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Book Review: EFFECTS VARY by Michael Harris Cohen

Michael Harris Cohen brings us a short-story collection titled EFFECTS VARY. This is a very fitting name for the collection. It’s packed full of all the emotions and feels anyone can handle.

Dark, dirty, grimy, but with little rays of light shining in at times, just not strong enough to gain control.

This is my first time reading anything from Michael Harris Cohen, and he did the favor of putting all of these stories together, so I don’t have to hunt all over for them.

So, what is going on with the stories in this collection? I will tell you up front, Cohen knows how to write true characters. What I mean by true characters is that they are “normal” human beings, but they are damaged. Things have happened to them. Their flaws are highlighted. Just like the real world, where all of our flaws tend to take the spotlight in other people’s eyes.

Combine these “normal” people with the relaxed conversational style presentation, and you have the makings of some really intense dark and heartbreaking stories. I enjoy this kind of presentation. It reads to me like a conversation between buddies. Or someone telling a story to friends. Cohen is not afraid to use everyday language to get his point across, without adding extra fluff.

As always with collections, people will find their favorites and avoid the ones that don’t click for them. I won’t go through all of them for you. But there are a handful I just want to mention that popped with me.

The collection kicks off with WHAT HAPPENS IN THE DARK WILL SOON HAPPEN IN THE LIGHT. And this is a good example of what I mentioned earlier about writing normal characters with flaws. With things messed up with them. It’s a father coming home from war, and he isn’t the same. We see this every day during this time. His daughter sees he isn’t the same. And the 2 of them bond in a different unexpected way. This is a bit tender. Emotional.

DONE TO SCALE is pure outstanding writing. I think the concept has been used before in other stories and even movies, but the delivery of this one is the magic we’re looking for. It’s quite eerie, disturbing but may have you grinning ear-to-ear if you’re anything like me.

HARVEST is a nice piece of Folk Horror for all of you Folk Horror fans out there. Great imagery in this one.

And then there is THE EX-COURT PAINTER, GOYA, AND THE PRINCESS. I have a feeling this one will be one people talk about. I also think this may be the most polarizing story in the collection. People will love it or hate it. It’s a grim fairy tale. At least that is how I looked at it, in a nightmarish way. A nightmare fairy tale. And I think this one has the chops to be extended into a novella if the writer ever chooses to do so.

I really enjoyed the overall psychological aspects throughout this collection. A few times you realize the horror is not just on the surface. You have to think at times and dig a little deeper to discover what may really be happening. But it’s not like you have to think too hard. Just peel the curtains back a little and be amazed at what you discover.

EFFECTS VARY from Michael Harris Cohen is a collection of devastating dark fiction, mixed with wild weirdness, with tidbits of hope and love sprinkled in. The stories are engrossing, grabbing you by the hand and leading you into situations you may not be prepared for. Hope. Darkness. Horrific happenings. It has it all. It’s got the juice.

Title: Effects Vary

Author: Michael Harris Cohen

Publisher: Cemetery Gates Media

Publication Date: September 26, 2022

Pages: 201

Language: English

Format Reviewed: Paperback


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