Greetings from the Ether,
Closing our review series with Philip Fracassi’s work, we present to you Behold the Void. Fracassi’s debut collection and a piece that will not soon be forgotten by dark fiction enthusiasts. We previously reviewed Fragile Dreams and Sacculina, two chapbooks by the author that prepared us for the journey that is Behold the Void. We are also interviewing Fracassi and will have that post up shortly. There is a reason that Fracassi is quickly becoming a star in the fields of dark fiction and we hope to shed some light on why.
Alas, without further ado, let’s descend into the void!
Fracassi has an unparalleled ability to invoke his use of language in a way that is both visually appeasing and filled with unbridled intensity. The storytelling he uses is fast-paced, straightforward, poetic in many cases, and consistently crafts a quality of page-turning ferocity. With Behold the Void, there isn’t a single page that contains a sentence or scene that should be omitted. It is perhaps this characteristic that makes this collection one of the best releases of the year.
No punches are pulled in Fracassi’s debut, each story varying drastically from the previous, while maintaining the author’s signature style: concise choices in language and a pace concocted with hypnotic imagery and intense situations. Fracassi continuously pits ordinary people into extraordinary situations. No character feels anything less than organic and the author’s ability to craft an engaging narrative around simple situations, taking these everyday occurrences and seamless spilling the dark and weird into them, ensures that readers will find something fresh and original in each story.
We open with a short titled “Soft Construction of a Sunset.” Immediately, the readers are thrown into a strange and interesting event, which soon culminates into something haunting and fantastical, dream-like and horrific. The perfect opener for an enthralling collection, and one that will stick with readers for many years to come. Altar continues the journey, instantly diving from the weird to the dark, employing facets of cosmic horror while retaining Fracassi’s ability to illustrate real people onto each and every page. Altar is simply haunting, the way the author handles sickening acts of violence and sexual abuse only bringing more realism and propelling a spine-tingling experience onto the readers as the climactic ending, revolving around a pool that has opened a portal to another dimension, concludes this macabre tale. “The Horse Thief” transitions from the supernatural to a tale that is all-too-real and plausible, while maintaining an overhanging atmosphere of dread and regret. “Coffin” nosedives back into the macabre, telling a disturbing story and portraying with frightening clarity the effects of guilt and resentment. “The Baby Farmer” transports us into a historical period piece where Fracassi masterfully adapts his language to the geography of the story, never allowing the readers to escape from his grasp on realism and intrigue. “Surfer Girl” launches us back into the realms of fractured psyches and the disgusting potential that some human beings possess, followed by Mother, which parallels and expands upon the themes of “Coffin” in its handling of resentment and guilt. “Fail-Safe” once again teleports the readers into a different thematic atmosphere, encompassing the weird in an isolated and claustrophobic narrative surrounding a boy and a difficult decision regarding his parents who have possibly transformed into monsters.
We close the collection with the novella of which the title Behold the Void originated from and which is easily the most impacting story in the piece. Not to say that the other stories aren’t fantastic, there are no dull points to this blade. Mandala is simply put, a masterpiece of short form fiction. Think Stephen King’s Gerald’s Game meets The Twilight Zone’s “Long Distance Call.” This story was the perfect choice for the climax of what is easily a masterclass collection. A page-turner if there ever was one, Mandala hits every nerve it intends to while invoking that signature sense of dread and realism that Fracassi is known for. Guaranteed to give you chills and have you clutching the book white-knuckled, Mandala is as effective as it is endearing.
One of the things that makes Fracassi such an engaging author is that he consistently writes his stories with a confidence of his own voice and an understanding of who he is as a writer. His pacing is quick and never fleeting, characters organic and never flat, storytelling always original and never recycled.
With Behold the Void, Fracassi launches his name into dark fiction with a debut that intertwines intrigue, the weird, and an ability to portray character-driven fiction with a sense of ease that is daunting and prolific. Philip Fracassi doesn’t need an abundance of stories to show his talent, or a plethora of themes and environments. The author thrives on limited settings and contained plots. The more difficulty a story should have being told, the better Fracassi executes the vision.
Behold the Void is a dazzling debut collection from an author that continues to surprise readers which each new vision he releases. The quality never falters, his themes never repetitive, and his characters never less intriguing than the previous. This collection is for readers who appreciate the character studies, fans of Stephen King’s most memorable work, and people who like to take journeys into the darker side of humanity. We recommend this collection to anyone and everyone and we are ecstatic to see what the future holds for the talented, storytelling ace that is Philip Fracassi.
Philip Fracassi, an author and screenwriter, lives in Los Angeles.
He has worked in the entertainment industry for over 20 years and was the founder of Equator Books, a publishing house and rare, out-of-print bookstore in Venice, CA.
Philip currently works full-time in the film industry and on his writing. His screenplay credits include “Girl Missing,” distributed by Mar Vista Entertainment (2015) for Lifetime Television and “Santa Paws 2: The Santa Pups,” distributed by Disney Home Entertainment (2012). Films in development include “Escape the Night,” “The Boys in the Valley,” “Gothic,” and “Vintage.”
His horror novelettes, “Altar,” and “Mother,” are currently available from Dunhams Manor Press. His literary novel, “The Egotist” is available online.
His newest novella, “Fragile Dreams,” is now available from JournalStone Publications.
You can follow Philip on Facebook and on Twitter (@philipfracassi), or at his official website at http://pfracassi.com.