Unhappy Endings marks an all-new collection from horror author and Bram Stoker Award winner Brian Keene. This collection features short stories, novellas and even poetry that are compiled from over ten years of writing, many of them either having been in limited release or never before been published.
The best aspect of Unhappy Endings is Keene’s introduction. He recognizes that throughout his career he has been accused by critics and fans alike of not necessarily going for the neat and happy ending at the end of his novels. As Keene puts it, he writes about what he knows. He is an ultimate and brutal realist who admits that unhappy endings are what life has shown him. The world is a scary place, and the lives of his characters within the stories in this collection are filled with dread and uncertainty.
Many of the stories in Unhappy Endings relate to Keene’s larger works. Many of the stories and characters follow storylines from his popular “Rising” series, which deals with ancient evil spirits re-animating the dead for nefarious purposes. Keene also focuses on religion in several of these stories, a topic he has openly questioned in novels like Terminal. The novella “Take the Long Way Home,” named after Keene’s favorite Supertramp song, is his take on the Rapture. Being a horror author, the elements found in this novella are more in line with Jack Ketchum or Richard Laymon than traditional “Christian fiction” such as Jerry Jenkins and Tim LaHaye’s Left Behind series.
Keene flexes his creative muscles by throwing in a handful of poems honed to a horrific edge; “Gratefully Dead” and “Hanger 18” are the highlights of his poetry. Overall, Unhappy Endings wavers between post-apocalyptic stories of dread to general supernatural tales to tales of human depravity. There is something for almost every fan of horror, and long-time readers of Keene will be pleased at the postscript he adds at the end of each story revealing the inspiration for each tale.
My personal favorite in this collection is the short-story “The Resurrection and the Life,” a re-telling/re-imagining of the Book of John, Chapter 11, from the New Testament. More popularly known as the tale of Lazarus, Keene remains faithful to the Biblical tale until Lazarus is resurrected and Jesus finds that he is not Lazarus but actually the demon Ob. Keene wistfully recalls that this short story, in essence, means that Lazarus was the first Zombie. A perfect book for a dark, silent night.