Verdict: WITH A VOICE THAT IS OFTEN STILL CONFUSED BUT IS BECOMING EVER LOUDER AND CLEARER is a delectably weird and spooky collection of short horror stories.
Hamantaschen’s collection of nine short stories displays a wide-ranging writing style that is a deft blend of horror, the bizarre and literary pop-culture.
The creative titles in this collection provide the reader with a good sense of what will be encountered in this author’s pages: “Big With the Past, Pregnant with the Future” is a well-contained short story with a sharp jolt of unease; the collection concludes with “It’s Not Feelings of Anxiety; It’s One, Constant Feeling: Anxiety,” the most objectively depressing story in a stiff competition. These stories are weird but thoroughly enjoyable—provided that one finds joy in the dark.
Hamantaschen’s horror influences skew more H.P Lovecraft than Edgar Allen Poe. Although there are elements of the psychological, nearly every story includes a Lovecraftian monster or video game villain causing the terror. Most of the stories follow one of two plot arcs: a quotidian scene is set, complete with boring conversations and unnecessary description, then the plot takes a sharp and scary left turn; or, the opening sentences drop the reader into the absurd and it only gets weirder. In addition to the lengthy descriptions—there are tangents into affirmative action and common gripes about modern suburbia—the biggest deficiency in the collection is the couple of stories whose ambition completely collapses in the final scenes, most often because the horror is presented only for shock value.
Fortunately, this is not the case for all of Hamantaschen’s works. Two of the strongest stories are “Soon Enough This Will Essentially Be a True Story,” about a teenage goth girl and Goodreads star reviewer that includes hilarious excerpts of the fictional book she’s sent to review, and “The Gulf of Responsibility,” a longer story with excellent details and character description (plus, of course, some paranoia and weird creatures). Hamantaschen’s characters have a preternatural knack for witty banter, but beyond this quibble they are all diverse and individually realized. Stories variously focus on high school students, recently released prisoners, white-collar workers, and depressed 30-somethings.
WITH A VOICE THAT IS OFTEN STILL CONFUSED BUT IS BECOMING EVER LOUDER AND CLEARER is a delectably weird and spooky collection of short horror stories.