The Horror Honeys: Hardcover Honey's Haunted Bookclub ~ Everything You Need

Hardcover Honey's Haunted Bookclub ~ Everything You Need

A Book of the Week Review by Jocelyn

Everything You Need – Michael Marshall Smith 

Your Hardcover Honey usually goes for full novels, but every once in awhile, a book of short stories will call my name and “Everything You Need” definitely appealed.  Aside from the cover illustration of an open and beckoning file cabinet, I have read several of this author's books before and some of his imagery and plot lines have stayed with me for years, particularly in “Spares,” “The Servants,” and “Only Forward” - he definitely has a sort of Stephen King vibe, but in some of his works, a lot of Roald Dahl shines through as well.

In “Everything You Need,” Smith (who also writes under just “Michael Marshall” and I have never been able to figure out why since the material doesn't seem to differ) kept me spellbound for the most part.  As in every short story collection, some worked for me better than others, but the ones that work REALLY worked and gave me that “something's not quite right here” feeling that he excels at.  Standout stories for me included:

Unbelief – A mysterious hitman acquires a long-sought target.  I read this one and then immediately went back and read it again – I love a good twist that I can't possibly see coming and this one had it in spades.

Walking Wounded – Odd, unexplained injuries plague Richard, despite his best efforts to ignore them and move on in a happy relationship with Christine.  As someone who shudders and tastes copper in my mouth when anybody mentions papercuts, this one definitely gave me the shivers.

The Seventeenth Kind – Home Shopping host James Richard has an awesome product to pimp on tonight's broadcast – but when its origins turn out to be, let's say, a little unusual, he has to really give it his all.

The Stuff That Goes On In Their Heads – Highly reminiscent of a specific Shirley Jackson story, but in a good, original way – six-year-old Ethan continues to detail the exploits of a bully at school until his father has no choice but to get involved, despite Ethan's warnings against his intervention.  

Unnoticed – A very Roald Dahl tale, very “The Wonderful Story of Henry Sugar and Six More” (well worth a read if you haven't already!) with multiple narrators and a twisting, dreamlike structure – a perfectly ordinary man lives in a perfectly ordinary neighborhood, until one day he notices a house somewhat out of the ordinary and is unable to stop looking into things within.

Different Now – A tight little story with just a couple of characters, a rainy night, and streets that don't look quite as familiar as they did a few hours before.  I found this one very thought-provoking.

Author of the Death – Two characters from different written works meet by chance at a coffee shop in an ill-drawn location and attempt to break out of their author-imposed ruts.

Sad, Dark Thing – Does the title refer to Miller, the focus of the story?  Or what he finds in a isolated barn one day on a long and aimless drive?  Probably something for the reader to determine.  I am still mulling this one over.

What Happens When You Wake Up in the Night – A major high point of the collection for me, as young Maddy is proven more than right in her steadfast belief that you should never get out of bed should you awaken in the night.  

The Things He Said – Another high point as we are introduced to a survivalist type who is living alone in a small cabin near a mountain range – I started off rooting for the guy but as I learned more about him, things.....took a turn.

Substitutions -  A nameless narrator (a successful yuppie husband) is intrigued when a weekly grocery delivery order is mixed up with a neighbor's order – in their different foods, he sees a whole other possible life and is compelled to look into it despite his own general contentedness.  A glimpse at an alternate life, something we have all experienced a longing for, presumably?  

The Woodcutter – An enigmatic pub magician continues to ply his trade, despite his almost-nightly beating at the hands of disbelievers and skeptics and in the face of his intense desire to pass through a door near his home that remains locked to him despite his best efforts.  This was like a super-dark Harry Potter, and, honestly, who can't get behind that concept??

I continue to look forward to more works from Michael Marshall Smith – while all of his stories aren't overtly terrifying, there is enough good meat here (that will mean something later, I promise) to satisfy even the pickiest horror reader!

Hardcover Honey verdict: Four creepy dudes out of five for this collection.