a review by Elizabeth Vinton
I was very interested from the outset about reading this collection of short stories, Dreams of Dust by Jeff Shelton-Davis, after seeing them defined as ‘weird pulpy fiction’ – I enjoy a pulp fiction story every now and again, and this collection proved to be some of the strangest I have read!
The first story was Devil Come-A-Calling, a supernatural western horror, not for the faint hearted.
Jack Legg, running from a bank heist gone horrifically wrong, travels with two brothers and finds himself outmatched when it comes to pure evil.
Very well written western setting, nice contained short tale. Reminded me of Robert E Howard’s Pigeons from Hell a little – grotesque tale but told well and not to really repulse the reader but you get the impression of deep horror from the plot.
In a strange way I found myself liking Jack, despite the fact that he is not a very moral man, he has a very quirky spirit about him.
The next two tales – ‘In His image’ and ‘The Overlord’s Dream’ link together in genre style being dark fantasy/science fiction, a bit Amazing Stories in flavour. The inclusion of ‘Devil Come-A-Calling’ seemed odd after reading the last two as it is very different from them.
‘In His Image’ is about a warrior who seeks to regain his son, and is a dark morality tale, “Be careful what you wish for” as they say.
Again very well written, Jeff has a very accessible writing style for those who like and have experience in reading complex and rich fantasy settings and those who are new to it.
I was intrigued by the world he created, despite not in the end really understanding or knowing a lot about its history and how it works and all comes together – you get a glimpse of a very colourful place the characters exist in. Well described and visually stunning, I would love to see this story in graphic novel format.
‘The Overlord’s Dream’ is very similar to ‘In His Image’, in that you are immersed in a rich fantasy world, but this is utterly alien, no humans reside but a strange race with a hive mind.
Religious beliefs are explored in this story as it is in the previous and the consequences of faith, or lack of it in a culture.
As the overlord dreams of the sea he has never experienced, a sign is found that may confirm a religious prophecy of a being that could save their civilization.
I am glad I got an opportunity to read these short stories, which were beautifully written, the last two especially, Dreams of Dust being an excellent introduction to what Jeff is capable of as a writer and I look forward to seeing more of his work in the future.