“Book Review: The Morbid Museum”
Reviewed by Jaylynn Korrell
A dark & inventive look at one of mankind’s greatest fears—death
This collection is narrated by the curator of a side-of-the-road type establishment known as The Morbid Museum. A local death enthusiast, the curator (Siris Grim) has quite a few stories to tell while we’re here.
Though the subject matter may seem a little grim, author James Pack does a wonderful job of debunking the negative associations that come with death through unique and thoughtful storytelling—still, with its fair share of horror. His narrator’s passion and experience with death make us feel like we’re dealing with a true expert here, a trusty guide to walk us through a carefully curated collection.
The Morbid Museum is sectioned off into three main sections, or “exhibits.” Through the trauma exhibit, creatures exhibit, and supernatural exhibit, Pack gives readers a variety of stories to take in that might just leave them feeling less afraid of the idea of life ending.
With main characters that include mutant ninja turtles, detectives, cats, arenas, and more, it’s safe to say that readers will never know what to expect. Nearly each story in the collection is wildly different from the next. While some deal with more serious topics like mass shootings or missing and murdered children, others land quite lightly while still managing to tackle the subject efficiently.
In “Escape from Century,” Pack creates somewhat of an animal holocaust, where humans are an enemy and animals are captured in hoards and forced to work until their deaths. One rebellious feline is determined to escape each camp she enters, so the humans have a cause for concern. And I get it—a cat protagonist seems like an unlikely & light story in a death-centric story collection, but just wait until you run into the twist at the end. It’s well worth the price of admission.
Pack demonstrates a unique ability of taking unexpected and sometimes-silly ideas and turning them into something dark and inventive. Some stories, like “Disengagement,” keep you guessing as a murderer is being investigated for a crime that he truly believes he did not commit, and which he knows was the work of slimy green creatures who came from a fallen meteorite.
Scattered between stories of varying length are micro-stories, spanning only a few pages; and they really hit sometimes, but they fall flat in others. Some stories, like “Jesse’s Lament,” seem to only scratch at the surface of a larger story and don’t have an original-enough spin to bring it home with any feeling. On the other hand, some of those stories, like “Clyde,” makes the most of its few pages with a dynamic and full story of the life and death of a character from Pac-Man.
If you encounter this museum on the side of the road, I’d suggest you stop in. This thing tackles death from a number of thought-provoking angles and displays a strong sense of storytelling worth checking out.
Genre: Horror / Short Story Collection
Print Length: 276 pages
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