The Red Empire and Other Stories
I must admit that I have never read anything by Joe prior to this collection of stories. Joe previously has written mainly in my least favourite of genres, that’s right folks the dreaded zombies. So why did you pick up this book? I hear you ask. Truthfully I’m not 100% sure as to why I did. A lot of I think comes from the premise of the title story, The Red Empire. I’m a sucker for an animals on the rampage story. As a kid I loved films such as Them, Piranha and The Swarm. So a story involving ants as a bio-weapon on the rampage, managed to get it’s mandibles into me.
Another reason this collection got my interest was that it is not just a collection of horror stories, Joe has put police procedurals, and non fiction into the mix. An intriguing concept, and I was interested in seeing if he could pull it off.
The short answer is yes he does, a good collection or anthology not only stands on the quality of the stories, but also like a good album, relies on the running order of the stories, there was always a chance that a complete change in tone and theme could make the reading experience of this collection a jarring one. In all honesty, this collection reads very smoothly and these stories and non fiction pieces fit very well together. I like how an number of the stories are based on Joe’s time as a police officer, it adds an extra dimension to the collection.
Highlights of the book for me are the title story of course, how can you go wrong with giant killer ants. The Millstone is another favourite, trailer trash and redemption through revenge, perfect. The Burning Fingers Man is a taught thriller involving a community coming together to combat a sex criminal. Joe handles the question about the nature of justice very well in this hard hitting story.
This is a great collection and I recommend you seek it it. Was it good enough to make me read one of his zombie novels, I don’t know, I think I may need a many hours of therapy before I pick up another zombie novel. But if Joe continues to broaden the genres he writes in then I’ll most certainly be picking them up.
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