Crueler and More Unusual

Four More Short Stories of Judicial Horror

Fiction - Horror
348 Pages
Reviewed on 10/30/2018
Buy on Amazon

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    Book Review

Reviewed by Tracy Young for Readers' Favorite

Crueler and More Unusual by Erik Dean is an anthology of stories about the judicial system and how it may develop in the future. Dummy is a chilling tale of how, despite the barrage of information available, there are still people who think it is okay to drink and drive. Robert Holman is such a person and he has consistently offended and chose to ignore the warnings. Many people believe that the punishment should fit the crime. Dummy is a tale of what happens when that belief is adhered to. Early Release is the story of a young man who has been caught up in the justice system but is given the chance to gain his freedom with the Early Release program. His victim’s family have a limited amount of time to exact their punishment, but Kelvin receives help from a most unlikely source.

Public Pool is a story about the crime of passion and greed. Business partners who have overcome many obstacles to make their business successful are halted by a final twist in their relationship. This classic tale is cleverly told with a jaw-dropping finale! Broken Justice is a chilling look into what could happen if the courts were dehumanized. All manners of crimes are dealt with by technology, and justice is meted out swiftly and brutally. What happens though when Mother Nature has taken center stage and threatens to disrupt the system? Can justice compete with Nature or will it be found wanting?

I loved this book! Erik Dean is a storyteller of the highest caliber and I was gripped by Crueler and More Unusual. His vision of a judicial system of the future is especially terrifying as it is so plausible. The subject of capital punishment is a contentious one, whatever your beliefs, and the subject is handled perfectly. I cannot wait to check out Erik Dean's other titles and will highly recommend this book to friends. This is a great read and would look amazing on screen! Watch out for those twists; they will leave you open mouthed!

Divine Zape

Crueler and More Unusual: Four More Short Stories of Judicial Horror by Erik Dean is a collection of short, interesting stories that are delightful to read, delectable treats for fans of horror. Each story is built to transport the reader; a powerful conflict and an interesting idea that feeds it, compelling and believable characters, and then the emotional and psychological depth of each story are just few of the elements that make each of these stories hard to put down. The Dummy shows readers where one ends when they ignore gut feelings. In Early Release, readers are presented an interesting conundrum — what if grieving families were allowed twenty-four hours to kill the criminal who hurt their family, failure of which meant the prisoner would get their freedom?

You’ll find intrigue, love, betrayal, gore and intense action in these stories, each written to entertain readers and make them feel chills at times. I love this author’s ability to write clearly and in a concise manner. In very short paragraphs, readers are offered a whole story with a beautiful structure and characters that actually undergo some form of transformation. The art of the short story demands a certain skill and Erik Dean seems to have it in abundance. This author is a great storyteller who will entertain you in few minutes. And you don’t have to stay up the whole night reading to reach the climax — it came faster than I could have expected. Crueler and More Unusual: Four More Short Stories of Judicial Horror features focused writing, great economy of word, and prose that sings to the reader’s ears. I loved each of these stories, from plot structure to conflict to character.

Anne-Marie Reynolds

Crueler And More Unusual: Four More Short Stories of Judicial Horror by Erik Dean is what is says it is; a compilation of truly horrific stories. Thinking about driving after a drink or two? Think again. Robert Holman did just that and paid the ultimate price after what seemed so innocent became a nightmare. Early Release from prison is a good thing, isn’t it? Not anymore as a bank robber who killed finds out when he is released. The family of his victim comes after him for revenge and he has just 24 hours to outwit them and earn his freedom. He didn’t count on being helped by a Friend. When a massive swimming pool contract is offered to a small company, celebrations are had all round. Nobody counted on betrayal and murder to become part of the contract and the consequences are devastating. Lastly, we have a new justice system, run by Court pods and automated systems. A simple driving fine could turn out to be the end for Holly; the systems don’t just issue fines, they also vaporize guilty people and, as we all know, computers go wrong. Come in and see the justice system of the future at work.

Crueler And More Unusual: Four More Short Stories of Judicial Horror by Erik Dean was something very different, a horrifying look at the future of the judicial system. The only downside was that I found some of the conversations between characters quite stilted, too many words where fewer would have been better. However, aside from that, I thoroughly enjoyed the stories in this book and wonder if this is the kind of justice system future generations may face! Mr. Dean has a fantastic imagination and very real reasons for writing these stories. Each story flowed well and was just the right length, with plenty of description leading to the ultimate conclusion in each case. I think my favorite story was Public Pool, with a neat little addition at the end – you’ll have to read it to find out what! All in all, a good collection with great stories.

Viga Boland

Crueler and More Unusual by Erik Dean is one very different read. Even after reading the description that the four short stories in this book are about “judicial horror,” unless you’ve read Book One in this series, you won’t expect this. But if you’re a fan of horror stories and have read Dean’s award-winning novel Cryptic, odds are excellent you’ll enjoy this book.

Using a very simple style of writing that won’t tax your vocabulary, Dean uses lots of dialogue and the stories are propelled by plot and action, rather than character. He presents four different scenarios set some time in the future to address current social issues and technological developments like self-driving cars, reliance on cell phones, digital reporting on social media and more. At the same time, Dean’s future world still grapples with drunk drivers, felon punishment and the age-old problems like adultery, business competition, greed and murder. Yes, it’s a mixed bag of good and evil, a touch of the paranormal, and some really peculiar and unexpected twists.

Dean’s thrust in these stories is to present some possible nasty outcomes for those who disobey the law in a future society and how justice might be meted out. It’s frightening to say the least and it’s not the kind of world you would want to live in. No story captures that as well as the last one, where you can be vaporized for something as minor as a speeding ticket! Add to that the nightmare of how something as commonplace as an electrical storm could result in vaporizing the wrong person when computerized circuits might suddenly blow at the wrong time, and you have a real horror story. Suspend your own disbelief and read Crueler and More Unusual at your own peril and pace. Chilling!

Justine Reyes

Crueler and More Unusual by Erik Dean is a unique collection of short horror stories that revolve around the idea of the Twenty Eighth Amendment in the United States Constitution. Each story begins with a short note from the narrator explaining the inevitable doom that the foolish characters will fall victim to, but these victims are far from innocent; in fact, you could say they are facing the consequences of their thoughtless actions. Horror anthologies and short horror stories are the foundations of this genre of the dark and bizarre. When Erik Dean presented his readers with a short foreword before each of his stories, it greatly reminded me of Rod Serling's introductions from the Twilight Zone, but on the other hand, some of the stories reminded me of Black Mirror. In some cases, I felt as though there were elements of satire in Dean's writing.

My personal favorite from the four stories presented was Early Release. Without giving the whole plot away, in the near future the system has changed for prisons. An unlucky inmate is chosen for something called Early Release. It seems like a dream come true, however, that's not the case. Early Release gives the family of the victims the lawful right to kill the inmate. They only have twenty-four hours to hunt the prisoner down, but to keep it fair the inmate can't skip town or else they face being shot down by drones. If they survive, they're a free man. I was honestly taken aback, it was such an original premise to me. Not only are we given this premise, but the point of view will give readers the feeling of empathy as the inmate became the hunted. Erik Dean did a fantastic job and I would urge others to give Crueler and More Unusual a read.