“The ‘neck’ slowly unfurled at the end of the prehensile humanesque tentacle like the obscene fruit at the end of a repulsive vine.”― Christina Engela, Static: Panic! Horror in Space Book 1
🚀I received an e-Book of this story in exchange for a fair review!🚀
Static: Panic! Horror in Space Book 1 (2019) offers a collection of comedic sci-fi short stories with a horror flavour, taking established genre tropes – such as the undead, locations haunted by ghostly spirits, and possessed objects – and combining them with elements of the science-fiction genre across three narratively and thematically linked stories. Each tale follows the luckless Captain Stuart Flane and his crew aboard a starship called the Mercury, as they attempt to chart the unknown corners of space. Along the way, they move from misadventure to misadventure, getting into increasingly bizarre circumstances.
I think of the trio, the first story comprised of two shorts titled Part 1: Mercury Rising and Part 2: Mercury Resurgent, was the strongest, as it took the well-worn premise of a zombie outbreak and gave it a neat and original twist. The other two stories, titled Part 3: Dead Center and Part 4: Through a Dark Glassy, were also entertaining to read, if a tad more formulaic than the first. I didn’t feel they did quite as much to differentiate themselves from the tropes they were riffing on, and instead sort of just transferred the setting to space.
I don’t know the exact background of these stories, but after reading them, I imagine that they existed as standalone shorts before being collected into this book. Though they do follow on directly from one another in the overarching narrative, each one does reintroduce certain elements and characters at the beginning. I feel like perhaps this could have done with a bit more editing when they were collected into this particular novel, as many of these are repeated in each. It meant rereading the same character info or descriptions, and this repetition could have been shaved off in this collection.
Stuart Flane and his EXO Vic Chapman were pretty entertaining lead characters, and had a good back and forth comedic banter between them. The rest of the crew and characters often existed solely to serve as conduits for their various hijinks, and unfortunately felt a little underdeveloped as a result. I did feel that sometimes the gravity of the events was downplayed quite a bit as well, and the deaths of these more expendable crew members were somewhat trivialised, though I do understand that this is often the case in more comedic stories.
Comedy is often a very difficult thing to pull off as it is so subjective, and although I didn’t think every joke landed for me personally, the author did do a good job of infusing a jovial flow to the narrative. She also effectively establishes her own sci-fi universe and lore without bogging down the book with too many details, instead allowing the world to grow and expand naturally through the stories.
There is one major point I’d like to bring up on the grammatical front; exclamation marks should, ideally, be used sparingly and for emphasis. I think they featured on almost every page in this book, and the effect was quite jarring. I don’t think there is ever really a call to use them in the omniscient narrative voice as they were here, and using them too often in dialogue gives the impression that every character is extremely excitable, or just shouting all the time. If there was one piece of constructive criticism to be taken away from this review, it’d be to scale that back. That aside, this is an enjoyable read with some snappy dialogue exchanges and jokes aplenty. It’s maybe a tad light on the horror elements for my taste, but the stories themselves were lively and fun.
VERDICT: All things considered, Static: Panic! Horror in Space Book 1 provides amusing and light-hearted action within a science-fiction setting, sprinkled with the odd spooky scene and a strong comedic current too. There are a few technical areas that I felt could’ve done with some tightening up, but overall the stories, settings and characters were all engaging and entertaining.
It’s a solid ⭐⭐⭐/⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ from this reviewer. I also want to say a humongous thank you to Christina Engela for providing a copy and giving me the chance to read and review it. Please consider following her author Instagram page here; @christinaengela, and find her personal website down below!
Title(s): Static: Panic! Horror in Space Book 1
Author(s): Christina Engela
Original Publication Date: 15th December, 2019
Page Count: 252 pages
Format Read: Digital
Advance Review Copy (Y/N): Y