Steven Paulsen's Shadows on the Wall was published by IFWG Publishing Australia in January 2018.
Information about Steven Paulsen:
Steven Paulsen is an award-winning writer whose speculative fiction has appeared in publications around the world. His bestselling dark fantasy children’s book, The Stray Cat, illustrated by Hugo and Oscar Award winning artist Shaun Tan, has seen publication in several English and foreign language editions. His short stories, which Jack Dann describes as rocket-fueled with narrative drive, have appeared in a variety of magazines and in anthologies such as Fantastic Worlds and the World Fantasy Award winning Dreaming Down-Under. Steven has also written extensively about Australian horror and fantasy for publications the world over.
Click here to visit his official website.
Information about Shadows on the Wall:
Shadows on the Wall contains the very best of Paulsen's dark and weird tales, plus stunning new fiction written expressly for this volume.
Glimpse a future where population controls force families into terrible choices.
Visit Colonial British India and experience the awakening of an eldritch horror.
Walk the steaming jungles of Vietnam alongside the spirits of the forest.
Light an ancient oil lamp but beware, the shadows on the wall.
Steven Paulsen's stories have appeared in award-winning anthologies, and have been published around the world.
REVIEW: SHADOWS ON THE WALL BY STEVEN PAULSEN
Steven Paulsen's Shadows on the Wall is an excellent collection for readers who love strange stories. It's a wonderfully dark yet entertaining and enjoyable reading experience, because its contents range from dark fiction and fantasy fiction to science fiction and weird fiction. It's a satisfyingly diverse collection that has something for everybody.
I enjoyed reading Shadows on the Wall, because the author was equally at home in fantasy and as he was in dark fiction. I was positively surprised by the stories, because each of them turned out to be good and worth reading. When I read them, I found myself enjoying their freshness, because the author examined certain things from a fresh perspective.
Shadows on the Wall is filled with stories that reveal various kinds of horrors to readers. Many of the stories take readers to dark places and contain disturbing and nihilistic happenings, but there are also subtle and humorous stories which serve as a counterbalance for the dark and violent stories.
This collection contains the following stories:
- Ma Rung
- Two Tomorrow
- Greater Garbo
- In the Light of the Lamp
- Logic Loop
- Harold the Hero and the Talking Sword (in collaboration with Jack Dann)
- Fixed in Time
- The Place
- The Wine Cellar
- Pest Control
- Old Wood
- The Sorcerer's Looking Glass
- Christmas Morning
- The Black Diamond of the Elephant God
These stories explore a number of themes and issues ranging from the darkness that lives inside us to what kind of terrors we may face in our lives. They feature sharp, honest and thought-provoking prose that forces readers to react to their contents.
One of the best things about these stories is that they feature many different settings. Some of them take place in familiar surroundings while others take place in jungles and remote places. Readers even get a glimpse of cosmic horrors that lie await in other dimensions.
Here's more information about the stories and my thoughts about them:
- A brutal and hard-hitting story about Australian soldiers in Vietnamese jungle during the Vietnam War.
- The author writes effectively about how brutal war is. He doesn't shy away from visceral elements, but tells of what life is like for the soldiers in a gut-wrenching way.
- The supernatural elements are handled well, and the atmosphere is thrilling.
- There's something about this story that slightly reminds me of Alexander Zelenyj's war stories.
- An emotionally touching flash fiction story about a man and his granddaughter Elspie.
- This story has a fascinating dystopian feel to it.
- A humorous and highly enjoyable story about a man and a garbage scanner.
- I enjoyed reading about Frank and how he interacted with the scanner, because their conversations were amusing.
- This story is interesting, because it touches upon serious issues involving garbage management and environmental problems.
In the Light of the Lamp:
- A well written Lovecraftian story about Peter and Jocelyn who buy an old lamp. The lamp turns out to be anything but ordinary and the couple finds themselves amidst surreal and weird happenings.
- Because I'm a big fan of Lovecraftian weird fiction, I was impressed by this story and its atmosphere.
- I have a feeling that fans of Cthulhu stories will like this story very much, because it's an enjoyable story.
- This is an interesting micro story that has been written in exactly fifty words.
Harold the Hero and the Talking Sword (in collaboration with Jack Dann):
- Ah, what a great story! This story about a demon who inhabits a sword and kidnaps a video game player and dumbs him into an ancient world is simply amazing. It's a humorous (and also thought-provoking) story about how a sword turns a boy into a hero.
- I loved this time-travelling fantasy adventure story, because its authors have been able to write a funny, heroic and fantastical story that is something different yet familiar.
- The demon is a brilliant character, because he has strong and amusing opinions about many things. Harold is also an interesting character, because he's a geek boy who becomes a hero.
- This is without a doubt one of the funniest and most entertaining fantasy stories I've read in quite a while. It's great fun for fantasy readers.
Fixed in Time:
- A story about Patrick who has a drinking problem. He blames himself for what happened to his childhood friend, Mary.
- This is an interesting haunted/evil house story, because it tells of what has happened to a young girl in an abandoned house.
- This story is one of my favourite stories in this collection.
- A horror story about a man who becomes a brutal and cold-blooded killer when his body and mind are taken over by a hungry being.
- This is an interesting and disturbing take on a possession story.
- I think it's good to mention that if you're easily shocked, this story may distress you, because it has an exceptionally brutal and violent depiction of a family murder.
- This short story is difficult to forget, because it will stick to your mind due to its brutal contents.
The Wine Cellar:
- A story about Rick and Sue who travel to Rick's second cousin's country house that has an excellent wine cellar.
- I was impressed by the characterisation, because the author writes surprisingly well about Rick and Sue and their yuppie way of life.
- The disappearance of Rick's cousin's grandmother adds a nice touch of mystery to this story.
- I liked this story very much, because the author has come up with a bit different kind of a ghost story.
- A wonderfully Lovecraftian story about a man who finds out that he has a serious moth problem.
- This story feels almost like a homage to classic pulp horror stories, because the author writes about a man who comes face to face with cosmic and unspeakable horrors.
- This is one of the best stories in this collection.
- In this story, Colin has found a piece of old wood for the pergola. When Colin begins to work on the pergola, his wife becomes worried about him, because he begins to act in a strange way and is not himself.
- It was interesting to read about what happened to Colin and Desley, because Colin's condition put strain on their relationship.
- This is an excellent and atmospheric story, because it's steeped in classic weird fiction, but is wholly modern.
The Sorcerer's Looking Glass:
- A young adult fantasy story, in which Yazir and Mikal find a hidden looking glass while exploring the stronghold. The mirror seems to have a girl trapped inside it and Yazir wants to help her.
- In this story, the author writes fluently of children's curiosity to explore places.
- I enjoyed this story, because it tells of a magic mirror that has something strange trapped inside of it.
- A well written flash fiction story about a man who has lost his family in a fire.
- This story is a little gem, because it's touching and filled with yearning.
The Black Diamond of the Elephant God:
- This is a fascinating weird fiction story set in India in the 19th century. It tells of a man who has come to India at the behest of an old friend. He has been asked to translate ancient Sanskrit texts found inside a terracotta elephant idol.
- This story has enthralling Lovecraftian elements that have been perfectly combined with Indian elements. The author blends weird fiction with classic pulp adventure fiction in an entertaining way.
- I find this story excellent and intriguingly unsettling. I feel compelled to say that it's the best story in this collection, because it's the kind of fiction that strongly appeals to my taste in classic weird fiction.
I was impressed by the author's way of subjecting his readers to various emotions, because his stories reveal what happens to the characters and how their lives are changed by strange occurrences that are beyond their control and expertise. Many of the happenings have a strong emotional impact on the reader.
I like Steven Paulsen's writing, because he writes clear and straighforward prose that is accessible and has dark undertones. His fiction is marked by a distinct sense of strangeness and inventiveness that intrigues me (his fluent writing emphasises the strange happenings in a good way).
The frontispiece by Shaun Tan looks great. I like his painting very much, because it's wonderfully strange and atmospheric.
If you're in need of good, fresh and weird tales, you should take a look Steven Paulsen's Shadows on the Wall. This collection is an enjoyable reading experience that should not be missed by fans of dark and weird stories. It will appeal to readers who love strange short stories.