Book Review: Face the Music
“I wasn’t always like this. I was happy once”
Quick note before we start. I received this book directly from author Mark Towse in exchange for an honest review. I greatly appreciate this, and if you’re interested in learning more about Mark or supporting his work then please check out the info at the bottom of this page.
SUMMARY: In this collection of old-school style horror stories, Mark Towse takes readers on a wild ride with unexpected twists and turns. Once read, these tales will not be easily forgotten.
I have a love/hate relationship with short story collections. I love them because of their ability to fit an entire riveting tale with developed characters in just a few dozen pages or less. It takes a certain special skill to be able to pull that off and do it well. And I hate them for exactly when they fall flat of this (as is more often the case). Luckily they’re short so you didn’t waste too much time when they’re bad.
So like most short story collections, the ones in Face the Music are an array of hits and misses. Each has a gut punch at the end that either takes your breath away or leaves you a little confused. But thankfully they tend to land more often than not. And even the ones that don’t fully work have enough going for them to pull them above mediocrity.
There are a lot of stories involving the nearly or recently departed, but I appreciate that Towse also mixes in a variety of other tales amidst the ghost ones. There are lots of interesting ideas posed here, such as what do you do when the sky starts raining blood? How far would you go to save the ones you love? What happens when those creepy old people are just a little too friendly? And just who are those strange bird people anyways?
Across all story types there are repeated themes of loss, grief, and revenge, and it’s in the focus on these themes that the collection anchors itself. The writing is good, and it has a dreamy quality to it. I felt like I was floating through the book, unbound by time and space, a passenger witness to the horrors facing the main characters. And there are all types of horrors present, from terrifying monsters to the monsters hiding within us. The title of the collection is very apt, as each story features someone “facing the music” in some way (whether it be facing their fears, facing acceptance of a reality they can’t change, facing a crossroads of difficult decisions, facing a seemingly unbeatable foe, and so on).
A lot of the stories are written in the first person and almost feel like diary entries. This works until it doesn’t, meaning that sometimes we’re so far in the character’s mind that it’s hard to know what is actually happening in the story. I think this is my only problem with the writing is that sometimes it’s difficult to know what is happening in certain scenes or with certain characters.
At the end of the day this is a pretty solid collection of stories. Each one held my attention and felt important in its own way, although I think my two favorites are “The Paperboy” and “Bloody Dogs”. Towse writes like a modern day Edgar Allan Poe (with his focus on unreliable narrators and tragedy) mixed with someone like Roald Dahl or Ray Bradbury (with his conflicted characters and variations on the “deal with a devil” trope). There’s plenty to enjoy here, and I recommend you checking it out!
If you want to learn more about Mark Towse and his work then check out his website (https://marktowsedarkfiction.wordpress.com/) or follow him on Instagram (https://www.instagram.com/towseywrites/) and Twitter (https://twitter.com/MarkTowsey12).
If you want to buy this book, and also support local bookstores, then click the link below! (*note: this is an affiliate link, meaning I get a small percentage if you buy the book after clicking on it*)