Review Corner: Apples and Snail Trails by Russell Smeaton

Apples and Snail Trails by Russell Smeaton

Reviewed by Morgan K. Tanner

This is another great installment in the Short Sharp Shocks! collection and yet again another couple of unnerving tales of loss, and quite a bit of death. Yum, yum!

Losing a parent and spouse is certainly a distressing ordeal for any family. Apples follows Lucy and her dad, Mike, after the death of their mother/wife. Things are obviously very difficult for them both.

They’re advised to get away from it all to try and make sense of the tragedy as well as some much needed bonding time. They travel to Grandma’s cottage in the hope that spending some time together in a place with vivid memories of Lucy’s mom will help heal the wounds to some extent.

But things don’t go according to plan, obviously. There’s a strange apple tree in the garden and when Mike awakes to the thing being surrounded by dead animals he feels a chill in his bones. I’m sure we all would. Each day there are more dead creatures and eventually these horrifying sites cause something to snap in Mike. He unleashes his grief through the violent act of destroying the thing.

But what will his actions cause? Is the apple tree a sentient being, does it hold answers to his future and his past? Well, you’ll have to read and find out. And there’s a hideous cat-monster thing that is truly frightening.

I loved the tension and imagery of this story, although the ending didn’t quite do it for me. To say why would be spoiler-tastic, so I won’t. But it certainly didn’t take away my enjoyment of the mood of the piece.

The second story, Snail Trails was great. Think bug apocalypse and you’re pretty much there. Three seemingly unrelated characters travel to the same woods. Everything is harmless enough, but it seems all the local snails and slugs are also making their slimy way there, too. Hmm, I wonder why.

Throw weird, giant, ‘intelligent-looking’ frogs into the mix, and you’re got some full-on strangeness.

The characters become infected with a plague-like curse and when the incubation period is over, BANG! things explode from various body parts. I could almost smell the stink rising from my Kindle screen.

This story had a real gross factor to it, which I loved. The build-up was great, although the ending was kind of rushed and explained as ‘this happened, then this, then this, and so on.’ There wasn’t the page count available for more on the end of humanity I suppose, so that is a very minor complaint. I’d have also preferred a more horrific ending, but then I’m just a lover of the depressing so that’s just personal taste. All in all, though, this was my favourite of the two stories.

Fans of unnerving terrors and lovers of the grotesque gore could do far, far worse than checking out these two!


About Morgan K. Tanner

Morgan K Tanner is a writer, drummer, and golfist currently residing in the English countryside. The idyllic surroundings make it an ideal place to write, drum, and hide the bodies. The busy sound of the typewriter is perfect to drown out the hum of the antiquated torture equipment.

When he’s not writing or inflicting pain and suffering on his numerous victims, he indulges himself in all things horror and metal.

You can praise or indeed abuse him by visiting or find him on Twitter @morgantanner666.

His novella, An Army of Skin, and short story collection, The Mind’s Plague and Other Bites of Brutality, are available now.