I am no stranger to short-story collections especially those belonging to the horror genre. Clive Barker’s Books of Blood 1-3 were my entry into the adult version of horror. Of course, I have R.L. Stine to credit for my introduction to horror literature as a whole starting with Goosebumps and blossoming with Fear Street, but due to R.L. Stine’s lack of talent in writing horror for adults (read my review of his 2nd adult-orientated horror novel Red Rain here) I had to look elsewhere for inspiration.
Clive Barker opened up the gates of hell for me. His prose is the epitome of dark fantasy, and despite my dislike of the fantasy genre as a whole due to too much description, the short-story format limited the word count and hence also shortened the visualization.
Over the years I have read and reviewed countless horror short-story collections (check them out here) but I got so desensitized by reading new entries in the format that I began reading less short-story collections than usual, and those that I did read during this phase were not worth reviewing at all.
I had almost given up on this format then along comes Final Cuts (2020) with contributions from authors brilliantly compiled by editor Ellen Datlow. You can read my review of Final Cuts here and one of my favorite tales in that collection is Cut Frame by Gemma Files.
Forward to 2021 and I am reviewing her latest collection aptly titled In That Endlessness, Our End and it has taken me back to the young man I used to be when I was going through the pages of Barker’s Books of Blood. I thought Stephen King’s The Bazaar of Bad Dreams, Ellen Datlow’s Final Cuts or even the Mark Matthews’ edited Lullabies for Suffering would rekindle my first memory of reading a Barker story but it wasn’t until I began reading In That Endlessness that I felt born again.
Every story seems to be written by a different author while yet incorporating Gemma’s signature style. In a way this book is like The Vampire Diaries’ first season which improved episode by episode as this book gets better and better the further along you get into it. However, here every story is not better than the last as was the case with TVD S1, but rather, each yarn complements the next.
With 15 stories to choose from, I have managed to select 3 of my favorites (in no particular order) but please keep in mind that every story is awesome and not only is it rare not to find an average story in an overall awesome anthology but it’s even rarer to NOT find a bad story in a collection written by a single author. In That Endlessness, Our End is the exception to the rule.
3 Favorite Stories off of In That Endlessness, Our End
- Cut Frame: My introduction to Gemma Files’ writing via the anthology Final Cuts is the 5th entry in this collection’s table of contents. This story is refreshing as it was mostly narrated in the form of audio transcripts and notes. I have never read a tale in this format before. It suited the theme of the overall collection just as it did the film-based horror anthology Final Cuts and I am thankful Cut Frame is a part of In That Endlessness because it is one of Gemma’s best stories and also one of the finest tales included in Final Cuts.
- Venio: This story is formatted in a very unique way similar to Cut Frame. It’s like a Wikihow article only that it frightens you instead of teaching you something, though its original structure and bizarre ending have taught me never to take Gemma’s work lightly no matter how safe it begins.
- The Church in the Mountain: If you’ve read my non-literature reviews on the site you’d know i’m a film buff so i was also tempted not to pick The Church in the Mountain in my top 3 as Cut Frame is another film-based story, and I didn’t wish to come across as biased, but The Church in the Mountain is equally dreadful and some scenes legit made me jump in my seat and thankfully I did not drop my MacBook Air on the floor in the process.
In That Endlessness, Our End – The Verdict
As mentioned earlier on in the review: In That Endlessness, Our End is perhaps the only collection I have read that matches Clive Barker’s Books of Blood 1-3 in terms of quality. It’s been more than a decade since I got introduced to Barker, and even though Gemma’s featured stories are not dark fantasy per se, her latest collection most probably incorporates all of the modern subgenres of horror, and thus, you get both the experience of reading a single-author collection as well as an anthology through only one book.