Behold The Void
Philip Fracassi is an award-winning author and a screenwriter who lives in Los Angeles. He’s the creator of many successful works: Behold The Void, a short story collection; Shiloh, Fragile Dreams and Sacculina, novellas; Girl Missing, Santa Paws 2: The Santa Pups, screenplays. His upcoming projects include the screenplays: Observe, Escape The Night, The Boys In The Village, Gothic and Vintage. He’s the founder of Equator Books, a publishing house and rare, out-of-print bookstore in Venice, CA. He has also been a live music producer for House of Blues Entertainment and produced more than 3000 live internet broadcasts.
Check out his work before you read the review?
It’s hard to believe Behold The Void is Philip Fracassi’s debut collection; it’s just so fucking good!
Behold The Void is a collection of nine horror stories. Though all stories are horror, the horrifying elements in each of them is distinct. The horror spectrum is wide. There are many sub-genres. And Philip has used all of them for his stories, making the collection very diverse. There’s horror no one can explain, the supernatural kind, where unknown powers of the universe come uninvited to destroy our lives. There’s also horror where we are the antagonists. The darkness deep within men comes to play.
We start with Soft Construction Of A Sunset. A panicked man calls his friend in the middle of night. In a very vivid way Philip tells the story of the scared, then not-so-scared, and finally mad and scary Marcus. The story shows struggles of real life and fuses them with the terror of the supernatural. It’s a perfect opening to grab any horror fan’s mind. When I finished reading this one, I knew I was in for a terrific ride.
Next is Altar. Fun fact: Philip loves pools. Obviously he had to include one pool story in his collection. Unlike the first story, this is kind of slow-paced. It takes a while to get into the gist of the story, which is hard to figure out because the story focuses not only on the supernatural element (which comes later) but also fleshes out all the characters and show their fears or actions. Something unexpected and bizarre happens at the climax.
The Horse Thief is based on the very real practice of people stealing horses to sell them elsewhere. Here, the story revolves around a horse thief commissioned to steal a rather fine horse for purposes not so fine. I won’t reveal it because it will spoil the fun. I’ll just say that we don’t really care for thieves. Let the karma get them, yeah! But I really liked the protagonist, especially towards the terrifying climax.
We love our grandparents. If angels exist, they’re already here with us in the form of our grandparents. In Coffin young Sylvia has a unique relationship with her Nana. There are woods, there is magic, there are difficult human emotions…it’s another lovely horrifying tale.
The Baby Farmer is based on a real serial killer. I won’t go into the details. You can read it on Wikipedia, or better yet, here in Behold The Void where Philip gives his own twists and fictionalizes the story. We also read actual words written by the real serial killer. If that isn’t creepy, I don’t know what is. And the way Philip writes it makes the story so much more chilling. It’s not my favourite of the collection (thanks to the brilliant quality of every story) but it definitely gave me a sleepless night. Self-note: Don’t read Philip Fracassi at night. Yes, you’re yourself a dark fiction writer and you can take horror, but apparently not Philip’s horror.
I have mixed feelings about Surfer Girl. No doubt it’s a good story. We follow the story of a boy who’s raised by a single mother who brings a new man in his life. He has trouble accepting him. The story progresses slowly, making this discomfort apparent and the weird ways the boy channels his emotions, developing the darkness within. It’s when the family goes on vacation that the real stuff starts. Towards the end something really weird happens.
Mother is a story about another struggling family. Marriage is slowly falling apart. Julie used to be an artist and she decides to give it another try. But her tastes have changed. She now paints occult symbols, and the delicate bond of her marriage is about to break. We see a moment of hope, but it’s actually the calm before the storm. This is a horror story. Things of course don’t go well.
The story that made me question the most is Fail-Safe. It’s just such a weird concept that I found myself asking: “Wait, am I reading this right? Holy Fuck…(a series of curses)” In earlier stories we saw ordinary families with ordinary problems. The horror slowly crept into these families. The horror was external. But here the supernatural is a very solid part. A boy’s mother is always locked in a hidden chamber every once in a while. Whenever this happens, his dad has few guys over. Initially the boy is not allowed near the chamber. It suggests of some real problems haunting our society, but it’s not. It’s something more bizarre. The ending is left open, so I really haven’t figured out what I make of the story. While not my favourite, it certainly is a terrific story.
And now we come to my favourite story of the collection: Mandala. I like pools. Fracassi ruined it for me. I like woods. Yes, now I’ll always look over my shoulders when I step into the raw embrace of nature. Sea and beaches is pretty cool, right? Not anymore. I cannot forgive you for this, Philip. But it also happens to be one of the best stories I read in a while. So I’ll give you a hug and try to forget this minor inconvenience. Okay, sorry for going off-topic. Here’s what I think of Mandala: horrifyingly beautiful. It takes time to develop. Philip fleshes out his characters very well so we feel a lot for them when the actual shit-storm starts (why you sadistic bastard?). Once we get to the middle, it’s that moment where we can’t read and breathe at the same time, much like our protagonist. The climax is a series of ups and downs (yes, I mean it. The climax of this story is long, so the series is possible, and it makes the plot more unpredictable and the experience more thrilling). The ending is smart. At first it appears its a perfect full stop to the story, but there’s one disturbing detail. The author note further confirms that the ending is ambiguous. This is also the story where the title of the collection Behold the Void appears. It’s such a powerful moment. I had to close the book and sit still for a while, actually feeling the depth of the words. Void has always been a powerful word for me (as if it’s not obvious from this website. Duh.) and Philip feels it perhaps as deeply as I do. It’s a strong word for us dark fiction lovers, and this strong word is very fitting to this powerful collection.
Behold The Void is one of the best short story collections I’ve ever read. The stories themselves are amazing, but so is the writing. The descriptions are spot on. It’s vivid and very visual. The pacing for most stories is excellent. The climaxes and endings are definitely something you will not forget for a long time. It’s an excellent collection filled with incredibly delicious and diverse stories. Do I recommend this book? Hell yeah!