Translations by Malin Rydén in the case the original review is in Swedish. Translations has been made for accuracy, not eloquence.
Att stapla döda (The Dead Stacked Deep)
(short story, Bländverk, anthology, 2013)
The short story that affects me the most is ”The Dead Stacked Deep” by Malin Rydén. It takes place in Haiti right after the disastrous earthquake 2010. The zombie cult is used to show how the balance in a society can be disrupted in an instance, by natural disasters as well as humans.
Sjön suger (Undertow)
(short story, Beelzebub Be Bop, anthology, 2012)
Four criminal lowlives: Tony, the Little Pervo, Half a Liter and the Cucumber-bender hitch a ride on the ferry to Finland after a successful heist. With half a million in cash burning a hole in their pocket, they decide to splurge on a nice spa experience and a couple of drinks. But something is happening aboard the ship. People are starting to act… weird. This short story is also presented as a ‘horror comedy’ and that description is spot on. This is utterly hilarious, and Malin deserves a big gold star for building something new from old ideas. Because the story is not just funny, it is also twisted in a very entertaining way. I won’t reveal exactly what the ”zombies” are up to, but bloody hell, they are crazy! The author seems to have been drunk on the joy of storytelling, descriptions like ‘meat tsunami’ shows that she must have had a great time as she wrote this. You have to read it!
I am almost starting to feel silly, because it is always Malin. Malin Rydén. I love the diversity of Eskapix’s publishing, the absurd, the disgusting, the odd, the insane and the cool. And yet it is Malin that gets the gold medal yet again.
A trip on a ferry to Finland has its predictable moments of horror (the likely collection of germs you encounter at the buffet table. how wet and sticky you get from drinks spilled when the wind picks up over the Baltic Sea. how mangled one got on the dance floor when younger. how horrible joe average can sound when he tries to show off on the karaoke.) but in Malin’s tender care a bath in the presumably unhealthy Jacuzzi leads to something far worse than athlete’s foot. One can feel that hungover breakfast eaters on the ferry are gross and scary already, but I have never seen them THIS bad before.
Glöm inte köpa mjölk (Do not forget to buy milk)
(short story, Häxrötter, anthology, 2012)
Through short excerpts, almost diary entries, we follow a woman back to a house she left long ago. The woman is the mother of a child, and something has gone wrong. Something horrible has happened in the past. This is a quiet story in so far that it is a look back on what has already happened. But the tragedy is always present, and time has healed no wounds. Malin Rydén has a gift she shares with several of Eskapix’s recurring authors; to let the horror seep through the cracks in the mundane. I think one can say that this is the mark of a good horror writer.
The last short story in this anthology is written by Malin Rydén, who has impressed me greatly with several amazing short stories. The short story she presents here is called ‘Do not forget to buy milk’ and is a much more fragmented and chopped tale than she has written before. Personally, this is the one of Rydén’s stories I am the least fond of, especially considering the heights which her other stories have reached. Here things never gets as grotesque and hallucinatory as Rydén is more than capable of delivering.
Djupet (The Deep)
(short story, Vridna Historier, anthology, 2012)
Peter is a diver and works on the North Sea oil fields. During a maintenance dive he and his colleague in the diving bell encounters something unknown in the deep. This short story is incredibly well written and effective. One would believe that Rydén has a background as a deep sea diver. At least she fools me. The plot is not very advanced, but it skillfully reuses themes recognized by both Lovecraft and the 1950’s in the encounter with the unknown danger.
Malin Rydén’s The Deep is the next story. Rydén has impressed me greatly on numerous occasions, and even if The Deep is not her strongest tale, it is an uncomfortable story that will not cure any claustrophobics or those with fear of the deep ocean. Rydén tells the tale of a band of technicians out to repair underwater cables at an oil rig. The bad news is that something enormous, nasty and horrifying seems to dwell beneath the surface and of course has no plans on letting the humans get away unscathed. Of course one can draw parallels to Lovecraft without feeling ashamed of it, and indeed Rydén has nothing to be ashamed of as gigantic sea monsters never will grow old. I have said it before, but will say it again; I would love for Miss Rydén to write that novel as soon as possible, as I hope that it will be amazing.
Tyst Hunger (Silent Hunger)
(short story, Eskapix Magazine, bok 1, 2012)
The animal health inspector Lovisa is called to a farm where something is amiss. Once she get there she is met by a troubled veterinarian and a deeply unhappy pig farmer. This is not what Lovisa expected, no swine flu, no hoof and mouth disease, and no salmonella. The free range pigs has got infected by something far worse.
This short story has a simple structure. One can easily see that it could be a few chapters in a longer story, why not a novel? This is a truly excellent short story. Malin Rydén takes an idea that sounds amusing at first, and then turns it deeply uncomfortable. Without throwing unnecessary adjectives around she makes me smell and feel the farm and the tense mood. Despite the short format, the author manages to bring Lovisa to life, an idealistic young inspector that feels badly when animals suffer. In passing, Rydén also manages to tell the story of aging farmers struggling with economic problems and the harsh realities of modern farming which leads to obstinate fights against the government and mistreated animals. But nothing is ever black or white. Despite the short format, the characters are viewed with understanding, without passing judgement. This is a gross story, but there is a vein of empathy running through it for both man and animal which makes this much more than just an orgy in the macabre and disgusting. And this is exactly how I like my horror!
Rydén’s language is well developed. The terminology is as far as I can see correct, and words and expressions like ”destruction of the herd” and ”bolt pistol” heightens the fear. As a reader you are thrown between nauseating but lyrical descriptions and strong and horrible passages filled with flies and rotten bodies. I recommend everybody to read this story, especially animal lovers. As a challenge! Not since Clive Barker’s Pig Blood Blues (from Books of Blood Volume 1) has piggy been this nasty.
The last short story of the book is also the best one, ‘Silent Hunger’, by Malin Rydén. Rydén has in earlier Eskapix-collections done exceedingly well, and here she returns to a previously explored area; vicious animals that attacks people. The story tells the tale of Lovisa, who works as an animal health inspector. As she visits a familiar farm she notices that something is horribly wrong with the pigs there, which has catastrophic consequences for everybody concerned. Rydén manages to craft a nasty and truly dirty short story that has a physical nerve and brutality. The scope and gore is reminiscent of Clive Barker’s short story ‘Pig Blood Blues’, without being a copy of it. This should be seen as a positive comparison since Barker are among the best horror writers there is. I am keeping my fingers crossed that eventually Rydén will take the step to write something longer, as I believe that she has an enormous potential for writing a really good novel length piece as well.
Malin Rydén writes about life as an animal health inspector. It is a perfect short story. The characters are well developed; the prose feels like an unwelcome caress and the pacing is inevitable. A small excerpt to wet your appetite: ”The carcasses had rested in the surrounding mud, swollen with gas. The stench was atrocious but the view was worse, as if she had been soaring through the skies gazing down upon a landscape of dung strewn with hairy mounds of flesh. Instead of antelope herds, flies crawled and clustered, instead of waterholes and rivers were glazed eyes and rotting meat.”
(short story, Eskapix Magazine vol 6, 2011)
The last short story in the volume is Malin Rydén’s ‘Landfall’, where a homosexual couple celebrates their vacation on an empty beach during off season. They have heard stories of a large stone, a monolith that moves accords the direction of the wind, and when they decides to take a look they discover to their horror that the tales are true. Here Rydén returns with the same feeling that something is terribly wrong that she used in her short story ‘Summer of Snails’, and shows that horror is something she truly masters. She portrays a reality that has broken apart, where impossible things are happening with extreme results for the people caught up in them.
Vid Helvetets Portar (At The Gates Of Hell)
(short story, Eskapix Magazine vol 5, 2011)
It isn’t difficult to imagine hearing the eponymous band playing in the background when reading “Vid Helvetets portar” (At the Gates of Hell) by Malin Rydén. As a reader, I feel what the protagonist feels, I am carried away. I see the muddy festival where the gig takes place. This is a very elegant and memorable story, with much food for thought. Rydén describes the setting convincingly and manages to capture the mood of the audience, captures what it’s like to listen to music that arouses feelings. The brief prologue—about how the protagonist, a refugee from the former Yugoslavia, discovers the band which later reunites—feels credible and makes for a forceful entry into the story. Moreover, it is appreciated that Rydén leaves it to the reader to decide whether what happened should be taken literally—as a supernatural story—or be interpreted metaphorically.
The third story is written by Malin Rydén and is called At The Gates Of Hell. Rydén offered the in my opinion strongest story in the last issue, but unfortunately does not do as well here. The story tells the tale of a girl who has fled toSwedenfromYugoslavia, and in this describes how she fell in love with the Death Metal band the story is named for. When the band reunites 16 years later it is for a show beyond the usual. I do not feel that Rydén manages to capture the same unease and intensity as in her story about nasty snails. It occasionally fells forced and I do not get sucked in, even if the idea is good. I am however convinced of Rydén’s talents as a writer, and look forward to what she can produce in the future.
Snigelsommar (Summer of Snails)
(short story, Eskapix Magazine vol 4, 2010)
After this follows what in my view is this collection’s best tale, ‘Summer of Snails’ by Malin Rydén. This time it is the Swedish summer that is host to horrible happenings when the paraplegic Joanna who is staying at her summer home starts to notice her surroundings growing weird. There is an uncommon amount of snails around, and when she decides to go to the nearby tourist trap of a town and discovers it empty, she starts to realize that something is wrong. Which it truly is. Without revealing anything, I can say that Rydén’s short story is an in every way excellent read, that takes something as commonplace as the Swedish summer and transforms it into a disgusting and horrible experience. Simply put; Brilliant.