THE CAGE By Brian Keene (2011, Deadlite Press)
The Cage is a collection of 4 horror tales by writer Brian Keene. It’s not too long and can be read in one sitting. The first tale, for which the book anthology is named, is the longest. The final story is very brief and, as the author mentions, can fit on a t-shirt.
What made me grab this one was the lead story. A group of men are closing down an electronics store for the evening when in walks a psycho decked out in black. He’s carrying plenty of firepower. He orders everyone into “the cage”- a locked area sectioned off by a chain link fence in the back warehouse for the smaller, valuable items. Then he starts bringing them out one by one and doesn’t say why. When it becomes obvious those he takes out of the cage aren’t coming back, all kinds of tension results. It’s a grim tale. I worked at a major electronics dealer years ago and the kinds of people he describes ring true. And the action takes place not very far from where I write.
Here’s a sample:
“Big Bill had been legendary among home electronics salesmen in Pennsylvania and Maryland. Over the years, he’d worked in all the usual places—Rex, Circuit City, Best Buy, Sears, American Appliance, and all the others. He’d been there when satellite television was brand new. He’d been there when projection screens were the next big thing, and when they became archaic, giving way to plasma and liquid crystal display. He’d even been there when compact discs made cassettes as extinct as eight-track tapes and vinyl. Big Bill had seen it all. He knew the trends. He knew the technology. Most importantly, he knew what people wanted and he knew how to sell it to them.”
The next tale, “Marriage Causes Cancer In Rats”, is the best. Following on the theme of the previous story, a married electronics retail manager falls hard for a customer, but his family creates a complication. He devises a gruesome way to get them out of the picture. However, his plan has unintended repercussions. Bonus points for an original ending.
The third story, “Lest Ye Become”, is a shooting rampage chiller. Original and topical for these dark times.
This is a good introduction to the writer. I just wish there had been more stories in the collection. “The Cage” is long, but might’ve made a good novel.