Book Review – Ekleipsis: The Abyss
Reviewed by Andrea Marks-Joseph
This evocative story collection explores horrific corruptions of day-to-day reality with unsavory characters and thrilling murderous plots.
Based in a contemporary setting, each story in Ékleipsis: The Abyss begins with a life at least vaguely familiar to us—an alcoholic pilot, a woman trapped in an abusive relationship, a performer unsatisfied with her career, a loving suburban husband—but then warps in its unique, enthralling, and vicious way.
The Ékleipsis stories range from vaguely fantastical (a murderous fanged man) to improbable (a kidnapping so convoluted that one can’t fathom why the character wouldn’t call the police), to the plausible and logical risk of a hostage endangering their own life by climbing back in the truck with a potential murderer to avoid the chance that he may harm other civilians at the gas station alongside her.
Author Tamel Wino’s writing style makes it so that even the most implausible stories will have readers’ hearts racing, flipping pages quickly to find out what happens, tapping fingers in anticipation.
We meet Ékleipsis’ various protagonists as they are interviewing for jobs, taking a hunting trip, arguing with their lovers, raising their children, waiting at a subway station on their way home. They begin their days hoping for a fresh start, a new adventure, or for their lives to maintain the natural glow of contentment. And though the endings vary (some more frustrating and incomplete than others), they all end up with blood spilled.
Wildly emotional and macabre, these stories take us on dramatic and dangerous journeys when a seemingly mundane daily life turns sour. The most significant evil in this collection is human nature, and the breeding ground for it is the mundanity of daily life. Ordinary people reveal their cunning, manipulative sides when placed in life-or-death situations to play high-stakes mind games with their ruthless counterparts.
In these gruesome tales, we see the characters at their most exposed, in their most broken moments, clawing with desperation: A story of prejudice, neglect, and violence against prisoners is told with disturbing glee; a jazz singer is chained up and forced to perform for a perverted fan; a seemingly random break-in reveals itself as alarmingly personal; a hitchhiker’s tale turns as dark and twisty as the roads they drive along.
Wino’s writing is vivid and unsettling and filled with brilliant hints that contribute to the exhilaration of its pacing. There’s an unforgettable scene where we learn this about a serial killer active in the area: “They call him the ‘Monsoon Killer’ because he only kills when it rains.” And we learn it on a beautiful Spring day, so we are left dreading a change in the weather.
Some of Ékleipsis’s perpetrators seek vengeance; some desire escape; all of them inflict a level of cruelty upon their victims. They are stalkers, serial killers, and savages, drenching their unsuspecting victims in terror. These stories are brutal, and heavy with emotion, bright and hot with panic and obsession. Fingernails are ripped off, hot blood trickles down faces, rotting breath and the scent of carcasses hangs heavy in the air.
Ékleipsis: The Abyss also confronts truths like the way the law does not protect the victims inside prisons, and how certain classes of people are likely to be overlooked if they go missing. Elements of romance and sex are used throughout to add complexity and heighten the sense of corruption between the characters. There’s a strong feeling of domestic suspense throughout the collection.
While memorable and rich in imagery, the first few stories are not the strongest of the collection, and are even potentially off-putting, but I can assure you that it is well worth it to keep reading. With each story, Wino presents a more horrific and impressively poisoned reality. The final story comes alive with the most shocking, adrenaline-filled, and unexpected twists of them all.
Ékleipsis: The Abyss may be too difficult a read for some: It features rape, suicide, disfigurement and scarring, kidnapping, misogyny, drug use, battles with addiction, and various cases of physical and emotional domestic abuse. It is violent, gory, bloody, and crude. But if that doesn’t put you off, Ékleipsis: The Abyss is a clever and creative horror offering worth checking out.
Genre: Short Story Collection / Horror
Print Length: 258 pages
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