Tracy’s heart thumped. “Jonas!” Her shout filled the cabin. She raced forward, followed by the others, their footsteps clomping on the wood floor. She grabbed the flashlight from her belt and aimed the light and gun up at the dark chimney. Stars gleamed from the purple twilight through the top of the funnel. Blood streaks dripped from the stones, and she jumped from the fireplace, wiping her face. “He’s gone!”
“What’re we gonna do?” Nick shouted, his eyes flitting around.
From the bottom of her boots to her shoulders shuddered as if in an earthquake. The floor boards rattled. Something was underneath. She froze. An explosion of wood and dirt cascaded like a bomb. Tracy was thrown back. The air crushed from her lungs, and her vision spun.
Frank tumbled beside her, his gun lost in the surging dust cloud. “Son of a bitch!”
Nick slammed into the wall. He pressed a hand to his brow, his eyes dazed and unfocused. Something pushed through the plume of debris with menacing force, right behind Nick. The filmy image, glowing in the moonlight that streamed through the window, reached out.
Tracy jumped to her feet. “Nick, run!”
It was too late. – Wendigo Woods
Destination Death: A Horror Anthology is a collection of four short novellas that are tied together by the theme of death – does exactly what it says on the tin. Each story deals with it’s own urban legend/mythological creature and doesn’t shy away from gorey and bloody ways to dispatch characters and uses the sense of dread and mystical eeriness of forests to kick the suspense into a higher gear. Stories like ‘Wendigo Woods‘ and ‘Death Forest‘ borrow from Native American traditions with Liberty’s own unique spin. ‘The Devil’s Field‘ is one that feels more rooted in American urban legends following after movies like I Know What You Did Last Summer, whereas the final story, ‘Shadow Mountain‘, brings in Eastern tradition and mixes Native American and Japanese mythology to great effect. With young groups of men and women venturing into the unknown, armed with stories of unpleasant murdering fiends, what could go wrong?
Destination Death is an anthology looking into the depths of survival, of friends trying to battle their own baggage and stay alive in the face of supernatural powers, fighting the inevitable danger on the incredibly close horizon. His inclusion of flawed characters give them a sense of realism that keeps them relatable in such strange and surreal circumstances.
What I Liked
What intrigued me about Destination Death was the refusal to shy away from violent gore and bloody deaths. If this isn’t something you would like to read then it may not be for you. The violence is not gratuitous and I never felt it was forced, it just felt natural for the kind of creatures that appear in the stories, would have been unnatural for the deaths and violence to come ‘off screen’ so to speak.
Liberty’s treatment of the multiple characters, for the most part, worked quite well too. Each voice is distinct and the personalities come across in a powerful way.
By taking the general outline of different myths and creatures, Liberty gives a sense of familiarity to the darkness in his stories but adds his own personal twists to the monsters. He cycles through some of the most interesting themes a writer can use, not just death, but retribution, secrets and lies, and of course the unknown. The forests in this anthology represent a fear of the unknown and a fear of things that are hidden, always leaving the possibility that there is more there than even the characters discover.
What I Didn’t Like
There were a few things that took me out of the stories and one of them was the description of the female characters. In short stories it can be a rush to get the image of a character in as quickly as you can, and though I don’t believe it’s intentional on the part of the author, phrases like ‘generous breasts’ too often appear to describe the women. In most other ways the characters are full and three dimensional, but the fact that I know that almost every woman had breasts trying to burst out of her clothes, had me frowning for a while. There are no sexual scenes in the stories and as the point of view is generally third person and not from a straight guy for instance, it seems out of place.
One more point about short stories is that it can be difficult to keep them under the word count while still giving the reader all the information they need. In the story Death Forest for instance we see an ex-boyfriend pushing to go on a trip where the woman he cheated on will be even though he wasn’t invited by anyone – it just pulled me out of the story that this was thrown in there and couldn’t get my head around it.
If you are interested in mythology and urban legends and have a particular penchant for creepy trees, I think you might enjoy this anthology. pulling you along through stories of death, darkness, and betrayal, you won’t find a happy ending here but you might find something a little more interesting, something that really gets you thinking.
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About the Author – Chris Liberty
Chris Liberty was born in St. Paul, Minnesota in 1972. His passions include travelling the world, the darker sides of world history and understanding cultures outside of his own.
Check out my other reviews of horror story collections –
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