Saturday, January 28, 2012
More Evil Playthings, A Review of Angelic Knight's Toy Soldiers Anthology
I think I've figured out why these books are so damn disturbing. There's something burned into our consciousness about toys that demand innocence and joy. Yet, some of the best horrific imagery is the kind that takes these aspects of our culture and somehow transforms them into something sinister. The strangest thing is that it doesn't take a lot of work. A little scary music in the background can turn an innocuous rocking chair into the tool of the Prince of Darkness. A close-up makes a smiling monkey with cymbals look like an incarnation from the gates of Hell. Sometimes I think Joy and Terror come from the exact same place in our collective psyche, as though toys and fun represent nothing but escape from the evil in our world.
Okay, that's all the psychological junk, now lets get to specifics. This book is a fun read. Sometimes, I just couldn't get the image of my brothers and I shooting rubber bands at toy soldiers in our various play war maneuvers out of my head. It was strange to read horror and have the standard horror emotions mixed with childhood memories. It actually made the book scarier and more difficult to put down. Here are some highlights
There's a particularly chilling story, Last Line of Defense, by Phil Hickes. I have to tell you, I may have been clouded by a population of children at my house the size of most football programs, but this one scared me. It's filled with standards in the genre, too, nothing really original. That's not a criticism. Hickes uses the stereotypes in a way that makes everything fresh. I was happy to see stories involving nutcrackers, and I have to say that nutcrackers are probably the scariest of all toy soldiers. I particularly enjoyed The Nutcracker's Game by Lisamarie Lamb.
I liked Jack M. Horne's poem, The Guard, and of course, the Angelic Knight crew was represented well with a poem from Blaze McRobb, a strangely poignant tale by Stacey Turner that makes you wonder if Disney got Toy Story all wrong, and more. I liked the collection and you should pick it up. It's a good production from a great independent publisher.