David Dunwoody is the talented author of one of my favorite zombie novels, Empire. I can honestly say Unbound and Other Tales takes all the things I loved from Empire and spreads them out over a novel and a handful of short stories. Mr. Dunwoody builds grim worlds with very human (and very inhuman) characters to inhabit them. He then weaves tales that wrap and twist around you; pulling you into them. Mr. Dunwoody honors Lovecraft, in substance not style, in nearly every story here and the results are unique and terrifying. The title story, Unbound, is novel length while the eight stories that make up Other Tales are each quick bursts of madness that are over before you are ready for it.
In Unbound a wicked villain, Sharpe, from a popular series of pulp novels comes to life and wreaks hell on all in his path. The characters are all very solid but Sharpe steals the show as a supernatural badass you won’t soon forget. Sharpe reminded me of the Judge from Cormack Mc McCarthy’s Blood Meridian joined with every cowboy tough guy and movie serial killer I grew up with. Three desperate men, each having had Sharpe sadistically cut into their lives, make the unlikely team pit against the cowboy madman. The action is quick paced and violent as the story unfolds from the twists and layers Mr. Dunwoody weaves. Mr. Dunwoody’s graphic storytelling shines here and calls to mind greats such as King, Laymon, and Mathison in turn without loosing his unique voice.
The short stories following the pulpy macabre Unbound continue to build on the dark feeling Mr. Dunwoody easily establishes early on. Voice, the first is haunting and heartbreaking at the same time in only a few pages.
The next, Saligia, is the lone real zombie story in the collection and it may be the weirdest of them all. The story builds in one direction then spins into an entire different one about midway. My mind couldn’t help but search for the symbolism here, this story feels bigger than you catch with your eyes the first time through.
Ministry is a darkly semi-comedic piece that shows the hazards of “grave riding.” This story features a re-occurring character, Mr. Chith, from other Dunwoody stories. The appearance of Mr. Chith backs up my claim that David Dunwoody builds his own personal mythos as he writes, giving you as a reader vast areas of his madness to explore.
The insanity of Clowns builds solid and thick into a truly terrifying tale. This story takes the idea of zombies taking over in a wonderfully twisted direction that really raises the hairs on the back of your neck. Imagine a town filled with emotionless clowns; all with the same painted blue smile.
Exhibit pulls you forward to a twisted ending with a Lovecraftian feel. There’s a strong moral lesson buried under the sex and horror and Mr. Dunwoody polishes it up with a nice dash of irony.
Mr. Dunwoody’s story Mother Tree was first featured on ChoateRoad.com, where he was awarded their spot-light scribe of the year. An old tree has lovers and children in this weird story told completely different then the rest of the collection. However, like the others it oozes an addictive darkness that engages you through out.
The last story, The Devil’s Due, is set in purgatory as seen through Mr. Dunwoody’s eyes. A former private eye is given a job by Satan in this pulpy horror story.
All in all a great collection of macabre and strange stories that will appease old Dunwoody fans and surely earn him more. The stories are as varied as they are strange but as a whole this book is darker than Lovecraft’s coffin and it presses that feeling down on you. Highly recommended for fans of strange scary horror (if you are reading this then I mean you.)
Available at Amazon