Right off the bat, let me say that after reading Greg Chapman’s short story collection Bleak Precision, the stories live up to the title. This book is “bleak” and dark. That, however, as you all know, is not a bad thing. If you are on horrorfuel.com, I am assuming you enjoy the darkness…I know I do.
The characters in these short stories are dark, twisted, tortured characters who suffer from a wide array of issues. They are struggling to survive, or thriving in destruction. Simply, they are wholly unlikable. That doesn’t mean that they aren’t engrossing and creatively intriguing. I felt such a morbid twist of curiosity, hatred, and pity for each character individually.
Chapman really does design a great character and it is honestly kind of refreshing to have an author who has no need or desire to create likable or redeeming people. They are all colorful, varied, and heavy. There are, of course, victims who are pitied, but (even for them) very rarely while reading did I have any feelings of compassion or lightness.
Just like his characters, Greg Chapman does not hold back at all. There is a wonderful chapter in this book entitled “A Bleak and Depressing Look at the Truth” which is Chapman himself explaining why he writes the way he does. He mentions that he takes darkness as a good thing because “aren’t I writing horror?” I would absolutely have to agree. There is no way that these stories, their plots of death, insanity, terror and creepy-crawlies, could be anything other than horror. Straight up, in your face horror.
Chapman does stay mostly away from the supernatural in these stories. I say mostly because there are elements of it, but the things I found most disturbing were the human elements. The plots are mostly based on human greed and frailties. In Chapman’s own words, his stories go “beyond blood and gore” and into the real horrors of our world.
Aside from just outright darkness and horror, Chapman is a great writer. The ways that he builds these character and plots is based on dialogue (both inner-mind and between characters), wonderfully sculpted scenes and, and the most powerful, an overall atmosphere that weighs on each story. Chapman’s stories are short, even by short story standards; therefore it is even more impressive how deeply he paints the worlds he created. Instantly, readers are brought into whatever twisted universe Chapman wants…wrapped up in the gruesome worlds of his own brand of horror.
Aside from the writing, the sparring use of illustrations is a very useful took in this book. Right from the cover to the centipedes crawling across pages to an emancipated autopsy victim, be prepared to enter a world of darkness and iniquity.
I truly enjoyed this collection. I found it very entertaining and had to look hard to find any critiques to write about. However, it is my job to give both sides of the coin. As much as I loved the darkness and the overall grim feel of each story, there were one or two stories I felt were written for the sole purpose of being shocking. What I mean is that I felt some stories had more depth than others. This certainly doesn’t mean that they were bad or even weak stories I enjoyed each one for different reasons, But I kept going back to this quote by Chapman:
If anything, I’m hoping that after reading my stories, readers will ask themselves the same questions. Seek their own truths. What kind of world are we living in? What kind of person am I? What can I do to try and change these things? Good horror should always pose these questions and go beyond the blood and gore, or at least use it to paint a picture of humanity. If you’re a writer, or aspire to be one, be bleak and depressing, make your characters unlikable, but most of all tell the truth.
Chapman always keeps his promise of being deep and depressing, but not every story made me ask the questions that are so important. However, each story is fantastically entertaining and wonderful on its own and as a collection.
This book is a very great read! I thoroughly enjoyed it and it is an excellent collection of horror. I would recommend it to anyone who enjoys unashamed, no-holds-barred horror. Get your copy right here, light a candle, and bask in the darkness of Bleak Precision.