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on Dec. 26, 2011 :
“A Cold and Dark Christmas” is Jeffrey Hollar’s holiday compilation, which delivers with sadistic glee the mind-twisting darkness you learn to expect from Jeffrey. Though much, maybe all, of the collection is available for free on his website the $0.99 is worth the nice packaged file to have at your convenience if you’re in the mood for some delightfully dark reading this winter. A total of 14 shorts, though my favorite is definitely “In the Cold and the Dark”, harkened by the title of the collection.
The Blackest of Fridays: Excellent build up with a pervading sense of tragedy where we get know our character immediately but are only teased with bits and pieces of his circumstances until the maddeningly dark and twisted ending. Especially frightening because of how relatable it is.
For Goodness Sake: “He knows if you’ve been bad or good…” and really no other words are necessary for this quick exercise in poetic justice.
Going Home for the Holidays: The story of Christ as only Jeffrey Hollar could tell it, an unforgiving and realistic look at how the ‘virgin birth’ might be interpreted by those less devout.
Auld Lang Sighin’: Quick and relatable, a good exploration of the times if you ask me—plus good taste in drinks and a charming relationship to the cruel Fates.
The Lesson of Christmas: Creepy and unsettling as what seems like the faithful labors of a devout man early on carry the undertones of something more sinister. Even as apprehension mounts about Caleb’s purpose one can’t help but admire his dedication and thoroughness in his work. Team the Flock up with the protagonist of ‘The Blackest of Fridays’ and we could probably unmake the civilized world—or at least knock a few holes in it.
Joyous Holidays at Home: Just a fun short about going home for the holidays with a date you already know your parents won’t approve of—but can’t get out of bringing. I loved the characters in this one.
Gaffes of the Magi: Manipulating parents, ruined lives and deadbeat boyfriends culminating in things going even worse for all involved.
The Things That Matter: I found this one sentimental enough to be possible to capitalize on, but apparently that may be taking an over-romantic view of the situation. Sweet and short.
The Season for Carols: It’s hard not just repeatedly describing the stories in this collection as ‘dark’. Jeffrey captures the twisted, methodical and seemingly inevitable villainy of his characters in a compelling way that can disabuse anyone still naïve enough to believe in human decency of the misguided notion.
Pleasure Before Business: One can hardly expect things to work out well for Lucius, but I couldn’t help being immediately drawn to his well-reasoned excess and moral-bankruptcy… Of course, then again if Lucius is the evil one why couldn’t things work out for him? Can’t help liking the bastard.
The Death of Santa Claus: Sometimes the world is dark enough that every character can be a good and admirable one and the story still reads as a tragedy. This is one of those, and much more poignant and I’d say graceful than even I was expecting.
In the Cold and the Dark: Awesome and apocalyptic fantasy story, one of my favorite by Jeffrey. It’s a setting I’d love to know more about, a hearty and admirable people faced with an unstoppable evil all presented elegantly and engagingly—yet leaving no doubt about how it must end.
Waldren’s Shame: The follow up to ‘In the Cold and the Dark’ that I wanted, I was very excited to find this one in the collection. Greatness building on greatness, a more complete picture of the world—not an unexpected one but one very much appreciated anyway.
A Jarhead’s Night Before Christmas: Beautiful… Is that the right word? Inspired re-imagining of the classic poem with carefully selected substitutions to invoke the original while still bringing a new rhythm and attitude to match the subject matter. A great way to conclude the collection in my opinion.
(reviewed within a week of purchase)