Garden of Eldritch Delights by Lucy A. Snyder
Publisher: Raw Dog Screaming Press | Release Date: Oct. 18, 2018 | Pages: 184 pages
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
In Garden of Eldritch Delights, Lucy Snyder presents twelve thrilling, enchanting, and, of course, terrifying short stories that span multiple genres. Ms. Snyder hops between science fiction, fantasy, horror, dark fiction, and back again seamlessly. Here you will find monsters, monsters passing for humans, and humans acting like monsters. Within Garden Of Eldritch Delights, there is definitely a little something for everyone, as new and edgy life is given to well-worn tropes.
Each of the stories within Garden of Eldritch Delights contains strong women, each in their own strange and unique world. In “Executive Function”, the boss of a corporate business, and misogynistic sexual predator, meets a woman who shows him who's really the boss in a not so pleasing way. For him. In “The Yellow Death”, a woman who is a victim of a vampire apocalypse, turns into a bad ass biker who meets her long-lost sister and learns unsettling family secrets. “Sunset on Mott Island,” a painful story about how to handle the beginning of the apocalypse. “Fraternal” is an unsettling and intriguing story of how far a woman will go to save the world from her tyrannical twin. “Santa Muerte” tells the tale of a man down on his luck who takes the job as the getaway car driver for a robbery. While waiting in the car he sees a person in need of help, gives it and is well rewarded for it. But the reward comes with a price.
These are just a taste of what the author has in store for the reader, and you never know what you’re going to get from one story to the next. In one tale you are in a realistic setting, dealing with a rapist for a boss, the next you are fighting vampires after the apocalypse, and then she throws you into space to save the world. No story is similar to the last.
I enjoyed my first taste of Lucy Snyder's work. However, I'm going to get the criticism out of the way first, as one story left a very harsh, bitter taste in my mouth. And that one story almost soured the bunch. Towards the beginning of the collection is a story titled “The Gentleman Caller”, about a woman who was born a conjoined twin and due to the separation surgery, she was left disfigured from the neck down and confined to a wheelchair. Snyder starts off strong with showing women's strength in very complicated predicaments, but I felt that she did not accomplish that with this story. The protagonist, Janie, sees herself in a very negative light and seems quite whiny, but understandably so. My complaint with this story, I'm trying to avoid spoiler territory, is that Janie's only power comes from a magical necklace. A necklace that she receives as a gift from one of her many clients from the phone sex line where she works. I feel the author could have taken this story in many different directions, giving Janie some sort of real life power, embracing her disability. Showing people that you are not worthless just because you are confined to a wheelchair. But the author took a different path and placed her in a role in the sex industry. Don't get me wrong, women can be very empowered in all facets of the sex industry world. But Janie is not. She could have been written as some sort of heroine, with a sharp mind, fighting against the stereotypes in some way, really anything but how she was written. I didn't feel like Snyder has a firm grip on the disabled community, which left me not wanting to read the rest of the book. The last straw for me was when Janie referenced herself as “a retarded cripple.” I was taken back by this. Even though the character was referring to herself- retarded? Really? Did the author have to go that far? Now, I'm trying to stay objective, so there's that definite possibility that I'm being too sensitive. After taking a break and a step back, I reread the story, still did not like it and disagreed on how the character of Janie was portrayed, but again, made myself stay objective and moved forward. This was my only real complaint, hence the four star rating as I felt there were multiple faults with this particular story.
Let’s get on to some of my favorites in this otherwise magnificent collection! The book starts with a fire cracker of a story about a woman whose girlfriend literally tears out her heart. It shows metaphorically how verbal and emotional abuse can be just as harmful as physical abuse. This was raw and visceral and heartbreaking. And speaking of heartbreaking, brace yourself for “Sunset on Mott Island,” a beautifully written tale of grief, loss, and death, with a pre-apocalyptic backdrop. All the feels!! You'll need the Kleenex box for that one, but then you are hit with my favorite- “A Hero of Grunjord.” A story of a young female warrior, who takes out a flying saucer with the help of her dragon. She then has to travel to a faraway kingdom, all the while contemplating on whether or not she should marry into the royal family. An absolutely incredulous and delightful story that had to have been written for the sole purpose of comic relief.
Snyder's world building is directly on point. She creates lush, deep worlds with ease and makes them believable. She is able to weave through genres naturally by finding fantasy in horror, steampunk in science fiction, science fiction in fantasy and she keeps circling adding in sub genres in each with careful precision. Each world is specifically crafted for each story. The author is almost nothing short of genius in this department.
Though I did find, what to me was, a major fault in Garden of Eldritch Delights, the compilation as a whole is strong and diverse. Lucy Snyder has her fingers in many genre pies, so to speak, but works them as one who is well honed in her craft. She creates worlds that are rich with culture and imagination that can be curious, heartwarming, and horrifying. I look forward to reading more from Ms. Snyder.