By Matt Hayward
If you’re looking for hope within the stories in Matt Hayward’s collection Various States of Decay, you will be disappointed. Few, if any, of these protagonists are heroes. Not many of them can even be called likable, yet Hayward’s fantastic writing grips the reader all the same, drawing them deep into these tales and the situations a variety of different characters find themselves in.
An Irish author, Hayward doesn’t just draw on Ireland’s rich, Celtic mythology, but, it feels, from the people themselves, and a majority of the stories feel like they couldn’t be set anywhere else. Stories of monstrous rodents hiding in small villages, of dark, dangerous creatures lurking on Ireland’s coast, puppies that never age, and people hiding from the zombie apocalypse, trying to survive in a post-apocalyptic world.
Many of the tales draw the reader into dark places, hiding the light and leaving them to emerge breathless and disturbed, whether its corporations using dreams to advertise their products, or children losing their innocence, barely escaping their childhoods alive. Like many short story collections, it’s hard to pick out a favorite from these, but one story that really stood out was one which combined a creepy, eerie situation and twisted it into something to leave the reader’s eyes watering.
Father’s Day is the final story in the collection, and feels like it deserves pride of place, as a father wakes to discover his daughter has a new, strange ability. Without giving too much away, the story has a quiet power, one to edge right under the reader’s skin and leave them on a high.
The number of creatures, monsters and unknown things crammed into these pages will leave the reader grasping for more, and this collection is one definitely worth a read.
But fair warning – even dogs do not fare well in these stories.
An imaginative, eerie, gripping collection, with a combination of quiet terror and gore, Various States of Decay has a variety of stories that any horror fan would enjoy.
Review by Elle Turpitt
I received an e-copy from the author for review consideration.