Screams From A Dying World

By David Agranoff

Afterbirth Books

ISBN: 1-933929-19-7

$12.95; 2009

Screams from A Dying World is Portland activist and Punk Horror author David Agranoff’s newest collection from Bizarro publisher Afterbirth. Featuring six previously published stories and six new stories, this is an interesting mix.

Agranoff seems to shift between his activist roots with tales of social unrest, and demonstration to those of a dark, dystopian future reminiscant of the New Wave of SF of the sixties and cyberpunk practitioners John Shirley, Rudy Rucker and Bruce Sterling. “Network” (a tale of tree activists rigging themselves to an intricate suicide system designed to thwart logging) and “Buffalo Trace” (the ghosts of White Buffalo knocking down cell phone towers) fall into the former category, while “Surrogate” (an android designed as a sexual surrogate for a convicted rapist, as part of “therapy”, rebels against the system that doesn’t work”), “The Fifth Noble Truth” (a computer and cosmetically enhanced human looking for spiritual enlightenment amongst “normals”), and “Fertility” (a world where the population is controlled and people are either designated for reproduction or sexual usage via enhancements) fall into the latter.

There are also tales of a Punk Rocker who faces the same discrimination as hippies did in the late 60’s/early 70’s (“Normal”), a man in prison in the “SHU” (special housing unit aka: The hole) who is visited by a ghost, a grandfather’s premonition (“Grampy’s Spirit That Never Was”), and a woman who plots the murder of her husband by fast food (“Value Menu”).

It’s a bit up and down, but overall it’s not a bad collection for an up-and-coming writer. I can see what David is trying to achieve with a before and after sort of effect. The future stories are probably the best, with the examination of some of the possible negative outcomes of our continuing trends of technology, body modification and resource depleting. Some of the other stories come across preachier and need to show (rather than tell) a bit more, but it’s definitely not your normal horror or science fiction collection. I applaud the author for trying to forge his own direction. Agranoff is a writer who is still developing, but shows a lot of promise.

Reviewed by James R. Beach

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~ by darkdiscoveries on December 20, 2009.

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