Book Review: The Report of Mr. Charles Aalmers and Other Stories by Matthew Pungitore

(This book is available here on Amazon.)

Matthew Pungitore is a friend of mine who writes gothic horror. I previously reviewed his work Fiendilkfjeld Castle, which I liked quite a bit. If you like dream-like horror with creepy imagery and dark revelations, it’s worth your time.

Now about his recent book: I loved it. If you like gothic horror it’s absolutely packed with it. The atmosphere is great and the stories fit the genre perfectly. It’s a short story collection with stories ranging from the single digits to twenty pages or so. They’re all short enough so that it holds your attention easy enough. Several hit upon subjects I love: the middle ages, the church, etc.

Now a quick overview of my favorite stories and my reviews of them. Given a short story collection, I think highlighting my favorite stories is necessary, especially for my friend:

The Report of Mr. Charles Aalmers – This story is about a man tasked to look into a French crypt from the middle ages. He regales a tale of knights and an awful monster. Some odd events happen and he travels home to New York. There’s a lot of interesting imagery and phrasing. I recommend it, without spoiling anything.

If I had one complaint it’s that the first section of this titular story is essentially a thesaurus speedrun, it’s packed with so many obscure words that I had trouble deciphering it. Once you’re past that section, Charles is requested to explore a French crypt and the story really picks up. It’s almost Lovecraftian in the descriptions of discoveries throughout the story.

Black Torque Demon – This story involves a knight looking into some oddities. Among the knights, the Black Torque is an order thought to be virtuous, but as a knight investigates them he comes across an awful man. This leads to an escape and a battle, all culminating in a dark and gray ending. I liked this one quite a bit. It honestly ends similarly to the story “Dubhdris Abbey”, though I think Black Torque is the stronger story.

Fetch of Prismatic Froth – I loved this story from the first paragraph. It’s a doppelganger story with an interesting twist and unique plot. It’s short, and once the patterns hit it works well.

Idyll for an Allhallowtide Masque and Romance – A Halloween tale that grabbed me immediately. It’s short so I can’t say much aside from that it’s perfect to read at that time of year.

Jade Gorget Hex – This is another supremely gothic story. The first paragraph begins with a nightmare, a Gothic cathedral, and a bell tower. Other than that it’s hard to nail down. There’s a vengeance aspect and monsters.

O Tumult Unearthly – A story that blends scifi and horror. It begins Lovecraftian and immediately pivots into an almost space opera setting. It’s very interesting. It has a jail escape from a doomed ship and creepy alien elements. I liked it a lot. Dark, gloomy, and full of alien things.

Platinoid Pearl Rapture – I don’t know what to say about this one. It was really good, but also seemed like it needed more room to grow. The ideas behind it involved artificial intelligence, dream worlds, and the enslavement of the human race. However, it felt too short for that kind of subject matter. I wanted more from this story, and though it was good and interesting, I hope Matt turns it into a full novel some day in the future.

Ultramundane Numina in the Forbidden Tomb – This is a far future dark fantasy story. It’s interesting and progressed nicely. I’d say if you’re a fan of someone like Karl Edward Wagner you’d probably like this story. There was a bit more action than I expected, but it was a welcome friend.

Okay, with that I’ve reviewed the majority of the stories in the book. Overall I really enjoyed my time reading it. I’d say if you like gothic fiction or dark fantasy these are right up your alley.

Seriously, go pick up his book if you buy gothic fiction!

You may like some of my other reviews:

You may also like some of my other work:

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