Cabiling's stories are grounded in one of the long traditions of American short stories, from Melville's "Bartleby" to the Montana of Richard Ford: lonely men at odds with bleak landscapes, traumatized by a childhood that was often violent, and always lacking true emotional warmth. These narrators are frequently writers, artists, young men who are capable of creating their own strange stage settings so that even within this tradition, they come off as memorable.
Some of Cabiling's protagonists live prosaic lives, some are definitely out on the fringe. The photographer of dead beauty queens in "Frailty" is as proud of his aesthetic skill and success as is the novelist in "Dulcinea," and Cabiling eases us through these nightmarish sequences by tossing in some Latin American magic realism. The tone throughout many of the stories is that of a surrealist move, where one absurd scene after the other continues to mount toward some dark inevitability. The endless days slipping away in a "wash of gray" against a pale sky are contrasted by closing time at motel bars, dark, gaudy rooms inhabited by people who do not really belong there—people on their way to and from somewhere else. You cannot help but be impressed by the author's ability to establish scene and pace within the first few paragraphs of his stories
Modern literary short fiction is not unusual: many attempt it; relatively few do it well - especially in the style of the gothic horror approach so aptly explored by Poe, Hawthorne, and other greats. That's why it's such a pleasure to read Insanity by Increments: it takes some of the methods and madness of these greats and moves a step further, presenting nine short stories of contemplation and quiet horror.
Author Alaric Cabiling’s short story collection is not for those who like happy endings. But for any readers who like well-developed fiction, the nine stories here are exquisite. Characters are fully realized with their own backstories and motivations. It is not hard to imagine them going on with their lives off page. Certain stories also have a creepy vibe. While they never break out into full on horror, there is an odd feeling that something is not quite right, something just below the surface.
I don’t often read short stories as I prefer more character and plot development than short stories can offer. But sometimes a short story collection will catch my eye, like this one did. Who could resist that title?
The next time I see a short story book, I won’t be so quick to pass it by as I very much enjoyed reading these short bursts of literary prose. I read the book almost straight through but did have to stop after each story to contemplate it a bit before moving onto the next one. Highly recommended.
The collection is moody, cerebral, and ultimately very affecting. In each of the stories, men grapple with isolation and abandonment. Some of their lives are mundane and ordinary, while some are truly outcasts, but they all share a similar sense of alienation. The collection could have devolved into narcissism or self-pity, but it never does. What separates Insanity by Increments from other “angry young man” fiction is that it takes a turn into the surreal. The stories are at once a realistic look at the human condition, and how that human condition is put to the test in increasingly distressing, and frankly strange, scenarios.
The title is very apt: this collection is a slow burn. It’s not horror in the traditional sense, with jump scares and obvious terror, but it’s harrowing all the same. The stories are recommended for fans of Poe, Hawthorne, Lovecraft and Maupassant, but with a more modern sensibility. To this reviewer, that’s a very potent combination for a work of literary short fiction.
Insanity by Increments is a collection of nine short stories, each filled with progressively ascending tension; each walks the fine line between reason and the dark impulsive tendencies of the human mind.
Cabiling does an incredible job of using the setting to depict the ominous mood of his narrative. Examples include phrases like, "furniture would sit somberly like tombstones.”
Overall, the simple structure makes for an easy read. The content, at times, resembles a fusion of Poe and Gabriel Garcia Marquez. Other times, it shatters the barriers of reason and lets readers dive into the horrific reality that is depression.
Redefining Darkness is a short story collection pairing protagonist choices and experiences with solid plots representing vignettes of time and place, and demonstrates just how much can be accomplished within the short story format.
Suicide. Abandonment. Death. The pursuit of fortune and sex. Each short story expertly hones the knife of angst and moves between vastly different character perspectives; and each adds a piece to the evolving jigsaw puzzle theme.
The result is a powerful, gripping gathering that grabs readers and doesn't let go. How does darkness evolve and grow? Read these stories and find out.
Cabiling's stories deal with very heavy and serious topics: murder, death, suicide, rape, and depression. It is not light reading. They are not stories with definitive answers, and there are no clear protagonists or villains. Each character suffers a burden in some way, and Cabiling acutely explores the connection we each have to one another and how each action we take affects everyone connected to us. No one knows just what to expect in each of these sinister tales, and sometimes you are left with more questions than answers of how one should confront iniquity and sometimes evil.
A collection of short stories – the author’s third – penned around dark moments emerging from largely everyday scenarios, the twelve tales of THE CLAWS OF PERDITION are short, sharp and severe.
Often set up in simple family environments or scenarios that’ll be oddly familiar to most readers, the tales typically start gently, exploring just enough character to give us a taste of what makes our various leads tick, before tumbling off a cliff edge of dark tangents.
Given the relatively short length of each individual tale, however, there is surprising depth of character here, with the thought processes sitting quite naturally and the alternative perspectives well rounded and presented as the tales progress. The word “perdition” means a state of eternal damnation passed into by those who don’t repent before death, in Christian tradition. At times, that might be how you feel reading this book: moments of normality are offset with chunky sallow shades and unexpected violence. Every happy moment is simply hiding a moment of horror.