Naima Haviland’s Night at the Demontorium is a collection of short stories that harken back to the style of The Twilight Zone and Tales from the Darkside. While all the stories are unquestionably horror tales, they aspire to be more than just that with very original and clever flourishes throughout.
The opening story Aunt Tea’s Addiction is very strong with a brutally powerful opening paragraph that hooked me immediately. “It seems like yesterday that Tea carved a big circle out of her belly and tried to scoop her entrails into the toilet. Before starting she’s put duct tape over her mouth so her screaming wouldn’t bother the neighbors.” And from there it gets crazy…crazier. As the story progressed I found myself re-reading passages trying to fully understand what was going on, and for the briefest of moments thought about putting the book down, because it just didn’t seem to make any damn sense. As an obstinate person I pressed on in spite of my confusion. I was glad I did and was well rewarded as my confusion dissipated and I was left with an eerie tale that was pretty damn clever as well.
The next two stories He Dreams in Yellow and Sparky’s First Day continue to play with the reader’s perception of reality and logic. Haviland crafts these stories with fast hooks and a prose that flows easily. She brings you into her fevered dream and allows you to immerse yourself in your misperceptions. Once she has you, Haviland then leads you to uncomfortable realties not just from her story but from your own existence.
The fourth story The Entrepreneur unwinds as a more typical horror yarn with slasher elements, but is never predictable nor does it linger and overstay its welcome. The payoff is one that genre aficionados should appreciate. The final tale Bedring is a more typical supernatural horror story that gives genre fans what they want, while never being dull or simplistic. The action unravels at an unrelenting pace before drawing to its dark conclusion.
Night at the Demontorium is a strong collection of diverse horror shorts that waste no time drawing readers into Haviland’s fevered dreams. This is a solid and varied collection that ensures it does not become dull, and is very easy to read in a short period of time. Definitely recommended.