Book Review: DEAD INSIDE by Chandler Morrison

dead inside cover
I used to work as a 9-1-1 operator and let me tell you: my coworkers, in particular, the ones who’d been there a long time had the darkest senses of humor. If they didn’t laugh at the horrible shit they heard about on a daily basis, they’d go absolutely mad.

My mother used to be a lawyer who exclusively handled cases involving abused women. This type of work led her to stop watching violent movies and she no longer laughed at black humor.

Neither my former coworkers, nor my mother are wrong. My former coworkers are not insensitive, and my mother is not a “snowflake.” We all deal with life’s nightmarish qualities in our own ways.

We all have our own coping mechanisms for the apocalypse.

Some of us need experience trauma within the pages of a book or in a film or in a song. Such an act can take the power away from real world horrors. As a lifelong horror fan, I know all about that.

This brings me to DEAD INSIDE by Chandler Morrison. You know the book. It’s the one that caused quite a stir at Bizarro Con in early 2019 after its author performed one of its shocking scenes.

People have written and talked about that particular event at length. This post isn’t about that. This post is about the novel.

And let me tell you: For those of us who need to feel the fullness of the world’s horror and absurdity in the pages of a book, meet your new favorite read.

This is not an easy read. Often, I had to stop in order to catch my breath. It’s got a sense of humor as black as Texas crude. It’s got gross-out moments which would make even the most seasoned fans of extreme horror blush. There are sex scenes to make you feel at once aroused and disgusted.

More than anything, though, DEAD INSIDE has a tremendous amount of heart. These characters, abhorrent at first glance, are tragic figures. One has lived with his monstrousness all his life and doesn’t know how to face actual love. The other became a monster after facing intense childhood trauma and, despite occasionally wishing she could, she never looks back.

I don’t want to say much else. This is not the sort of book you want to spoil, so I’ll close with three comments:

First, context is king and even that infamous scene has a purpose in the novel’s narrative. So much hinges on that moment, the story couldn’t exist without it. It is the opposite of gratuitous.

Second, my God, does Chandler know how to end a story. Both DEAD INSIDE and UNTIL THE SUN left me screaming for more. He sets it up so you should see it coming, but he’s so clever, you won’t.

Last, I’m not an asshole. This book is not for everyone. We all deal with our apocalypse in different ways. If you’re like me, and you rely on dark fiction for catharsis, grab DEAD INSIDE now, and prepare to revel in the ways it will hurt you.

Marvel Monday – The Dark Phoenix Saga

X-Men: The Dark Phoenix Saga by Chris Claremont

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


This volume collects the issues which make up one of the most well-known stories in X-Men history. Though the story tends to meander a bit in the beginning, it ramps things up in a big way in the last few issues. I remember watching the adaptation of this in the ’90s animated series and being incredibly moved, despite not quite understanding all the nuances of the story. It was fascinating to revisit this tale in its original incarnation. Even 40 years after its publication, it remains a highlight of Marvel’s catalog.



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TRUE CRIME by Samantha Kolesnik

True Crime by Samantha Kolesnik

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


For nearly a decade and a half, you couldn’t talk about female violence in literature without mentioning the name Gillian Flynn. Going forward, you won’t be able to do so without mentioning Samantha Kolesnik. With her debut TRUE CRIME, she firmly cements her place in the canon. TRUE CRIME is bleak, nuanced, and frankly, just beautifully written. TRUE CRIME may wear its influences on its sleeves, but it transcends them, becoming something far more interesting. It’s a meditation on the shadow self, full of literary allusions, heartbreak, and passages that made me have to stop reading, just so I could fully digest what I’d just taken in. It’s the type of debut every author dreams of: like McCarthy’s CHILD OF GOD, it displays an author who has already realized her potential, and isn’t honing her craft in public. In the hands of a lesser author, TRUE CRIME could’ve easily devolved into a preachy manifesto or episodic violence, but Sam is so much better than that. The future of dark fiction is in good hands.



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Swarm of Flying Eyeballs

Swarm of Flying Eyeballs

Swarm of Flying Eyeballs by Gina Ranalli

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


*Note: This review refers to the 2019 Deadite Press edition, which also includes the story Smirk.

As one of the founders of the bizarro movement, Gina Ranalli proved herself to be one to watch and with her newest release she shows exactly why.

The titular story is a lot of fun and so strange, it begs you to keep turning the pages. I could easily see it expanded into a full-length novel a la The Swarm or one of James Herbert’s classic works of gross-out horror.

The second story Smirk shows an author at the peak of her powers with descriptions so vivid, you’re planted right in the action. I pictured events unfolding in my local Whole Foods. And that ending… so satisfying.

It’s time we start recognizing Gina Ranalli as a master of the genre. The two stories here are only small examples of why we all should be reading her.



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Book Review: To Wallow in Ash and Other Sorrows

To Wallow in Ash & Other Sorrows

To Wallow in Ash & Other Sorrows by Sam Richard

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


I read this collection after an entire month of reading almost nothing but Richard Laymon and Bryan Smith. Amid all that bloody good pulp, it was nice to read something meditative, personal and moody. The collection opens with an introduction that contextualizes the stories and lets us know upfront that it won’t be an easy read. Nearly all the pieces contained within this collection explore loss and its many dimensions. My favorite of the bunch is probably “Nature Unveiled,” though they all punch pretty hard. The tales also veer into pulp territory–there’s even a mash-up of Edgar Rice Burroughs and William S. Burroughs–and while a lesser author would let these genre trappings pull him away from his central theme, this isn’t the case here. As someone who’s time and again found solace in horror and transgressive art, I found these elements enhanced the narrative, existing as fantasies with which the narrator seeks to escape the true horrors of existence. Grief hovers over each paragraph. The too-huge void left in the wake of a deceased loved one dwarfs the antlered gods, Martians, and zombies found within these pages.



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Book Review of Until the Sun by Chandler Morrison

Until the Sun

Until the Sun by Chandler Morrison

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


Chandler Morrison’s Until the Sun is full of pain, beauty, and some of the best prose I’ve read all year. His words evoke a wide range of emotions: Horror yes, but also joy, sadness, longing and bleak cynicism, often on the same page. If this is the new bar, the rest of us need to work a lot harder.



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Book Review – A Penny for Your Thoughts

A Penny For Your Thoughts

A Penny For Your Thoughts by Robert Ford

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


This collaboration between Ford and Hayward is a spooky Twilight Zone worthy tale gleefully infused with a heavy dose of dark humor. I fell in love from the first line and finished the book happy. The authors perfectly captured the nuances of a father-son relationship, laid the atmosphere on thick, and crafted some truly memorable scenes.



I will try to be better about putting my reviews here on my blog from now on. In the meantime you can View all my reviews on Goodreads.