"The Gothic Shift" by Brian David Bruns
Author: Brian David Bruns
Narrators: Scott Bennett, Brittany Morgan Williams, Thomas Stone, Gary Furlong
Length: 9 hours 41 minutes
Publisher: Brian David Bruns⎮2017
Genre: Horror; Short Stories
Release date: Mar. 31, 2017
Winner of the International Book Awards for Best Short Story Collection, The Gothic Shift is a beguiling collection of the macabre and supernatural from best-seller Brian David Bruns.
"The Gothic Shift" begins with a man who comes into a restaurant every day to gulp down vast quantities at the shrimp buffet, while his forlorn waitress seems to gain weight on his behalf. Here Bruns achieves a delightful balance of whimsy and the grotesque, with a glimmer of moonstruck romance.
"The Finger People" is a fine study of Civil War squalor and carnage - spotlights the Union attack on the Confederate stronghold Fort Henry. A timid rebel cook discovers something even grislier than the usual horrors of war: ghouls feeding off the dead...and the living.
"The Ghost of Naked Molly" takes us back to old New Orleans on the eve of the Louisiana Purchase, where the ghost of a gorgeous octoroon slave mistress complicates the political schemes of a local grandee by parading around his house in the nude.
"The Penultimate Mr. Nilly" visits the crew of a ship stuck in the Arctic ice in 1859 as they slowly go mad from hunger. The ultimate solution - prompted by a stitched, velveteen toy wolf - gives a completely new twist on survival of the fittest.
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"The Gothic Shift"
I’m on the fence about this one. The concept was kind of interesting, but the author didn’t give us enough information. Why was the guy eating shrimp, specifically? How did he make the weird weight transfer? WHY did he make the weird weight transfer? Why did he ultimately choose the victim he died (especially when we were led to kind of like that person as the story progressed)? Every ‘answer’ we were given just led to additional questions. There was a bit too much going on and not enough information provided to really get a reader invested. I did like the heroine and her cousin and the ending was pretty interesting.
Oh, and the descriptions of the shrimp prep and eating? THAT was stomach-turningly horrifying.
"The Finger People"
This one was messed up and creepy, with just the right blend of different kinds of horror. The intrigue starts early, the scene was nicely set, and I really liked the characters. Frank was clearly our hero, but the author gave enough life to the other characters. Watching Frank puzzle out what was going on, and then be brave enough to rescue his friend, was a pretty engaging experience. It was kind of odd that only he saw the Finger People, but I suppose it would have been less creepy if everyone noticed them. Probably would have made it harder for them to cart people off into the woods, too. Discovering the almost mundane mechanics of their existence and why they carried off bodies almost made what they were doing even more horrify8ing. Something like that could exist. *shiver*
"The Ghost of Naked Molly"
I’m not sure if it was intentional on the author’s part or an unfortunate accident, but I didn’t like ANYONE in this story. Diego and Horace were both selfish jerks, and any other character was just a basic outline sketched in to keep the story from feeling like a ghost town. The release of information was way too slow to keep me interested and engaged, and not understanding Diego’s motivations until nearly the end was frustrating. For me at least, knowing SOMETHING prior to the very end would have made the story less confusing and dull. And the way the ghost of Molly was presented? Not scary. Not even all the creepy, really…maybe mildly intriguing, at best.
"The Penultimate Mr. Nilly"
I’m not going to lie; I didn’t even listen to this one. I was underwhelmed by most of the other stories that I just didn’t have any interest left for this audiobook.
Bottom line: I never really did discover the "delightful balance of whimsy and the grotesque, with a glimmer of moonstruck romance" promised by the synopsis. The only consistently excellent aspect of this audiobook was the narrators. While I'd recommend "The Finger People" and maybe even "The Gothic Shift", I'd pass on the others.
Brian David Bruns has adventured in over 60 countries to gather material for his bestselling books and won dozens of literary awards, including the USA REBA Grand Prize. He has been featured on ABC's 20/20 and was anointed Sir Brian by Prince Michael, Regent of the Principality of Sealand (yes, really).
Sir Brian writes of his global experiences with a self-mocking wit and an astute insight into human behavior. His historical fiction seamlessly blends his love of travel and adventure with the fantastical--a sort of Indiana Jones meets Bram Stoker.
He is devoted to veterans organizations, such as Operation Homefront and Wounded Warriors Project, to which he's donated thousands of his books.
After several years residing in Dracula's actual hometown (yes, really), he and his Romanian wife now live in Las Vegas with their two old rescue cats, Julius and Caesar.