Reviews of Short Tales From EFC: Book 1 By Bradley Heywood & Clair Chaytors

Review By Clair Chaytors

Short Tales From Earth’s Final Chapter: Book 1 is a mesmerizing selection of short but sharp stories, each one with a distinct voice but all with a link to one another. This unique collection is a literary journey from start to finish encouraging a brief but instantaneous connection with some sharply drawn characters.

Shadrag vs. Monster of the Chateau is a combination of history and mythology, but most compelling is its stark contrast of man pleading with monster. Despite past heinous crimes, both Shadrag and the warrior before him seek to look past what Redgrave has become and find the man within.

Opening mid-battle, the story is superbly paced with mounting tension, but it is emotional state of play that is at war here rather than the physical state, as each man looks to take honorable and moral action in the face of something much stronger than they are.

An intense and darker themed story throughout, Last Call at The Razorback Lounge manages a dose of humor at its conclusion! Mama balances skepticism with a hefty dose of reality and is a shrewd but no-nonsense character. Despite her rough outer shell, this woman captures the reader instantly through both her thoughts and actions!

You can almost smell the stench permeating every page, such is the atmosphere intricately detailed throughout this story, and both Mama and Priscilla command your respect as they put on their game face for the pirate punters. This 86-year-old lady indeed provides a satisfying end to the story!

Following a strangely satisfying conclusion to its previous story, the placement of Top Hat stuns you with its false sense of security. What seems an innocent title, is thoroughly misleading and the reality is anything but here.

An underlying feeling that something isn’t right, this edgy story pushes readers out of their comfort zone and evokes a crippling tension from its very first page. Innocent children are at this story’s core, which succeeds in forcing you to confront a challenging outcome.

This is the one story of the collection that sticks with you the most, but I haven’t yet decided whether that’s a good or bad thing!

The finale of the collection, Europa-1: 200 Years from Home, lends a sobering thought, especially following its previous story! The mood changes as drastically as the atmosphere here, with the stark realization of the fragility of human life taking center stage.

An open-ended conclusion, I finished this story with a compelling thirst and a desire to know more. More so, I ended this collection with a story that offered hope, humility, and confidence in ordinary people doing the right thing.

Whatever the outcome of Thottes and Aruala’s mission, it’s a satisfying closure to the entire collection, confirming our belief in human nature.

It’s easy to become immersed in each story of this collection, with every storyline and character remaining with you long after you’ve read the last page. That such short stories have the power to achieve this in a few short pages is commendable and utterly inspiring.

 

Review By Bradley Haywood

From the first sentence we detect the perfumed notes of Poe that hang heavy in the air, attempting to disguise the rot. It is as if we, the reader, have opened a door we should not. Suddenly we find ourselves in the middle of fantastical intrigue, and history, and old grudges that have been allowed to fester.

Dark and foreboding like an old Gothic tale, coloured with science fiction. The World is odd and meandering, and everywhere the sense that there are things that live in the shadows, and what is more, they're here to stay. Be weary. Keep warm. And whenever possible, keep Pete close by. He will know what to do.

Here is a story about more than just survival, it is about perseverance. A tale about the drive to not only live, but to recreate, and even grow. Set in some inhospitable Nordic World where there is more to the Kennings of old saga poets than just words and wonder. It's Beowulf meets Skyrim, chained down and beaten into shape the way only Mandy Gardner can do so. Legends, and the laws that surround them. Myths, and the monsters that come in the horrid and hungry, and all the eerie things in-between.

The first Short Tale, Shadrag Vs. The Monster of Chateau sets a tone of hardship, and hope, and as scary as things get, this story teaches us that there is always a way.

Sergei Kritzien's work blends both menace and the macabre, finding that sweet spot between what comes after this life, and that which came before. Each illustration captures a natural kind of sterilisation, with the glimpses of a watery horizon suggesting both isolation and the possibility of things obscured in depths. Deep. Dark. Old.

Last Call At The Razorback Lounge

It's Gibli meets the end of the World, neatly packed inside a bar carved from stone. Something solid in a culture of old containers, rust, and refuse. There's humour to be found as the dust of the World's end begins to settle.

It's reassuring, like revisiting a childhood home only to find someone else is living there; Things continue, no matter how bleak, or how black, and we sit around and complain, and dream of better days. Then we get up, dust ourselves off, and get to work. And who knows? This time things might be better.

It's the day after the night before, and It's best to not think about the mess. We find ourselves in a shadowed corner of a World that struggles between rebuilding the culture of what was, and the call of something altogether less morale.

There's a hardness here, like a piece of grit trapped in the soft soul of humanity. We find that most have grown accustomed to the irritation, perhaps even enjoy it, but for a few we find pearls, we find hope.

And then there's Mama. A force of stability in a crumbling World, possibly mutated (but I wouldn't bring it up in front her). Here we find someone who has overcome adversity and horror, and found something solid. Part wench, part superhero, all tied together with a grumpy frame and pegged teeth.

GD Penman's Last Call At The Razorback Lounge offers us a moment of respite from the horrors in the World, and hopefully not for the last time.

Subaru Kodama's art blends the beauty of individuality with the stark contrast of an otherwise drab horizon. Priscilla's almost cyberpunk colours allude to the indomitable nature of the human resolve, where one must carry the World with them, or see it fade altogether.

Top Hat

This is a story that likes to have fun. Somewhere dystopian, with a spoonful of Steampunk to give it flavour. A brief, distracting break from the horrors that lurk on the edges of our vision, the Top Hat story is proud to welcome you to the show. Pay close attention and you will see it, lurking beneath top hats, three eyed fish, and all manner of freak and fun; don't blink! Don't miss it!

The contrasts between performance art draped precariously over something primal, something wrong. Top Hat creates intrigue, not only with the story, but the World outside its coloured tent. The story speaks of the human need to not only survive, but to be entertained. It seems that the roles of the Colosseum have been reversed, where art and performance carry a price higher than your two bits.

Here we find a realm where the end justifies the means, and as always, the show must go on.

Alexey Sarambaev's artwork is wonderful. Tones of Ray Bradury add context to what is an unusual theme in an unusual part of the World. The arid feel of the first illustration expresses a feel of a World in need of thirst, of sustenance, while Top Hap contrasts with the feel of someone stood at the bottom of the ocean. We are shown that the circus provides our characters with more than just a show, but nourishment, the hope of something more than waste and blight. The problem is sometimes the water's too deep, too dangerous, too dark.

Europa-1: 200 Years From Home

A story of isolation, from both home, and one's dreams. A Z Anthony's Europa-1: 200 Years From Home is sparse and Spartan, often feels like Humanity has held Its breath, daring not to exhale until safe. What do you trust when everything you know has been thrown into question? Well, if you're Arnsen Thotte It's simple: you trust yourself.

Of all the stories in this collection Europa-1: 200 Years From Home is the most personal, the most human. Like all stories it is about survival, although here we find that hope is something to protect, like hands cradled around a flame while harsh winds blow around us.

story's search for ghosts is needed to believe in in the impossible. A story where the future is a strand pulled taut, while the Fates of Ancient Greece raise their scissors, ready to snip away all hope of returning home. It is a tale of folly and fools hope, but who among us can say they haven't gone off in search of all the things they've left behind?

There isn't much hope in Europa-1: 200 Years From Home, but there's a little, and sometimes that can be enough. Keep calm. Be weary. And never give up a chance to go chasing your own ghosts; you may be surprised by what you find.

Filip Cekic's artwork compliments A Z Anthony's vision of a cold and foreboding environment. The Arctic tundra outside is matched by the cold industrious interior, and the hope that lays frozen in the hearts of the crew. The barest flicks of colour suggesting that while the World has bleached into a still grey horizon, there is still hope, no matter how fragile.


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