TITLE: The Sea Was a Fair Master | AUTHOR: Calvin Demmer | PUBLISHER: Unnerving | PUBLISHED ON: June 5, 2018 | PAGES: 130 | RATING: 5 hooks out of 5 | SOURCE: Copy provided by author
Flash fiction isn’t a style I’ve pursued much. I’ve read a couple pieces here and there as part of a collection of longer short stories, but it isn’t something I’d normally seek out. I’m more of a novel reader, I like my stories to have some meat on their bones, but I was intrigued by this collection after seeing so many incredible comments about it. This book definitely taught me that fiction doesn’t need to be lengthy to be extremely satisfying and extremely, extremely creepy.
I think the range of these stories was probably the most impressive part of this collection to me; all too often I’ve read a collection and gotten to the end with no idea which story was which because they all blend together, with no individual tone or voice to each story. That was absolutely not the case here. Each story is creepy, there’s no doubt about that, but the horror leans towards the atmospheric in some stories, tinged with sci-fi in others, and bordering on campy in still others. It was a really fantastic mix that made it easy to absolutely fly through this collection while still keeping each short tidbit fresh and unique in my mind.
My tastes ran towards, of course, the more insidious, atmospheric stories. It’s always my favourite style of horror, and Demmer does it wonderfully. If I had to pick my three standouts from the collection, they would be the first story, “On the Seventh Day”, the titular “The Sea Was a Fair Master,” and my absolute favorite of the bunch, “Underneath.” All of these have a fascinating human/maybe paranormal, maybe not element to them that I loved, and it’s kind of insane to what extent the author is able to examine that and cast doubt for the reader in so few pages.
This was a really excellent collection, with not a bad story in the bunch. I was worried I’d struggle to connect with the contents, given the short length of each story, but the author really works a ton of depth and emotion into every single page. I would completely recommend this collection for anyone looking to explore flash fiction as a style. This is a wonderful, horror-filled treasure chest of a book.