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Murky Depths #5
Edited by Terry Martin
Cover Artist: Luke Cooper
Review by Sam Tomaino
Murky Depths  ISBN/ITEM#: 1752-5586
Date: 26 August 2008

Links: Zine's Website / Pub Info / Table of Contents /

Murky Depths #5 – The Quarterly Anthology of Graphically Dark Speculative Fiction features stories by Christopher Hawkins, Alison Littlewood, Lisa Koosis, Luke Cooper and others.

The new issue of Murky Depths, sub-titled The Quarterly Anthology of Graphically Dark Speculative Fiction is #5 and, once again, mixes stories and art.

The fiction in the issue begins with "The Night Runner" by Christopher Hawkins. The titular character here is a woman who calls herself Grace. She is constantly running through the place she lives that she calls Her City. She loves the sights and sounds and buildings of Her City. One night she notices a dark man, interfering with the lives of Her City and decides to take action. All this leads to an inevitable conclusion. This is followed by "Johnny Nightshirt", in sort of a graphic story format by Edward R. Norden. I'm not sure how this is to be taken. Is it some sort of free-verse poem? I can't say I cared for the art, either. I was truly chilled by the next story, "So This Is Mi" by Alison Littlewood. Leonie visits her brother Cal and meets his new girlfriend, Mi (short for Miriam). She is pale and strange looking but Cal is obviously smitten with her. Leonie finds out more about her in this very unsettling piece.

Liza Granville's "Spoils of the Thirteenth Valkyrie" starts with a woman on the run from something. We find out that this is a virtual reality simulation, with memories taken from a real person. The woman experiencing this is named Onnoui, who is bored (hence the name) with her life and buys thrills from the perils of others. This was a grim look at a disquieting future. "Final Cut" by James Johnson is another graphic story. What happens when a child star is no longer a child or a star? Well, he takes whatever jobs he can but must find a way to get the upper hand. This reminded me a bit of a story that might have appeared in Creepy back in the day, and that's a good thing. Bill Ward creates a nice little short-short in "A Gland Enterprise". A tribe hunts and kills a beast and harvests a special gland. To what purpose? Ward gives us a startling answer.

Next we have, "Halls of the Tollomai" by Lee Moan. Lieutenant Sharkey is out on patrol with his unit. They have already lost their Captain but Sergeant Jardine keep them fighting beasts called the tollomai. But this beast is more dangerous than any other and Sharkey must risk his very soul in this gritty but effective story. In "Killer of the Dead", Edward M. Erdelac centers on a young boy who wishes to fight with the men. When his tribe is attacked by vampires, he earns the name of a warrior. This was a good ripping yarn!

This issue has the conclusion to a four-part story, "The Dark Gospel" by Luke Cooper. In his interview in this issue, Cooper comments on critics who don't review a serialized story until it's completed. He says that from here on in, his stories will be more self-contained. I do think it's easier to review a completed story but I like that Cooper did provide a synopsis of what had gone before. The "dark gospel" of the title is The Gospel of Satan, written when the Devil has found out that he is being manipulated by God to bring upon the apocalypse. Well, he refused to go along and wrote this book. It has come into the hands of a Detective Goulding and Satan wants it back. Goulding is helped by a "half-angel Nephilim", a female called Halo Slipping. They must find a way to defeat the Prince of Darkness in this exciting story that was worth waiting for.

"Pearl" by Lisa J. Koosis is an end-of-the-world story on which "alien snow" is causing everything to crystallize. Roger's estranged girlfriend, Charlotte, wants him to be with her at the end. But he has a long way to go. Will he make it to her? Or will he come to an understanding of what is happening? This was a nicely done little story, Ross Kimble's "The Digitally Damned" gives us Harlin, who wants to spend eternity in a virtual-reality environment. This has ruined his life and estranged him from his wife, Trina. He gets an offer to get everything he wants, eternity in his "Heaven". Things work out a little differently in this well-written story, my favorite in this issue.

"The Look" by Sylvanus Moxley is another graphic story and tells what happens when a beautiful girl catches your eye. This was a clever little piece with a perfect ending. Matthew Doyle's "Fix" is a look at a particularly nasty addiction. This one will really chill your bones! Last, there is "Misty Rain" by Matthew Deluca. Evan and Ann are on the run from a fearsome beast. If they can catch a train they can get away! Evan finds a way to protect Ann in this sad, poignant tale.

Even with my slight quibble, Murky Depths is a good little horror magazine. It has a good mix of art and story and I recommend it.

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