Kirkus Review of “Ones & Zeroes”

“Walsh (The Jinxed Pirate, 2017, etc.) assembles a collection of horror and fantasy tales populated by dragons, aliens, and other creatures in the shadows.

“In ‘His Friends,’ Cynthia is bored at a party with her boyfriend Jon’s tactless friends. But their company is preferable to that of the mysterious entity that’s lurking outside—something that’s odd, misshapen, and most definitely not human. Walsh often treads conventional territory in these stories, offering mood-setting lightning flashes; vague, moving shapes in darkness; and even a babysitter getting creepy phone calls from a stranger. The familiar setups, however, typically beget surprising turns, as in ‘Someone Else’s Story,’ in which one man’s attempt at playing the hero for a woman in trouble doesn’t quite pan out due to an unexpected twist. ‘Damsel’ also toys with readers’ expectations when a young woman named Gwen tries to find a way to escape a determined murderer. The author employs other tried-and-true horror methods to great effect, often by merely hinting at the appearance of a monster or killer. In the Lovecraft-ian ‘Look the Other Way,’ for example, Laurie Brooks and her husband, Tom, encounter a terrifying creature that Walsh reveals only in snippets—and its backstory is also eerily murky. (‘Finding Bosco’ is an equally good companion piece, taking place in the same town of Faicville, where twins’ search for a lost cat leads them to what may be the very same monster.) The collection also includes fantasy stories that, like the horror tales, have gloomy overtones. There’s a princess in both ‘Collision’ and ‘The Mouse & the Dragon’; in the former, a cleric plans on sacrificing her, and in the latter, she awaits someone to rescue her from a dragon—but over thousands of days, she only sees repeated failures. Throughout, Walsh portrays various spooky things with bold imagery. For instance, the narrator of ‘My Window,’ while lying in bed, stares at a creepy silhouette that she describes as ‘some kind of nightmarish shadow puppet.’

“Unnerving stories that turn traditional plots into fresh, original scares.”

Kirkus Reviews

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