★★★★★ Horror craftsman Andrew Schrader returns to terrify readers with his third short story collection, Escaping Midnight. In this latest installment, Schrader takes a close look at the near—and not-so-near—future scenarios that may soon come to torment humankind. In “The Half-Printed Man,” a deeply wronged widow seeks vengeance against her late husband by preserving his consciousness in a computer and forcing him to watch her destroy his empire—but in doing so, she may also cause her own downfall. In “Scan Them All, Every Last One,” a cutting-edge invention allows technicians to scan the human face and detect the likelihood of any future crimes they might commit. And in “Croakman,” a group of young soldiers enter the home of a recluse without being invited, performing acts of violence against him and his daughter after deeming them both traitors. Years later, one of the soldiers recounts the events of that night to an interviewer who has unspoken ties to the victims.
In his third book, Schrader’s work reaches new heights, shifting away just a bit from the horror that so energized his first short story collection, What Goes On in the Walls at Night, and instead using classic speculative sci-fi, like the works of Ray Bradbury, as fuel. (Thankfully, his writing remains equally incendiary.) So too has the author done an exemplary job of cherry-picking the stories that can best speak to the themes he works to develop, which deal with modern moral dilemmas like the use—and misuse—of social media, the government’s collection of personal data, and both our inability and unwillingness to see matters of disagreement from another person’s or culture’s perspective. This exploration is elevated by the low hum of horror that Schrader keeps on at a low volume throughout these stories. While “frightening” the reader isn’t the focus of most of what you’ll read here, you’ll come away nevertheless with the sense that there is a dark fate awaiting you not far beyond the horizon—one you can’t escape.