Book Review: Hunger Pangs
“Thinking is like life, some insatiable hunger you’ll never quite satisfy”
What do I want to see when I read short story collections? I want twist endings I don’t expect, stories that delve into human nature without staying shallow, and a variety of story types/plots. I am happy to announce that Hunger Pangs by Scott J. Moses delivers on all those accounts! Oh and for bonus points he also adds a brief personal note before each story, detailing some of the inspiration or process behind the tale. I LOVE when authors do that in their short story collections!
SUMMARY: 1959: A grieving lawman bargains with darkness to reunite his family. 1960: A traveling exorcist takes a case where the traditional means of expelling evil have failed. 1969: A haunted widower picks up a hitchhiking hippie. 1985: Siblings flee their horrid past, and the curse in their blood. 2020: An immortal longs for her life in the sun. In his debut collection, Scott J. Moses presents thirteen tales of supernatural horror and everyday woe.
As before, with anthologies and collections I want to make sure I give credit to each story instead of a general glossing over the book as a whole. So, with that in mind here are my brief thoughts and individual rating for each story, without giving away any spoilers.
A man, driving down a stretch of Louisiana road one night, happens upon a hippy hitch-hiker. The driver is still dealing with the loss of his wife, but he gives the hitch-hiker a ride. Unbeknownst to the guest, the destination is less than ideal. There is a certain dark priestess in this story that really gave me the creeps!
Essentially this is a haunted house tale, but told from the perspective of the ghost. It’s a flash fiction piece, so brief yet poignant.
“Cruel, Baying Adolescence”
A sister, out at a diner on her 18th birthday, asks her brother to kill her. A story of family curses and past trauma.
A specialist in the business of exorcism is called in to deal with a particularly unique and challenging case. What he finds is much different than he’s ever dealt with before. Very cool story with some interesting ideas that also manages to deal with themes of hate, prejudice, revenge, and retribution.
“Questioning the Professor”
A somewhat experimental tale set in a hospital waiting room, where a man questions the existence and goodness of God. Heavy and somewhat pessimistic.
An exorcist at a funeral mourning the death of a fellow exorcist. Unique and interesting take on the profession and its consequences.
A story that goes heavy into fable and fantasy. Somewhat confusing.
“What’s in Your Name”
Another story told from the perspective of the ghost, but this time a lengthier tale than the flash fiction. It’s a moving meditation on loss, grief, and family trauma. It’s also a terrifying story about a dead boy trying to keep the same hideous monster that killed him from killing his sister.
“The Scent of Souls”
Two men on the road trying to get somewhere important. They end up turning off the road to a strange house, one going to investigate and one staying behind. This was one of my absolute favorites in the collection. It starts so normal, but goes to such a bizarre and disturbing place by the end. Lots of folk/cult horror and Cliver Barker vibes!
“Of Turbulent Seas”
From the perspective of a man who imagines the perfect life he is living, but somewhat doesn’t seem quite right. Very sad and heavy.
“There’s No Going Back to Absit Gorge”
A police officer goes on a killing spree, searching for a particularly strange black stone. Something strange is haunting the town, but is the officer trying to stop it or being controlled by it?
“Warning Plums in the Frostbitten Air”
Two interwoven and connected stories: one of a depressed man reviewing his life, and the other of an injured wolf being hunted by an otherworldy prey. Loved the style and themes it presented.
An ancient entity is living in 2020, on the hunt this particular night for fresh prey. She goes to a nightclub and there meets a woman who causes her to reexamine her life.
Overall this collection of stories is very good. Moses is an excellent writer, and I really appreciated the variety of stories presented. I can’t wait to see what else he has in store!
I also feel like his stories have a lot going on beneath the surface. The titular story “Hunger Pangs” made me go back and reconsider the collection as a whole. I realized that whether its vampires, ghosts, monsters, or human beings everyone has hunger pangs for life. Sometimes it’s conscious and sometimes less so, and often it’s driven by a lust-like yearning, but every being experiences it in their own way. There’s also a constant thread of people who don’t necessarily live great lives, but who realize life can be great. Unfortunately they’ve often done something wrong or lost someone and now the greatness of life lies tainted and twisted. And while there are plenty of monsters, it’s often the painful memories, trauma, and grief that are truly dangerous and threaten to consume us.
All in all lots of good stuff! Special thanks to author Scott J. Moses for sending me a copy in exchange for an honest review!
Overall rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
If you want to learn more about Scott J. Moses and his work then check out his website (https://www.scottjmoses.com/) or follow him and Instagram (https://www.instagram.com/scottj_moses/) and on Twitter (https://twitter.com/ScottJ_Moses).
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