cover image Darkling Smiles: Tales of Brightness Darkled

Darkling Smiles: Tales of Brightness Darkled

Michaelbrent Collings. Written Insomnia, $9.99 trade paper (425p) ISBN 978-1-08-115988-7

The weird and the eerie gambol together across the pages of Collings’s chilling collection of eight tales, all of which explore human frailty and moral ambiguity. “To Dream Awake, to Sleep the Real” follows the dissolution of a family after they mysteriously win a package of personal computer tablets. Both “A Very Personal Hell” and “Take Only One” describe Twilight Zone–esque encounters with personal demons. The superb “A Darklight Call’d on the Long Last Night of the Soul” is an unnerving tale of a perilous space mission that unearths an eldritch horror. The other standout, “Perdition,” is a novella-length descent into the madness of satanic worship, as one man discovers that his existence is intrinsically tied to the demons of Hell. Collings (Stranger Still) has a gift for conjuring unsettling atmospheres and subverting readers’ expectations. The frenetic pacing sustains the suspense through each of these stories, and the often gruesome imagery leaves its mark. These tense, unusual stories are as scary as they are satisfying. (Self-published)