Morgan Tanner follows up his impressive debut novella Army of Skin which I reviewed for the site earlier this year with an equally impressive collection titled The Mind’s Plague and Other Bites of Brutality. While Army of Skin was a great story and gives us a look into what Tanner is capable of, Mind’s Plague shows us the many different places his imagination can take us.
While the collection is on the short side, the pace is relentless and Tanner keeps the horrors coming from beginning to end. Tanner’s writing style is as in your face as his horrors. The descriptions are at the same time vivid and concise with nary a superfluous word which keeps the action moving forward while still giving the reader a glimpse into the world Tanner sees in his mind. His characters are written concisely as well but still contain the depth needed for the reader to become invested in the bite of brutality. As for what Tanner does to his characters...I’ll let you decide for yourself if you think they deserve it or not, but for me these stories were perfect horrors and incredibly fun to read. All of the stories in this collection were good or very good but three stood out the most for me.
The Mind’s Plague, opens the book and sets the tone for the rest of the book and lets the reader know what they can look forward to. It is the story of a group of teenagers sitting around drinking and talking about a murder suicide that happened one town over. The rumor is that the killer watched a video on the internet and it made him go crazy and kill his family then himself. The teens, being typical teenagers, scour the internet looking for the video but can only find other videos referencing it. That’s as much as I’m going to tell you because the rest of the story is really good and really disturbing. The visuals in this story make it, and there are some great descriptions about what happens to the teens throughout the night.
Conflagration Desecration is my favorite story in the collection. I don’t know if Tanner is a metal drummer or not but if I found out he was, it wouldn’t surprise me because the descriptions in this story felt very authentic and real. The premise of this one is that a drummer tries out for a new band called Conflagration Desecration. The band acts strange and weird the whole time which lets the reader know something is off. But we don’t actually see what is really wrong with the band until first live show. The ending is perfect and brutal.
The Price of Fame is a gruesome story that pulled me in with the very first sentence and pushed the envelope, leaving me thinking I’d never read anything like it before. In this, the main character takes a famous YouTuber hostage, tortures him and videos it, then posts the videos to the YouTuber’s page. What made this story for me, was the main character’s reaction to the comments left on each of the videos he posted. The comments and his reaction to them were very realistic and show the way social media and the internet has changed our lives. This story, more than any other, feels like an episode of Black Mirror.
There are other gems in this collection, but these stood out to me more than the rest. I’ve read a lot of horror over the years, and this collection pushed the envelope for me in a great way. It did some things I’ve never seen before and that’s hard. Well worth the read and you should all go out and pick up this collection. Strong 4/5 from me.
Dave also reviewed this great book, check out his review below:
The Mind’s Plague & Other Bites of Brutality
There’s something about anthologies that I really love. I get to see the wide range of an author’s talent. I don’t get trapped in the lull of action that a longer novel sometimes creates. And usually, I get a variety of horror, whether it be supernatural, survival, body horror, etc. King’s Skeleton Crew was one of the first horror anthologies (hell, horror fiction in general) that I read as a kid, and I still can’t drive through fog without thinking of The Mist in that book. That brings me to The Mind’s Plague & Other Bites of Brutality by Morgan K. Tanner. This was an excellent anthology that spanned the many sub-genres of horror. From the first story The Mind’s Plague, Tanner slams the accelerator and doesn’t let up. Let’s look at some of the bites of brutality.
Tanner’s titular story leads off. Here we look in on a group of friends trying to debunk an internet hoax, one that involves an online video that makes viewers go crazy and kill their families. When their search only comes across multiple warnings about not seeking the video, the friends give up and go home. That’s when things get crazy. Tanner set the tone early with this story and keeps readers guessing about outcomes throughout the rest of the book.
I know, sick band name, right? Well, Tanner thought the same. In this story, a drummer is looking for a new gig. Steve finds an opportunity with Conflagration Desecration and after a very brief invite for an audition, he goes to the studio to try out. Against his own worries, Steve sits for the audition and played like never before, getting asked to join the band. The only problem, his first gig is the next day and he must learn the entire set before they go on stage. Practicing all night, Steve arrives at the show. Something seems off though. Will the band need a new member after the concert? Setting the tension early, Tanner shows the reader to be careful what you wish for.
Philip is plagued by a nightmare ruining his family’s vacation and their hotel stay. When he and his wife confront the night caretaker about strange happenings, the strange get stranger. Sometimes the past doesn’t stay where it belongs. This story gave me serious 1408 vibes. We know something is off, but we don’t know what until the end. This story ends the anthology and leaves the reader looking for more.
From Eldritch horror to sentient zombies, to the soul-crushing pain of grief, Morgan Tanner takes the reader for a wild ride through his horror mind. He sets the tone early, keeps the tension throughout, doesn’t let up between stories, and keeps readers wanting more.
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