Fixi Novo, RM24.90, ISBN 978-967-0374-54-3
It’s pretty much given that the only local authors who wouldn’t really starve are those who dabble in the horror and romance genre. Tunku Halim has been writing horror stories for ages now, and he’s one of the few who do so in English rather than in Bahasa Malaysia. Therefore, it is only appropriate that someone collects his better known stories into one collection for the consumption of the masses. The aptly titled Horror Stories, how straight to the point, is that collection if you don’t feel like running around looking for the author’s older and harder to find works.
I must confess here that I’m not that familiar with the author’s works, nor am I a big fan of his. I’ve read some of his stories now and then, and none of them stand out to me. Therefore, Horror Stories is pretty much a “new” work for me, and I decide to go at it with an open mind.
I won’t go into my thoughts on each story, because that’s what I tried to do in my previous draft of this review, and I found myself repeating the same things for every story.
Well, there are some fun stories here, and my personal choices are Biggest Baddest Bomoh, Haunted Apartment, and A Sister’s Tale. My issue with the stories is this: Tunku Halim always writes as if he’d discovered big words for the first time. He is like a kid sitting for the SPM Bahasa Malaysia composition paper, dropping every big words he can think of to impress the examiner with his vocabulary. As a result, there is an abundance of florid adjectives peppering each story to the point that the story comes off as unnecessarily theatrical. Main characters always behave and think in a hammy manner, so much so that it is easy to spot the twist long before it arrives, such as with Night of the Pontianak: just spot the most hammy character and there you go, the bad guy.
Ham and cheese have their place in horror, but they work best when the context is humor. Tales from the Crypt, for example, is a fun horror series built on ham and cheese. Tunku Halim, however, adds ham and cheese to every story regardless of whether they are needed. As a result, sober straightforward creepy tales such as A Sister’s Tale and A Labor Day Weekend are frequently marred by unintentionally hilarious scenes. The worst example is Four Numbers for Eric Kwok, which has so much shouting and weeping and “eyes blazing” and more, it’s like a party full of drunk bipolar lunatics.
Horror Stories isn’t an awful collection, it’s a decent showcase of the author’s offering – strengths and weaknesses and all. The author approaches everything with a pickax – it’s not enough that he uses exclamation marks in a sentence, the character must scream or shout to drive home that THIS IS A VERY LOUD SENTENCE, for instance. This may work for other people, but I find the whole narrative style too hackneyed and purple for my liking. There are some good ideas here, but most of the time I find myself cringing rather than appreciating them.
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