by JW Schnarr

I can see why the editors wanted to lead with this story. Today, personal, highly targeted marketing appears to be the norm. What would happen, however, if the personality targeting you was that of a loved one, since passed away? An advertisement that cannot be ignored, as you seek to keep up a link to the past. The story follows this theme down the rabbit hole, as what if two-way communication occurs, but it's not the loved one on the other side? Reading this story reminded me of the works of Philip K Dick, especially the novel Ubik, on multiple levels.

What Waits Out There by Jamie Lackey Reading this story, I was very much reminded of Nietzsche.

He who fights with monsters should look to it that he himself does not become a monster. And when you gaze long into an abyss the abyss also gazes into you. "Beyond Good and Evil", Aphorism 146 (1886)

The terror of being alone, but sensing that something is watching.

Angkor Sabat by C. Deskin Rink

The language used in this story is excessively ornate, telling the tale of a mighty prince turned pauper as he spends his wealth and sanity in an all-consuming search of a lost lover. While most of the story seemed excessive, I found the conclusion a satisfying warning to the dangers of being blinded by obsession.

By The Side Of The Highway by Philip Roberts

Being stuck in a strange temporal loop, able to communicate in a limited way with those who pass through a small section of deserted highway would be enough to drive anyone mad.

The Art of Lucid Dreaming by C.M. Saunders

In psychological horror, what is more terrifying than the desolation of being trapped in your own dreams for eternity? Perhaps being stalked by some malevolent awareness, from beyond the darkness. I quite enjoyed this story.

Rawhead Rex by Clive Barker

A malignant creature, released from a subterranean prison after hundreds of years stalks the British countryside, seeking flesh to devour, bringing death and defiling the landscape. As the landmark reprint in the anthology, I can see why the editors wanted this story. Aside from being written by an acclaimed master of horror, it fits with the theme perfectly.

The Midnight Librarians by Brad Carter As children, we are more likely to accept the existence of monstrosities concealed in darkness. While many of the stories in the anthology have adult protagonists, Carter draws upon the forbidden secrets exposed by rebellious youth. Some tales told to frighten children may just have a basis in another reality.

The Troll That Jack Built by Kathryn Board

Internet Trolls are foul beasts, especially those who prey on others insecurities. There's a reason legislation is being drafted in many areas against cyber bullying. An evil awareness that feeds off negative Internet posts, and the pain they cause, must be a glutton in today's society.

The Calm by James S. Dorr

History repeats itself, and that is certainly true in horror stories, many of which feature the cyclical return of some creature woken from a generations long sleep. This story however, involves a village outside time, and those who come across it in the wilderness, encountering the dangerous creature that haunts the region. This story has a quite interesting monster, one of my favorites in the anthology.

Casa De Los Cadaveres by Gerard Houarner

This story was rather confusing to me. I think it was about a young man wanting to get in on the family business to make some fast money. It appears that the business is something like arcane artifact dealers, or something, and he experiences something really strange. It was hard for me to follow.

In The Shadow of the Equine by Kenneth W. Cain

Camping on an island reached by ferry sounds fun, unless you're stuck with a cult of red-eyed monsters who smell of fish.

Visions of Parin by Joseph Williams

Another great space story. Long space voyages tend to completely unhinge the mind.

Amsterdamned by Mitch Richmond

This is one of my favorite stories in the anthology. It's more subtle than some of the others, the entrapment is at a greater distance. It explores supernatural protection given to someone without their knowing, which when triggered, reveals the secret world, much like in John Carpenter's film They Live.

The Residents of Mossy Rock by Lee Davis

Mental institutions are great hooks for horror stories, as they house all sorts of crazy. But what if particular delusions are real?

A Ride in the Dream Machine by Jessica McHugh

Dreams are extensions of the subconscious mind. The best of dreams come unbidden. Trying to force the matter could be seen as an attack on the mind, with unexpected results.

The Offering by Bob Mustin

A mixture of new age mysticism and Olmec legends result in a plan to wake a slumbering god.

Hallowed Ground by Jeff Suess

A rather well executed civil war story. The author executes a some really great reversals in the story. Those who tend to the dead are not always scavengers of unpure purpose.

The Seventh Plague by Allie Marini Batts

A beautiful piece of prose-poetry regarding the burning of Florida finishes up the anthology.

 

A Scanner Darkly by Philip K. Dick

Philip K. Dick's works have been quite popular for film adaptations, starting with Blade Runner, an adaptation of Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? starring Harrison Ford in 1982. Sadly, Dick died from a stroke four months before the film was released. Total Recall followed in 1990, based of Dick's story "We Can Remember it for You Wholesale", starring Arnold Schwarzenegger. Screamers, based on the short story "Second Variety" was released in 1995, starring Peter Weller. Minority Report, based on the short story of the same name, was released in 2002, starring Tom Cruise. A smaller film, Imposter was released in 2002, starring Gary Sinise and Vincent D'Onofrio, based on a short story of the same name. The Ben Affleck movie Paycheck was released in 2003, continuing the more recent trends to leave the name the same. In 2007, Nicolas Cage starred in Next, a loose adapation of Dick's short story "The Golden Man". Before Next was A Scanner Darkly. While I have a particular fondness for Blade Runner, it's more clearly an adaptation than Scanner, which stays much closer to the novel. The movie is rotoscoped, each frame was originally shot on film with the cast, including Keanu Reeves, Robert Downey Jr., Woody Harrelson, Winona Ryder and Rory Cochane.

This is not the first of Richard Linklater's films to do so, he previously directed A Waking Life, which was done in a similar - albeit simplified - style. The visual style of the film is in a very large part what makes this such a compelling adaptation.

The story follows Bob Arctor/Fred, a junkie/undercover narc undergoing a steady drug-induced dissociate identity disorder. A combination of the drug, Substance D, and his dual roles as dealer and undercover agent cause him to lose his grip on reality. Particularly important is the so called "scramble suit" in which Arctor "cannot be identified by voice, or by even technological voiceprint, or by appearance" as it renders him "like a vague blur and nothing more".

The breakdown of reality in the story is perfectly suited to the visual style. The rotoscoping of the film acts in many ways like the scramble suit, carefully masking the reality beneath. Both of these effects are of course substituting for the "mors ontologica", the death of the subject experienced by those addicted to the drug Substance D.

Both the novel and the movie treat an important issue, as relevant in today's society as it was in 1977. It's in many ways one of the most humanizing of Dick's stories, and is clearly based on very personal events in his life. The story is one of my favourites, and I think the film is a very worthy adaptation.