Palette of the Improbable: Tales of Horror & Darkness by Steve Vasquez – Book Review
Totalling seven stories, Palette of the Improbable (PotI) plays host to a number of (as you may have guessed) improbable stories and scenarios. These range from deals with The Devil, paranormal hauntings and time travel. It really is a mixed bag where we end up with varying degrees of success. The overarching theme that binds it all together is the improbability that these stories might take place in the real world, and that is very much the case for the most part. However, in blatant contradiction to what I just said; three of the total seven stories I could very well imagine may have happened at some point in time, in some guise, somewhere in the world. But this only adds to both the horror and tragedy conveyed in these particular stories (“God Works in Mysterious Ways”, “Good Night, Sleep Tight” and “A Hand Is a Terrible Thing to Waste”).
If we can define “palette” as the range of colours available to an artist. Here we must transform colours to words. If words, like colours, are combined to create the finished product; we are left with a narrow range. To this collections fault it contains one too many cliches which take away from the occasional brilliance that lurks just beneath the surface. Before we go any further, let me just say, if you’re looking for a quick read with smatterings of horror and darker themes, PotI is worth picking up. Let me make that clear. However, the execution of some of the stories leaves a lot to be desired. I think it is also worth mentioning, there also seemed to be a trend of suspicion towards women. This is particularly evident in some of the earlier stories we are presented with. Whether this was intentional or not, is not known to me at this point in time, but it did jump out at me and I’m not exactly a chest thumping feminist.
I found myself on the fence for the most part while reading these stories. There were a few glimmers of great writing only to become dull again when the next cliche rolled around. “Through the Wormhole Darkly” for example, contained some great detail and background knowledge in some areas but then contained some anachronisms which undercut some great moments. Maybe some greater care is needed to tidy up these small issues for future stories from Vasquez, which I strongly encourage him to continue. The variety of stories was great, you never knew where the next one would take you and that shows a versatility from Vasquez to his credit. There was a familiarity to the stories, but then again there is to most stories in this day and age.
Maybe feeling more like a pulp novel than anything else. I would still recommend PotI for a quick read (under an hour in total). Being overall a bit rough around the edges, there is certainly room for improvement and some of these stories could definitely be fleshed out a bit more (I’m looking at you “Good Night, Sleep Tight”). There is a creepy opener and a light hearted close. I wanted to keep this review brief as I don’t want to ruin any of this compelling little stories.
The take home message is give this short story collection a chance, despite its flaws.