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Michael Aronovitz
Seven Deadly Pleasures
Reviewed by: Mario Guslandi © 2010

Hippocampus Press
US Trade Paperback, First Edition
ISBN 978-0-9824296-0-0
Publication date; 12-01-2009
248 pages; $ 15.00
Date Reviewed: 03-04-2010

Index:  Horror  Fantasy  General Fiction

Not exactly a book of horror stories but rather a volume of mainstream fiction with a slight shade of dark, Seven Deadly Pleasures constitutes the interesting, although uneven debut collection by Michael Aronovitz.

The book starts out with "How Bria Died", an excellent piece where a private school teacher will deeply regret messing around with a ghost fabricated by himself.

Another good story, "The Clever Mask", revisits the Bergmanesque theme of the deal with the Black Reaper and provides the opportunity for a bittersweet meditation on the masks of prissiness and hypocrisy we have often to wear in our daily life.

"The Legend Of the Slither Shifter" seems to be split in two different parts. The first part (mainstream fiction) is the charming portrait of a turbulent, motherless kid and of his encounter with his new babysitter, an Afro American teenager endowed with wisdom and good sense.

The second part, where horror bursts in, is so preposterous that suspension of disbelief is out of question, due to the most ludicrous monster I ever met, coming to life from a picture drawn by the babysitter herself.

"The Exterminator" features the figure of the clown as a tool of horror and death. The tale, imbued with a nightmarish character, is a quite confused yet powerful piece managing to convey a deep sense of dread.

"Passive Passenger," by far the best story in the volume, is a cleverly conceived, well-told, delightful tale. A man, by means of an unusual computer program, becomes able to enter other people's mind and to experience firsthand their emotions, including their post-mortem experiences.

"Toll Booth" is an overlong novella somehow mimicking the atmospheres (and the flaws) of some of Stephen King's stories. The plot revolves around the murder perpetrated by a scared teenager to cover the tracks of the violent death of a young woman, accidentally caused during a stupid game. A more succinct version of the story would have resulted in a more accomplished, effective tale.

Aronovitz is a very promising writer who still has to learn how to make a better use of his remarkable talent. When he sticks to the core of the story he is a good storyteller, when he puts too much meat on the frying pan he ends up serving a poorly cooked meal, thus spoiling the pleasure for the hungry reader.

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