Alaric Cabiling (2013)
Reviewed by Susan Violante for Reader Views (10/15)
Article first published as Book Review: ‘Insanity by Increments: Stories’ by Alaric Cabiling on Blogcritics.
“Insanity by Increments: Stories” is a collection of short stories by Alaric Cabiling that call to the darker rudiments of human existence. The stories range from morose to vicious, to just plain sadness and desolation, as the characters deal with the inequities and trials of life.
The author takes his readers on an unnerving ride through nine different stories, with a haunting look into the duality of goodness and evil presiding within every human being. One man makes the ultimate sacrifice for his brother after their parents die within a few months of each other. A father mundanely trudges through the motions of life after the death of his only child. A boy is abandoned, first by his alcoholic father, then by his mother, as her plans for a new life don’t include him. Beauty queens long buried deep into the earth will pose for a final photo shoot at the whim of a madman. Cruelty is dosed out by one man in strangled silence over the years, after a tragic accident renders a “normal” life to be just out of reach.
The stories in the collection are written in the Gothic horror tradition, yet portray a somewhat modernized style, creating an appeal to an expanded audience, and not just reserved for those typically drawn to classic literary works. Morbidity, depression, anguish, and horror create the underlying tone for most of the stories, and often these unspoken subtleties set the stage even more so than the author’s vivid depictions of a stormy night, an abandoned house, or a patch of dead trees surrounding a misty swamp.
As is the perfect nature of the short story, I was left wanting more, and in deep deliberation of all the possible scenarios, “what-if’s” and “if-only’s” at the end of each tale. Indeed, a complete novel could be written on each short story. My mind continually drifted back to the classic quote from Henry David Thoreau, “Most men lead lives of quiet desperation and go to the grave with the song still in them.” I felt that quiet desperation to be more intense and threatening than traditional horror, where you expect to be terrified.
I found “Insanity by Increments: Stories” by Alaric Cabiling to be quite engrossing. The author does a brilliant job really getting into your head and delivering powerful storylines. This is a book that will linger in your mind long after you finish the last page.