A MIXED BAG OF BLOOD by David Bernstein (Sinister Grin Press)
Some Authors really enjoy putting their characters through the worst things they can imagine. Some of these authors are tender hearted and treat their characters like their own children, never really allowing something too terrible to happen to them. Then we have authors like Mr. Bernstein, here.
Bernstein is the George R.R. Martin of short horror fiction; he creates these compelling and life-like characters that pull you into his eclectic universe that he has built for the story at hand and if you like happy ending’s, you’re better off going to a massage parlor. This is my first time spending quality time with the authors work, and I have to say, I can’t wait to check out more.
A MIXED BAG OF BLOOD is pretty short, and I actually read a few of the stories twice. Sometimes a story is so good, you just have to go back and read it again. There were times I was sure I was reading an anthology instead of a single author’s collection, as Bernstein’s ability to change his style is obviously some kind of evil superpower he gained from injecting himself with radioactive ink. It’s a fun collection to read, at times emotionally investing, scary, darkly comedic, and always engrossing.
There is something for everyone in this collection; vampires vs. zombies, aliens, revenge, small-town horror, more zombies, and plenty of gore to whet any horror hounds appetite. Whether Bernstein is telling the story of an alien invasion, vampires on the verge of extinction because of a zombie outbreak, or four families protecting their town’s dark secret, his ability to bounce around amongst familiar tropes both within and outside of the genre with the flair of Q-Bert on crack is astounding, and as a fellow author who loves to run his characters through the meat grinder, I tip my hat to Mr. Bernstein.
EATEN UN-ALIVE and THE TROJAN PLUSHY were two standouts that I’m sure I will revisit again soon. EATEN UN-ALIVE is such an original take on a zombie apocalypse in a world of vampires, that I immediately reread it. It felt like a modern day Matheson tale, and I had to make sure I had read it right. I did. THE TROJAN PLUSHY is a deliciously twisted tale of revenge that reminded me of reading those dusty old horror comics I’d find at flea markets as a kid. A total Crypt Keeper style of story here, folks. Both of these stories show the authors strongest strengths without taking away from the rest of the collection, and that is a hard trick for any magician to pull off.
Other standouts include THE BOOGLIN, a tale of a booger and a boy that I laughed through every page of. BAD CUTLERY, a tale of a knife that does much more than cut meat on your plate, and STD, another gross-out tale that left my stomach sore from laughter and made me wary of ever encountering this author at a gross-out competition in the future.
Originality is often hard to come by, and if you like stories with great characters, monsters, and settings that will give you a couple nights of solid nightmare fuel, than you’d better lay back and let Dr. Bernstein inject the I.V., just make sure he’s wearing gloves. (Cory Cline)