Review: Blacker Against the Deep Dark by Alexander Zelenyj

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Alexander Zelenyj's Blacker Against the Deep Dark was published by Eibonvale Press in December 2018.

Click here to watch the trailer for this collection.

Information about Alexander Zelenyj:

Alexander Zelenyj is the author of the books Blacker Against The Deep Dark, Songs For The Lost, Experiments At 3 Billion A.M., Ballads To The Burning Twins: The Complete Song Lyrics Of The Deathray Bradburys, and Black Sunshine. He lives in Windsor, Ontario, Canada with his wife, Elizabeth.

Click here to visit his official website.

Information about Blacker Against the Deep Dark:

From a man having a conversation with the shadow of a human being blasted into a wall by the atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima, to a pastor giving shelter to the most bizarre individual to ever walk the Earth; from a secret group at war with the physical manifestations of disease that have run rampant for ages, to a pair of detectives trying to solve the mystery of a deadly otherworldly drug that legend says holds the power to open the gates to Paradise. These, and other dark and weird tales...

"There are no holds barred in these stories, just a rawness that underpins his soaring talent. Alexander Zelenyj is a poet. His work is detailed, descriptive and devastating... The reader is swept into worlds of possibility where nothing is as it seems... In this latest collection he conveys desire, agony and horror with the ease of a master craftsman. His work is subtle yet brutal. It changes as quickly and unexpectedly as his imagination." - Trevor Denyer, Editor-in-Chief of Midnight Street Press, from his introduction


It's always a pleasure to read Alexander Zelenyj's fiction and his new collection, Blacker Against the Deep Dark, is no exception. I was deeply impressed by the beauty and diversity of the stories in Blacker Against the Deep Dark. Being a devoted fan of literary speculative fiction and especially literary strange fiction, I found myself wholly immersed in the author's dark and atmospheric stories and couldn't stop reading them until I'd reached the end.

I loved everything about Blacker Against the Deep Dark, because its contents strongly appealed to my taste in literary speculative fiction and stimulated my imagination. I enjoyed this collection so much that I declare it - without any kind of hesitation - as the best and most captivating short story collection of the year, because the stories are beautifully written and have a feel of haunting darkness and alluring strangeness to them. It's a fascinating and fully satisfying follow-up to the author's previous short story collections.

I was first introduced to Alexander Zelenyj's fiction in the Blind Swimmer anthology (Eibonvale Press, 2010), because it contained one of his stories. I instantly found the story's literary values impressive and was eager to read more of the author's stories. When I read his short story collections (Experiments at 3 Billion A.M. and Songs for the Lost), I was so impressed by both of them that his stories found a permanent place at the very top of my must-read list. I'm happy to say that this third collection is every bit as good, fascinating, thought-provoking and original as the previous collections. In certain ways, it's even better and more rewarding than its predecessors, because the author's stories are now bolder and darker than before. The author has developed as a writer and his literary development is evident in this collection.

I consider Blacker Against the Deep Dark to be a unique treasure, because it contains subtly complex, thought-provoking and diverse stories that will haunt the readers and linger on their minds for a long time. In this collection, the author continues to impress his readers with beautifully written stories that daringly explore the inner workings of the human psyche and expose readers to various emotions and supernatural elements. Some of the stories are fascinatingly dark and unsettling in their subject matter while others are a bit lighter and more hopeful.

This collection contains the following stories:

- Blacker Against the Deep Dark
- Highway of Lost Women
- The Priests
- We Are All Lightless Inside
- The Ocean Closes at Midnight
- Loneliness the Hunter
- Kingdoms
- Angels, and the Daggers of Darkness
- Journey to the End of a Burning Girl
- The Black-Winged and Burning
- The Bloodmilk People
- From Parts Unknown
- The Terror of Broken Places
- Moondogs
- We Will Meet when the Sky Turns Darkest
- Kill Them and Kill Them (and Pray for Something Good)
- The Flies will be Here Soon
- "Hush Honey, and Give Daddy Back His War Hammer"
- Christ on the Sun
- The Sky was a Window All Along
- The Children Who Saw the Universe
- Where Wickedness Walks
- Private Poison
- Spiderpartment
- This Lustful Earth
- We, the Burning Stars
- Champions of the Holy War
- Engines of Forever
- Flowers of Heaven
- In Rooms Empty but for You
- Love in Uncertain Times

I enjoyed reading all of these stories and was impressed by them and their literary values. They represent the absolute best that literary speculative fiction has to offer for quality-oriented readers and thinking adults.

In these stories, the author takes his readers on a journey into a world where darkness, sadness, grittiness, loneliness, agony, isolation, desire, sex, brutality and strangeness exist side by side and collide into one another with quiet yet powerful force that bends and pushes the boundaries of speculative fiction into imaginative, shocking and thought-provoking directions. The author's bold and intelligent way of exploring various themes and issues is captivating due to him not shying away from difficult and challenging material. Although there are many dark happenings in these stories and certain happenings are disturbing, there are also tiny glimpses of hope in some of them.

The characterisation in these stories is excellent and impressive, because the author writes fluently about all of his characters. There's something deeply observant, meaningful and beautiful yet at times quite unsettling about the author's way of writing about the characters and their lives that leaves on everlasting impression on the reader. It's great that he's capable of getting inside the minds of his characters and makes his characters psychologically interesting, because it brings depth to the stories. Because of this, his vision of the human psyche and the human condition is incredibly fresh and vivid, not to mention harrowing.

All of the stories in this collection are of the highest quality and deserve to be read and cherished. If you love literary speculative fiction, you'll be impressed by these stories and their literary values. There are no unnecessary filler stories in this collection, because all of the stories serve a purpose and - despite being different from each other - form a strangely coherent whole.

I have to mention that I love the author's way of titling his stories, because the titles are imaginative and invite readers to explore what happens in the stories.

Here are a few words and my thoughts about some of the stories:

In "Blacker Against the Deep Dark", the author writes well about a busy and tired Mr. Yashimoto who works for an investment firm and has been introduced by his grandfather to the shadow-people of Hiroshima when he was a young boy. The strangely beautiful and haunting atmosphere of this story impressed me a lot. This short story is a fine example of a literary and a bit different kind of a ghost story with plenty of underlying depth.

"Kingdoms" is an interesting exploration of morality, because it tells of a young boy who sees a man's head appear in the air over him. I found the conversation between the boy and the head about soldiers and fighting intriguingly thought-provoking.

"Spiderpartment" is a fascinating and bizarre tale about Beth and Alex who notice that the apartment next to theirs is unlike anything they've ever seen before. This story has a fantastic feel of Twilight Zone to it that is missing from several new weird stories.

"From Parts Unknown" is a well-told story about a wrestler, Monster Rollinski, who is not human. The author's depictions of what happens between the wrestler and a small boy are touching. It was fascinating to read about how the wrestler remembered who he is and what happened afterwards.

"Moongods" is one of the best flash fiction stories I've ever had the pleasure of reading. This one and a half page long story has a distinct feel of literary dark fantasy to it, which impressed me a lot.

"Kill Them and Kill Them (and Pray for Something Good)" is both amazing and disturbing, not to mention imaginative and offending. It has an unrestrained and brutally raw feel to it that will shake and impress everybody who reads it (this story is not an easy or pleasant read, but it's a brilliantly thought-provoking reading experience that will linger on your mind). It tells of a comedian Burton Chosky whose alternative art is deeply disturbing and highly questionable due to its radical and hateful nature. Burton Chosky's art grotesquely and perversely reflects the darkness of the human condition and the state of the modern world.

"The Bloodmilk People" is a weird tale about a young man who's capable of expeling blood from his body. If he doesn't expel blood, he starts to feel nauseous. This is a highly original story that will please everybody who loves modern weird fiction and bizarro fiction.

"We Will Meet When the Sky Turns Darkest" is a fascinating exploration of Norse mythology. This is something that I didn't expect to find in this collection, but it fits it perfectly. This story is something special, because it's a heroic fantasy tale.

"The Terror of Broken Places" tells of two girls, Kim and Dana, who wake up in the Ontario woods. The air shimmers before them and the girls step into the pulsing and shimmering tunnel where they meet strange beings. This beautiful and atmospheric story is a rewarding exploration of sadness, isolation, loneliness and hope.

"This Lustful Earth" demonstrates the author's ability to write powerfully and thought-provokingly about disturbing events, because it a tale featuring death, atrocities and naked Nazis who have erections. In this story, the author delivers a stunningly hellish sight of war that is difficult to forget. Although what unfolds before your eyes is brutal and disturbing, it's impossible to turn your eyes away, because the author forces you to think about what you've just witnessed on the pages.

I like the author's way of writing about sex and sexuality in "We, the Burning Stars", because he examines them in a surprisingly bold way. In this story, lovemaking opens a portal to another plane of existence where eternal and cosmic life awaits those who are willing to forsake their bodies. The outbursts uttered by the protagonist's sexual partners are both comic and inventive, but surprisingly realistic and true to what people may actually speak out loud at the moment of passion when they momentarily lose control of their inhibitions.

"Flowers of Heaven" is a beautifully written story with unforgettable weirdness. It's a story about a young girl named Anna who finds her cherished pet dead and violated. Soon Anna's father, a Pastor, sees a disturbing spectre performing hideous acts on itself. In this story, the author writes fluently about religious elements and tells of what kind of things evil can do and how it can manifest itself to people. This is one of the best weird fantasy stories I've ever had the pleasure of reading, because it's both amazing and disturbing.

I want to mention separately that I found "We Are All Lightless Inside", "In Rooms Empty but for You", "Journey to the End of a Burning Girl", "Priests", "The Flies will be Here Soon", "Engines of Forever" and "Love in Uncertain Times" very good and fascinating. I won't go into details about their contents here, but I can say that they're simply amazing.

Alexander Zelenyj's stunning prose is one of the main reasons why these stories are excellent. The author writes exquisitely beautiful, atmospheric, eloquent and poetic prose that is a pleasure to read.

I think it's good to mention that this collection is not to be read in haste. When you delve into reading this collection, please make sure that you have enough time on your hands to enjoy the stories without hurry, because that way you'll get the most out of them and will be able to pay attention to their many details and nuances.

Blacker Against the Deep Dark is a prime example of why literary speculative fiction is an excellent and powerful tool to address dark and difficult themes and subject matters, because speculative fiction allows readers to write about anything and gives them more freedom to explore things than mainstream fiction. It's great that the author doesn't give easy answers to his readers, but lets them figure out about certain things for themselves, because it brings fascination to the stories.

If you haven't yet discovered Alexander Zelenyj and want to read some of the best stories ever published in the field of literary speculative fiction, I strongly advise you to buy and read all of the author's short story collections, because they're genuinely worth reading. Trust me when I say that you won't regret reading any of them, because no matter which collection you read, you'll find yourself immediately immersed in the stories and you'll be impressed by the author's beautiful prose.

Alexander Zelenyj's Blacker Against the Deep Dark is an outstanding achievement in literary strange fiction. It's a bold and thought-provoking exploration of the human condition, the supernatural and weird happenings. It offers readers a unique and incredibly original feast of beautiful storytelling, haunting darkness and seducing strangeness. If you're a devoted reader of literary speculative fiction and love dark stories, you simply can't afford to miss this collection.

Very highly recommended!