Reviewed by Kit Moss
Anel Viz proves himself master of yet another genre, this time horror, and likewise puts his individual stamp on it. Besides including stories with gay themes, you simply cannot expect any formulae with this author. Someday this reviewer will find a predictable story in a Viz work, then will examine the book to discover that the cover has the author’s name incorrect. In other words, fasten your seat belts, it’s going to be a bumpy ride with no certain destination.
The two volumes are each assigned the dark side of horror and the lighter side of horror. In each the horror is not always your typical modern horror story. Yes, there is a serial killer. There are Undead. There is a stalker of sorts, and there might be an alien. You may run into a couple shapeshifters, though hardly your garden variety of those. Even the convention of horror being actual, as perceived by the individual being dogged by it, cannot be assumed. In one story, for instance, the fearful situation proves to be quite everyday and simply being perceived as frightening.
Volume 1: Dark Horror
Silver Publishing, Oct. 2012, 328 pages
ISBN: 978-1-61495-787-4 – trade paperback
ISBN: 978-1-61495-262-6 – e-book
In a tale told in a frank and daring style, Brad has become obsessed with an ex-lover named Val whom he found years later dying of AIDS. He begins to bring home prostitutes whom he makes dress and behave like Val. When he meets a young man who not only looks like his obsession but is named Val, he begins what seems to be a long-term relationship. The puzzling fact of the new Val starting to dwindle physically, becoming ill, leads to a mystery only the lover can solve. Other writers may ponder whether and how to inject sex into their stories, but Viz refreshingly uses sex to develop the very composition. The use of the men’s sexual encounters and how they shift, change and ultimately fall apart is as unique as it is a skillful bit of storytelling. With a touch of “Pygmalion” and “Picture of Dorian Gray”, Viz exhibits his dependable literary artistry.
Lou awakes in a gay bathhouse and is ordered to join many others being interrogated by the police. A guest has had his throat cut and they are all under suspicion. Along with Lou is Jamie, a young man who works at the baths who, it seems, saw the murderer. When other similar deaths occur which point to the young man being either the slasher or his intended victim, our narrator does what he can to protect him and falls in love. In this Hitchcock-like story the reader must gather the loose ends of numerous clues to the identity of the killer, never knowing which is germane and which is a red herring. How better to sustain suspense?
Three protagonists take center stage in this story of doomed love in a Spain in transition from a fascist to an open society. Soledad is a woman who has been used and cast off too many times. Adulio is the innocent who seems her best chance at happiness, until she begins to suspect her brother Luis, a dashing matador, wants to steal him from her. In the meantime something strange is happening to Adulio, a change that affects more than just his sexuality. Viz shapes the romance around the characters and their expectations, adding the mystery with a light hand and delivering a well woven triskelion of interlocking hopes and dreams.
Volume 2: Horror Lite
Silver Publishing, Oct. 2012, 194 pages
ISBN: 978-1-61495-790-4 – trade paperback
ISBN: 978-1-61495-627-3 – e-book
A Layover at Atatürk International
Airline passengers in Turkey watch dejectedly as their plane flies off for repairs with their luggage. The officials bus them to a hotel where they bunk two by two, thrown together with none of their belongings for who knows how long. Chase manages to get himself an attractive roommate, Viet Bloedrank, that he can only hope shares his tastes in bedmates. It does not take him long to discover “taste” is just the word for it. If you are expecting something sinister is going on, you soon learn that Viz can make the Undead just an everyday seeker of happiness.
Coffee and Aftershave
Skyler always arranges first dates at a coffee shop, and as the story begins he hopes the next one with Claude will prove to be a keeper. Earlier, though, he is unnerved by the fellow who sits next to him on the commuter train, a man who makes a great deal out of his aftershave and asks him if he has ever “done it” with a man. When he arrives at his stop, he notices the man is following him. Worse, when he meets with Claude the man shows up and follows them, Claude revealing that he has seen the man before too. The coincidence creeps out Claude too much to make love. It looks like Skyler’s hopes with Claude are dashed. Skyler proceeds to make dates with other men, all of whom reveal having been followed by the strange fellow. It might be misleading to assume a typical horror plot is underway, but then it is always a mistake to assume anything typical is going on in Viz’s work. The reader will be presented with something odd, but not what he thinks is happening.
Bryce Olson is Pregnant
When checking on Bryce, an acquaintance Russell has always had a yen for, he finds him holed up in his apartment hiding from aliens, convinced he has been impregnated by one in the form of his boyfriend, Ken. Russell decides to humor the man, mostly because he is concerned for his friend’s sanity. He puts up with the anal probe stories and paranoia, but when the paranoid man and he perform an informal survey of the men from their community and discover that they all had sex with Ken and, when asked to explain why, all give the answer “it just sort of happened,” Russ begins to wonder if Bryce isn’t right about the man. Viz leads the reader through the process of investigation and its realignment of Russell’s reactions gradually. The confrontation scene is priceless and handled by the author with a shrug and a smile.
John has noticed that the cool dog that shows up at the door never seems to be in the area when his lover Farkas is there. At the same time he starts to meet some of his lovers’ friends and family in an unusual bar. They all seem fascinated, even obsessed by the full moon, and he too starts to enjoy the wild camping parties in the woods. This was this reviewer’s favorite story, enjoying not only the comfortable pace but the hilarious wordplay and jokes that Viz has planted. A Hungarian to English dictionary might add to your enjoyment.
What next is on Anel Viz’s literary to do list? His fans can only wait and see, poised on the edge of their proverbial seats.