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Sunday, January 22, 2012

Journeys Through the Unknown - Heather Beck

Released June 2011

Heather Beck

Reviewed by Tracy Farnsworth

Journeys Through the Unknown is a horror anthology featuring five stories:
  • Gnome Genome
  • A Weird Twist of Fate
  • The Secret Oracle of an Egyptian King
  • Cold Territory
  • Kingdom of Sugar

In "Gnome Genome," seventeen-year-old Meghan isn't happy that with her family's move from the country to the city. Not soon after moving in, Meghan meets a one of her neighbors, Justin, a boy the same age. After a few mishaps, he gives her an unusual pine tree as a peace offering, only she pricks her finger on one of the needles. Soon after, strange things start happening. Meghan ends up in a land of gnomes where her skill playing games is the only way to return home.

Judith Forge is sick of her parents' dinner parties in "A Weird Twist of Fate." In an act of rebellion, she decides to wear the Goth clothing she prefers to their latest party. As punishment, her mother orders her to gather up charitable donations and deliver them to one of the party guests. In the attic, Judith discovers a book owned by a distant ancestor. She soon comes to learn that she has witches in her ancestry and that her help is needed to stop a witch from revealing the truth.

"The Secret Oracle of the Egyptian King" friends Vaughn and Danny are playing a dress-up game when Vaughn's father interrupts them. Dr. Riley is stressed over an upcoming Egyptian King Rhinkuhtan exhibit he's presenting and doesn't think boys of that age should be playing around. They expect once the exhibit goes off without a hitch, he'll calm down, but during the exhibit, he really flips out when someone asks how he knows it's really the tomb of an Ancient Egyptian. The boys soon learn of the danger involved with Dr. Riley's discovery and that they all could be in jeopardy.

Climber Dale Stone's story is told in "Cold Territory." He successfully scales his latest icy mountain only to have the ground split open. He plummets into a mountain cavern where he meets a strange man who says he's the only remaining inhabitant of the Palace of Ice and that there is no way out. As Dale learns that the caverns are filled with precious gemstones, he devises a way to get out and bring the valuable gems with him. In doing so, he has no idea of the punishment that awaits.

The final story, "Kingdom of Sugar," introduces Clayton Baxter. Clayton has a problem, his sweet tooth is uncontrollable. In order to help him, his mother decides to create a "Sugar Reduced Diet" that Clayton must adhere to. Soon, Clayton finds himself in the Kingdom of Sugar where the sweet treats have a taste for something a little more unusual - human flesh.

Journeys Through the Unknown will appeal to middle school readers. Of all the stories, "Kingdom of Sugar" felt the most creative and captured the aspect of horror more in tune with the horror stories I grew up reading. The other stories were good, but didn't put shivers up my spine the way that images of gummy bears with rows of sharp teeth do. I highly recommend the final story, and the others while enjoyable, just didn't grab me the same way that "Kingdom of Sugar" did.

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