Flowers in a Dumpster by Mark Allan Gunnells

Flowers in a Dumpster by Mark Allan Gunnells
Publisher: Crystal Lake Publishing
Genre: Sci-Fi/Fantasy, Horror, Paranormal, Contemporary
Length: Short Story (144 pages)
Rating: 4 Stars
Reviewed by Astilbe

The world is full of beauty and mystery. In these 17 tales, Gunnells will take you on a journey through landscapes of light and darkness, rapture and agony, hope and fear.

A post-apocalyptic landscape where it is safer to forget who you once were… An unusual support group comprised of cities dying of a common illness… A porn star that has opened himself up to demonic forces… Two men battling each other to the death who discover they have much in common… A woman whose masochistic tendencies may be her boyfriend’s ruin… A writer whose new friendship proves a danger to his marriage and his sanity.

Let Gunnells guide you through these landscapes where magnificence and decay co-exist side by side. Come pick a bouquet from these Flowers in a Dumpster.

There’s something lurking around the corner. Do you hear it?

I don’t normally suggest skipping ahead in anthologies, but I have to make an exception for “Land of Plenty.” What intrigued me the most about the main character, Isabella, was how emotionally connected she was to her grandfather. They both lived in a small, peaceful community where everyone’s needs are always met. There was a dark secret lurking behind their quiet success, though, that made me shudder. I deeply enjoyed the process of slowly peeling back the layers of their society. This could have easily been a full-length novel because of how richly detailed the world building was, although it honestly did work beautifully as a short story.

There were a handful of stories that I thought could have used a little more polishing. The fact that this happened only a couple of times in the entire collection is impressive, though. I simply had some trouble figuring out what a couple of the tales were trying to communicate to the audience. “The Support Group” was one such example of this. The plot about how different cities reacted to a terrible parasite that couldn’t be cured by any known methods. The use of metaphors to show what was going on was excellent. I cringed and laughed my way through a lot of them, but the plot twists were revealed so quickly and briefly that I struggled to understand what they meant. I’m still not entirely sure that my interpretation of the hints was accurate. It would have been really helpful to have a few more clues about what was going on here as the parts I did figure out were fascinating.

In “The Locked Tower,” a writer named Alec becomes obsessed with seeing what is hidden in the top of the tower in one of the buildings at his alma mater. The more the people who work there try to convince him to stop asking about it, the deeper his desire to see the tower for himself grows. What I enjoyed the most about this character’s quest was how much foreshadowing was used to hint at what was going on. Such an intelligent character needed a good reason to ignore all of the signals he was receiving about the contents of that tower. The foreshadowing only seemed to make his curiosity grow stronger which was an interesting thing to witness as well.

Flowers in a Dumpster was the best book I’ve read from Crystal Lake Publishing so far! I’d strongly recommend it to anyone who enjoys modern horror.

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