Stillborn Gallery by Axl Barnes

The nine stories collected in Barnes’s Stillborn Gallery make for an almost uniformly bleak, nihilistic deep dive into the horrors of banality, the depths of depression, heavy metal, and suicide. If you’re familiar with Axl Barnes, you shouldn’t be altogether surprised by any of that.
Barnes utilizes almost poetic prose at times, almost exclusively when applied to the most awful of things. He has a knack for painting vivid and breathtaking pictures of things the reader might not want to see, and it makes for a fantastic experience.
There’s a great deal to look forward to, for the discerning reader, from the almost Kafka-esque “Numbskull” to the morbidly romantic “Sunday Exit” in these pages.
For me, “A Perfect Day” sort of sums up the whole experience. We get to witness a day that is going smoothly for our protagonist, a man who has a vacation on the near horizon that he’ll be sharing with a clearly devoted lover. Suddenly he begins fixating on an experience from his childhood, wherein a doctor had to lance an infected wound. This fixation does nothing to spoil his mood–the way I’m about to spoil this single story–but he proceeds to kill himself in a graphic, single-minded act…perhaps because it’s best to leave on a high note.
The illustrations provided by Thomas Stetson are captivating, bringing to life a certain grimy, filthy element that flows naturally with the stories provided by Barnes.

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