I love discovering new authors. There isn’t a single thing in the literary world that makes me feel better about working on this site, reading compulsively, or hell… even having eyeballs in my face. There’s a thrill to it, a quickening of the pulse when you stumble upon something new. Fresh meat. Something unspoiled by the publishing world. Something… innocent.
Recently, I was queried about taking a look at a very brief collection of short stories by the above mentioned author – her second publication. Miranda sent me a message on Twitter asking if I’d check this out, and of course I obliged. Apart from what I think is an unfortunate front cover, I’m very glad that I did.
This collection may not have all of the markings of a seasoned pro, but I can say for sure this this young woman has one hell of a career ahead of her if she sticks it out.
A Collection of short stories portraying the dangerous pitfalls of the 21st century. Includes “Missed Call” “Blind Date,” “Game Over” and the second installment of a bonus short story exclusive to Kindle, “Black & White*.”
*DT-Note – As I have yet to read the first installment to Black & White, I will not include it in the review but to say that it has somewhat of a Gagliani/Ketchum feel to it so far. Which, to me, is a very good sign.
The stories included are pretty much as short as the synopsis is. Thats said, where Doerfler lacks in length, she more than makes up with ample amounts of action, gore, sexual tension, and – most importantly – a genuine understanding of how to craft a short horror story. None of the tales within radiate a completely original theme, but it’s Doerfler’s expert handle on the English language that makes each and every one stand out as if it was the first time anybody wrote about these subjects. Let me elaborate:
Missed Call sees he main character – Craig – put in a terrifying situation. While at a meeting at his office, he receives a phone call from his friend Russ. He ignores the call, letting it go to the machine. When he finally picks up the message, he finds something truly terrifying waiting for him. From here on out, Doerfler rampages through the whole “cat and mouse” game of a victim running from his mysterious assailant, but it’s the way she does it that stands out. Her words flow like a violent wave crashing through a small village. She crafts terrifying visuals and thrilling sequences with brutally short sentences, allowing the natural course of action to take place. In this case, that course of action ends up being a nasty experience for the main character.
Blind Date feels somewhat like a Lee/Laymon-esque foray into body horror, teeming with a sexuality that ultimately feels almost like Doerfler was holding back. The tension is there, the motives are there, even the erotic visuals are there. Regardless, it feels like the author pulled back in order to focus on something else, which is a shame really. What this story is huge on is gore, which Doerfler writes beautifully. Gore-hounds are going to get a kick out of this tasty bit of body horror. Again, the story is simple enough to play with – a man is set up on a blind date, only to find out much later that the woman he meets is a little more than he can handle. And boy, does Doerfler make sure he handles a lot.
The best of the lot comes in last. Game Over starts with a premise that is, to me, a tired cliché of the whole technological-age-meets-horror-stories thing. But as I was soon to find out, when Doerfler gets her hands on something, she really doesn’t stop until she completely owns it. Check this out: Drake’s father is the president/owner of a very large video game company, and has the latest “new thing” to hit the gaming industry in his possession. This machine is called “The Vortex” – a gaming system not unlike virtual reality. The biggest different here is that when the character in the game gets hurt, so does the player. Drakes father forbids him from playing with it until it’s been tested, but he sneaks into the entertainment room, straps himself in, and soon finds himself in the sleepy little Puritan town called Somber Valley. There, he finds himself face to face with nearly invulnerable monsters, a whole lot of trouble, and a terrifying, but important, quest.
Of all three stories, I’d have to say that this one is my favorite. It just radiates a gothic feel, brimming with darkness, things that go bump in the night, and enough blood-soaked scenes to keep this reader satisfied. Doerfler writes like a pro with this one. There really isn’t much else I can say. It’s a very fast read, but ends way too abruptly for my liking. The overall feel does a lot to save that, though.
Like I said, It’s not often that something like this comes my way, but I’m always excited when it does.
Now, here’s the kicker: Miranda Doerfler is just this side of her 21st birthday, ensuring us that we’ll get to take a look at her career in the making. If she keeps writing at this calibre, and works to refine her style as her own completely, I have absolutely no trouble seeing her star rise to new heights in this genre. This is that innocent, new, fresh meat that I was talking about earlier. And me, I’m bloodthirsty now, and yearning for more.