Title: Underworld Dreams
Author: Daniel Braum
Release date: September 13, 2020
I’d seen this collection shared frequently and people raved about Braum’s stories when it was released back in September. I’ve been struggling lately to really dive into short story collections, as I’m a bit burned out on them to be honest. I’ve read a lot of them over the last few years.
The combination of the cover, the reviews and people asking if I’d read it, finally swayed me to take a crack at this and I’m glad I did.
What I liked: Braum has a simple, eerie style of writing. A style that tells you, the reader, that something is off, something is coming or will happen, but you never fully known when or to what extent.
The stories within are all sublime. Difficult subject matter written in a way that is easy to read, easy to digest.
The standouts for me were;
Tommy’s Shadow – a story of a high school musician who stumbles upon an odd man in a place nobody is supposed to go into. This was dark, bleak and the finale was karma done right.
How to Stay Afloat When Drowning – a story of aquatic inhabitants making themselves known to those who live on land. This was truly unsettling and you know something’s off right from the start.
Cloudland Earthbound – a story about a man hired to deal with an unseen force preventing a tunnel construction site. I loved this portal horror story. This was completely unexpected and I loved that it went where it went.
My favorite of them all though, was Goodnight Kookaburra. This was a story of a man on vacation/work trip in Australia who meets some people, only to have a truly odd encounter. This was a truly trippy story that left me unnerved.
What I didn’t like: As with every collection, each story will be individual to each reader. I found the second half of the book just as strong as the first half, which says something to Braum’s writing prowess. At times collections can feel like the second half is filled with word count padding, but not in this case.
Why you should buy this: Braum has delivered a really well paced and balanced collection with ‘Underworld Dreams.’ This reminded me of the recent collection from Adam Light that I read, where it shows the author is willing to tackle a number of subjects and tackles them really well. If you’re looking for a solid collection of dark fiction, you can’t go wrong here.