A woman went missing a week before her wedding. A man recalling his nightmarish encounter with the devil. Letters sent from beyond the grave. A call from loved ones who since have passed. Limbs that have a mind of their own. These ghostly tales of revenge, greed, and desperation writhe and squirm in the dark corners of modern day Indonesia. Rich in cultural undertones that are uniquely Asian, these stories are in equal part grotesque and poetic, irreverent and spiritual, unusual and universal. Drawing on local folk tales of vengeful banshees, dusk-dwelling monsters, and other forms of the undead, this collection of five short stories will transport readers to the deep, dark abyss where demon forever resides: the human mind.
The translation from Rio’s original Indonesian into English unfortunately has some awkward phrasing and idiomatic missteps. In “Who’s There?”, pouring and drinking liquor is described as a “fluent act,” when it seems the author means “fluid.” Some metaphors are mixed: “But like bubbles that formed as water started to boil, a splinter of truth escaped from his mouth.” Readers might be tempted to stop with this first story and turn their attention elsewhere. The translation errors are less noticeable in other stories, though never completely absent.
The plot twists in the first two stories are illogical or predictable, and not very memorable. “The Wandering” is more enigmatic and surprising, and readers who reach it will be glad they stayed the course. Though not every story equally demonstrates Rio’s talent and imagination, horror fans will appreciate his willingness to strike out into new territory, away from the genre’s most common tropes.
Takeaway: Patient horror readers will be rewarded by the surprising and satisfying keystone tale in this collection of dark fiction.
Great for fans of Yoko Ogawa’s Revenge: Eleven Dark Tales.
Design and typography: B+
Marketing copy: B