Octoberland is a collection of short stories from author Thana Niveau which is as varied as it is entertaining.
Thana Niveau’s stories feature people on the edge – the edge of death, the edge of sanity, the edge of reality. In this diverse collection, two sisters leave a trail of bodies behind them as they go on the run, desperate to outrun the dark secrets of their past. A film fan is haunted by the actress whose brutal horror films he can’t stop watching. A child hears a ghostly voice through the radio reciting only numbers. And a young woman revisits the place she and her brother loved above all else—Octoberland—the strange amusement park that tore their world apart. Horror wears many faces here, from creeping dread to apocalyptic devastation, and no one escapes its dark touch.
Short stories represent a particular challenge in that the format only allows a small amount of time to come to terms with the concept within the story, understand the characters and their motivation and, most importantly to be invested enough to feel fear. For the most part, Niveau succeeds, although there are some stories which feel like they could be drawn out further as they feel like snippets of a wider story, rather than individually contained tales.
Niveau certainly isn’t afraid to tackle some very dark material and the stories in which this darkness is at its least restrained are arguably her most successful. There are a number recurring threads within the collection, featuring the intersection of nature, technology and the supernatural which are effectively chilling. A few stories, where this is taken to extremes involving transformations did not quite work for me. The beauty of such a collection though is that if you are finding one story difficult to gel with, you’re never too far from something you will enjoy.
The author also experiments with format, including some stories that are told entirely through letters, which helps in breaking up the text as well as providing a different ‘feel’ and voice across stories. There is undoubtedly a great deal of effort put into making every short have it’s own distinct voice, which is helpful in setting the scene and tone of pieces.
Following the stories, there is a short passage for each story provided by the author regarding her inspirations and intentions, which aids greatly in understanding the choices made, particularly in those stories I feel could be longer or be more fleshed out. I’ve deliberately not given details on the individual stories as they should be experienced with as little knowledge beforehand as possible to preserve the twists and turns within.
Overall, Octoberland is a satisfying collection of short stories which range from the outlandish to the downright disturbing. Horror fans will enjoy the tales and also identify with Thana Niveau’s clear love for the genre.
You can buy Octoberland from PS Publishing.