I’m a sucker for a short story, having been fed intravenously the short fiction of Asimov, Bradbury, Robert E.Howard and Stephen King from an early age. This short collection attracted me because of the blurb (which was enticing) and the fact that I shared the name ‘Thomas’ with the author!
The Seer of possibilities is both the title story of the collection and the theme that interlinks each of these tales. What immediately struck me was the smooth narrative displayed by the author and his ability to draw you in quickly and keep you reading until you reach a satisfying conclusion to the story. So what about the stories themselves? Well …
Seer 1 – ‘The Seer of possibilities’ The author starts off on a high with this tale. I liked the premise of the supernatural operating through the ‘dark net’. The mc gradually gets enticed with the promise of a favourable future outcome if he performs random, seemingly harmless actions. As you would probably guess, the future doesn’t work out quite so rosy for the protagonist. He is well-drawn and displays all the qualities of a truly conflicted character. There was a touch of ‘Hammer house of horror’ to my mind, giving a creeping sense of dread so reminiscent of those Saturday night programs. I have to say also that the ‘Seer’ is a pretty original entity. So, off to a good start.
Seer 2 – Story of death and beauty.
After a bit of a wooden start, in which the author missed the chance of a more suspenseful description, the story picked up pace. The central character, Shelley and her friend are intrigued by a curio shop they stumble upon. The proprieter, a Mr Videre, doesn’t seem dangerous and, on the contrary, is all too keen to show the two girls his works of art and literature, collected over many decades. These include works of great artists from the past, which the girls devour. They return day by day as they can’t get their fill of these exotic masterpieces. It is at this point that you know something bad is going to happen, but not exactly what. Anything beyond this will be a spoiler, but suffice it to say that the story finishes magnificently, making it my favourite in this collection. The scenes created are truly absorbing and, although there is a lot of ‘head hopping’ this seems to be intentional and doesn’t jar at all. Again, the author creates a unique character in Mr Videre, and the link between great art and a man who claims to have been there at their formative years is original too.
Seer 3 – The Phantom arm of Sebastian Culpepper
This tantalisingly titled tale starts with two sub-stories, although they are interconnected. At first it reads like a diary entry or even an introduction by the author. But after a few pages you realise that it is all part of an ingeniously crafted tale.
You’re left with questions at the end, showing that a short story doesn’t need to have an obvious resolution. It simply has to plant a seed of dread, free to grow and sprout fear in the days and months to come.
Seer 4 – The trees of Ohwayhee
An interesting concept and a title that makes you want to read it if only to figure what on earth it could be about. The story reads like a diary entry. With little dialogue it still holds the attention and manages to create a convincing, conflicted character within the short story format. The story could have been expanded to become a novel where the true nature of the Ohwayhee trees is explored, but it also worked well as a short story.
Seer 5 – Jasperson’s game
Sci-fi horror? The author certainly knows how to vary the setting. As with a previous story, there is a little head-hopping at first as we switch from the female astronaut, Yasmala Teg to a geologist, Ginbrauzer’s point of view. Again, this transition is a controlled head-hopping and doesn’t detract from the twists and turns that the author lays out for us. I was kept in suspense up until the final paragraphs as I didn’t know how this one was going to end. There aren’t many stories I have recently read that entertain me to this degree, but I found myself absorbed until the very end. Jasperson’s game is a closed box scenario that gives time to appreciate the different characters while still moving the story on at an addictive pace.
Seer 6 – The perfectly behaved boy – A dark Christmas Tale
To end, we have a festive story. TPBB is a first person narrative about a quiet boy, raised well, who never does any appreciable harm. His only crime is to wish fervently for things. One Christmas, after a childish tantrum he wishes his parents would ‘go away’. This wish is granted him by a dark visitor in a most grisly fashion. This tale mixes two devices that press my dread buttons – the ingredients of inevitable evil, and the abhorrence of crimes inflicted on a child. This may not be a pleasant way to end a book of macabre tales, but it’s certainly a provoking and disturbing one. In this, the author has truly succeeded.
These six original tales are easy to read in the best sense of the word, and provide a variety of themes, settings and characters I haven’t witnessed since enjoying the work of Ray Bradbury and Jason Werbeloff. Thomas O is going to be an author to look out for in future.
Download Thomas O’s book here