REVIEW - Stingers (T M McLean & Noel Osualdini)

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It’s certainly hard to go wrong mixing bugs with fear. I could say that this book went for the lowest hanging fruit in that regard, but then I read it, and found that I could not. If you’re going to make purple by mixing good old red and blue (where everyone expects purple to come from) then you need to do it well if you want your shade to come out above the level of humdrum. I’d say this book did a fine job of exceeding those expectations—it certainly kept me reading.

As an anthology of short stories, a book like this is bound to have high points and low. Not being subject to arachnophobia myself, “They Just Know” didn’t do a whole lot for me, since there wasn’t much to go on other than the general fear of spiders. (Perhaps if said spiders had done something more than just a bit of terrorizing—maybe if they flexed their eight-legged muscles a bit by dragging in effigies of small animals they’d swarmed to show the poor protagonists what was to become of them? Or maybe they weren’t doing anything at all, and the whole tale was just a question of succumbing to paranoia?) On the other hand, “Sex, Death, and Professor Lockwood” was an excellent journey for me. It was easy enough to tell that our good professor would end up somehow doomed in this story just for his disturbing thoughts regarding inappropriate attractions, but the way it actually played out was enough to make me pat myself down at the end to see that nothing had leapt out of the pages to latch on. Fear factor way up, well done!

“The Gold Bug” had me expecting something out of Poe. It didn’t work out that way, but it didn’t need to, as what I received instead was enough to have me wishing the story had been long enough to explain itself (so yes, I was into it). Meanwhile, in “The Bastard or Are You Not Entertained” I found that I could relate to the sheer size of the wolf spider, which is a very common sight where I live. So this was one story I could not only visualize well, but really wanted to see how it turned out for so mighty a combatant…or its abusive captor. Sandkings, anyone? (Also…my money would have been on the spider. Let me tell you, I’ve measured them at three inches before, with enough photogenic detail to look them right in the eye with nothing so high-resolution as a cell phone camera. They don’t always fit in StarBucks cups, either.)

I’m personally not a fan of putting author’s notes immediately after a story—especially a nerve wracking tale of terror—as they tend to take me out of the moment. I don’t really want to know how the shock came to be, if indeed I have been sufficiently shocked (or at least, not right away). That said, I suppose the very fact that I mention it means I was sufficiently involved in the moment, which is a good thing. Still, I’d rather keep the real-life bits about how stories were conceived and various related musings to the back of the book in their own section so they can be addressed (or not) at the reader’s leisure, not as speed bumps on the road.

Anyway, I had a good time, and if you hate insects? This one’s for you. It’s probably for you if you love them, too!

About the Author: T M McLean lives in the Netherlands with his wife and twin sons. He has something of an obsession with short stories and considers himself extremely fortunate to have shared pages with some of speculative fiction's leading voices. His latest release, co-authored with Noel Osualdini, has been shortlisted for the prestigious Shadows Award. Tim likes to put real people into crazy situations. He is currently working on what he hopes will become his first novel, a coming-of-age military adventure set in the turbulent times of the Hundred Years War. Much of Tim's inspiration comes from his life experiences, including parenthood, travel, and a love of philosophy.
('About' info abridged from