Equilibrium Overturned: A Book Review

by William Burns

Overcoming its rather vague connecting principle of “shocking revelations into the true origins of evil” (which could, theoretically, include everyone from St. Augustine to Dr. Seuss), Grey Matter Press’s anthology Equilibrium Overturned contains a plethora of inventive and entertaining tales that exist at the intersection of horror, science fiction, and fantasy.  The collection kicks off with one of its best stories, Jeff Hemenway’s “The Final Testimony of Molly Ryder.”  Suggesting Raymond Chandler and William Gibson melding in Seth Brundle’s transporter, this cyberpunk noir meditation lays bare our primal need for justice, punishment, and retribution even in a technologically advanced future. Jon Everson’s “Amnion” pushes Cronenbergian body horror into a bizarrely sexy and narcissistic direction, while J.G. Faherty’s “Martial Law” actually manages to use the done to living death metaphor of the zombie in a fresh, politically informed way.  While Geoffrey W. Cole’s “The Collected Sylvia, Volumes 1 to 1388” and S.G. Larner’s “Perfect Soldiers” conceptual reach exceeds their grasp, Martin Slag’s “Wombie” is a Darwinian nightmare that suggests that some species are better off not adapting. Equilibrium Overturned’s best stories are historically based but differ in their tone and execution.  Roger Jackson’s existential “No-Man’s Land”  manages to make trench warfare even more horrible and nihilistic than it probably was, as even death is no escape from the endless, soul crushing non-existence endured by its participants. Sean Eads’s  masterful “The Alamo Incident: From the Chronicles of Timaeus Shields” is an exhilarating throwback to Robert E. Howard/Seabury Quinn pulp terror as special agent Timaeus Shields is sent by President Jackson to uncover the real story of the Alamo. Shields’s discovery of a more fearsome foe than even General Santa Anna hits all the right weird tales buttons, and hopefully, there will be many more accounts of Shields’s wild adventures. The anthology ends on another high note with the thoroughly depressing “Sunrise” by Tony Knighton, which proposes that even a father’s love cannot erase the deadly environmental conditions of a frightfully plausible dystopian tomorrow.  Equilibrium Overturned is an outstanding collection of horror stories that are bursting with original ideas, startling concepts, and terrifying prose. 


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