Wrapped in Skin by Mark Morris
ChiZine Publications (February 2016)
300 pages; $16.99 paperback
Reviewed by Blu Gilliand
Until now, my only experience with Mark Morris’s work was the first two
excellent books in his Obsidian Heart series (The Wolves of London and The Society of Blood). Those books, coupled with this collection just released by ChiZine Publications, have motivated me to explore the rest of the author’s deep back catalog. After spending a few days wandering through the wastelands of Wrapped in Skin, I’m in awe of the sheer breadth of talent Morris brings to the table, and I can’t wait to read more of his work.
Wrapped in Skin is full of horror stories, but Morris smartly varies
the tones and textures presented. From the tongue-in-cheek approach of
“The Name Game” (think a Twilight Zone episode filtered through a Saturday Night Live skit) to the surreallity of “The Red Door” to the monster movie mis-direction that is “Bad Call,” Morris utilizes and emphasizes the genre’s broad reach. He’s exploring new avenues, but he doesn’t shy away from the standard tropes, either; here there be zombies and ghosts, demons and vampires – familiar elements aplenty, but each told with a skill and confidence that makes them feel fresh and new.
While there is plenty of dread, tension, and fear to go around in its pages, the emotion I felt most strongly as I closed in on the ending of Wrapped in Skin was joy. So many horror collections start on one note and hammer at it repeatedly, story after story; Morris has given us a collection that celebrates and exploits the full potential of the genre in a way too few authors can pull off…and then he brings the hammer down emphatically with the closing story, “Waiting for the Bullet.” This tale, in which a very real, unexplainable supernatural threat exist but pales in comparison to the monstrous behavior of a few men, stands as a sobering reminder that horror is more than a label for certain forms of entertainment; at many times, for many people, horror is reality.