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BEHIND THE RED DOOR by Clayton Bye

Reviewed by Elena Yates Eulo

Clayton Bye’s writing is a power unto itself, a current both deep and disturbing, and he wastes no time in plugging us into his definition of reality. And yes, he will disturb our minds and mess up our radar. After the first story of this eclectic collection, I had already left my own concept of reality and taken up residence in his strange dim world, much trafficked by villains and terrifying possibilities, and occasionally by some spirited and appealing good guys.

He begins with an unspeakable action that can only be hinted at in the beginning of this tale. Such an act creates its own world, one so dreadful and remote from humanity that even speculation of the deed is not an absolute. It is, Bye tells us, an absence of qualities, without speed or light. His words evoke a reminder that the greatest sins of humanity take place inside of unenlightened minds where not a single ray of light illuminates truth.

To read Bye is to be escorted into a shadowy, relentless world without boundaries, where a myriad of dark deeds are committed by intricate, multi-dimensional characters who live in obscure locations most of us have never visited, nor would we go there by choice, save between the pages of a well-written book. It does not hurt to have a recurring guide, in this case likable Mike Money, who takes us to the region of Big Trout Lake in Ontario, with its abiding chill that Bye sends through our bodies, minds and into our very bones while introducing us to the traditions and legends of remote reservations. It is, we will find, a place accustomed to meting out its own justice, and Mike Money well knows the futility of interference.

Yet, these remote cultures are a mere glint in the eye in considering the multiverse that live in Bye’s stories. Neither are all his speculations terrifying. Sometimes, he makes us smile or even laugh, perhaps to prepare our minds more vulnerable for his carving. It’s a delicate balancing act that lures the reader into strange fellowships, from the devil himself to visitations with computers, legendary creatures, or the biological viruses that deform humankind (perhaps to more truly match the quality of our souls?) … while warming us with Mike Money and his reservation of authentic characters.

Illusions or not, it’s enough that Bye leaves us speculating, whether of the nature of evil or the compensations of love, hope and humor. Always, he provides us with good company at our own private bonfires.

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