“Permanent Damage is classic Montoure mind bombs. The stories are grounded smoothly enough in the people and settings so that they are easy to get into, but like a Chinese finger trap, getting out is much harder than you’ll expect. Michael has a fantastic gift in matching interesting characters with mind blowing situations, and the result is sure to leave you rattled. Michael has established himself at the top of my Horror authors to read because not only does he surprise me with each story, but he makes it a lot of fun to get lost in his character’s terror.
I’d really love not to ruin any of these stories by giving you their premises. Half of the joy I get in reading Michael’s work is the surprise trap I find myself in when his story becomes so interesting that the real world fades away. I don’t want to ruin that surprise, so I’ll try to leave these individual story reviews as ambiguous as possible.
“Upstairs, Locked” – With their parents now dead, three siblings return home to the monster locked upstairs. Their mother no longer their to feed it, the oldest accepts responsibility and is shocked by what she sees. The concept in this case isn’t as unique as the other stories, but the characters and setup make it real enough to scare you. 3.5 stars
“The Devil You Know” – Michael ramps up the horror in this one with a psychological thriller about a speed dating experience gone way wrong. The initial twist is top notch on this one, so all I’ll say is that sometimes the scariest thing is to know about a monster and no one else believes you. 4 Stars
“The Lessons Learned And the Damage Done” – A story about a boy with the gift to bring things back to life opens up to a Fringe-like scenario where the leaders of this gift come hunting for the one guilty of unauthorized resurrection. There is emotional payoff and interesting world-building, but compared to the rest of the stories, this one falls a little short. Still chilling, but in hindsight, this one is overshadowed by some killer stories to come. 3.5 Stars
“The Leak” – Another good story that posits the question of what someone would do if blood started leaking into their apartment bathroom from the ceiling. I had a hard time believing he wouldn’t call the police right away, but I’m not the character. Michael shows how this person is a very busy person, and I can relate. I have tons of chores and cleaning that is left undone because I’m worn out doing the day to day jobs. Great illustration of how we let the business of our lives make bad things worse. After a few days of not telling anyone and the problem not taking care of itself, the character is plenty paranoid, and suspects the person he meets in the elevator. He tracks this guy down to see that he lives in the apartment above his. You’ll have to read to find out what happens. 3.5 Stars
“Safe House” – Two parents visit the home of a sweet old man and ask him if he’d volunteer to host their neighborhood’s safe house in light of a recent string of child abductions. All signs point to a trustworthy old man, but there is much more to his past that they don’t know, and which makes their choice highly tragic. Even more interesting, is that you kind of like this guy. Will you at the end? 4 Stars
“Heroes and Villains” – A very cool story for an anthology on hoarders. An old lady has a treasure trove of comics to sell. Two guys that work at a comic book store are sent to evaluate the goods, and when they realize they could buy the lot and start their own store, they shake hands to become business partners. Dishonesty and atrocities commence, leading back to a house with a wicked history of its own. Nice twists and as usual, great ending. 4 Stars
“New Year, Old Ghosts” – This was one of Michael’s stranger stories, keeping me surprised until the end. A girl with a troubled past, chooses a violent and shady future to survive. Along the way, she meets and falls in love with the wrong man. A very mystical and haunting rivalry will ensue. 4.5 Stars
“The Old Apartment” – After a long term relationship ended, this character never found another stable place to live. He works all night, sleeps in his car, and makes enough that he can’t quit, but not enough to afford the down payment needed for another apartment. Then he realizes he still has the key to his old apartment and the lure of a shower and a bed becomes to much to pass up. It works the first time, and once he feels he can get away with it, becomes too good to pass up. Add to that, he starts snooping into the girl’s stuff (his ex no longer lives there… or so he thinks). Snooping becomes obsession as he falls for this girl and resents the boyfriend he sees her with on Facebook, going so far as to confront him with a strange girl when he sees him at a late night diner.
The story begins: “The first time was an accident. I need you to know that.” I loved how Michael tells this story as though the character is writing a letter to the girl who rents the apartment he’s been stay at, and whom he has fallen for. It’s an addicting method because, on top of a really interesting situation, you can’t wait to find out how it ends and how he’ll deliver the letter. Does he mail it to her? Does he see her in person and hand it to her? Or…
Fantastic story. I’d say it was my favorite, but there was an even better one, I think. It may be too close to tell. 5 Stars
“A Sudden Loss of Cabin Pressure” – My favorite story. Michael submitted this to a Machine of Death anthology, so, credit to a great concept by Ryan North. The idea of the Machine of Death is that a program accidentally discovered how to flawlessly predict how someone will die based on their genetic makeup. Michael’s story centers around a woman who worked on this project, and whom is predicted to die by “plane crash.” She finds it difficult to be with someone who isn’t going to die the same way because, to her, the love of her life has to be there when she dies, or what’s the point? This question alone was worth price of admission, but there is much more to the tale. She finds someone on a dating website who also has “plane crash” as his method of death. Nice love story with twists, strong tension, and a superb, emotional ending. 5 Stars
“Melt the Bullet, Blunt the Knife” – Again, each story is so different from the last, and yet each one blows your mind with Michael’s gift at throwing you into a deep, character focused world. In this one, a Russian mafioso hires a security expert to design a home security system unlike anything the expert’s ever seen–it’s meant to keep someone in, not out. The expert requires mafioso to tell him more, and mafioso shows him a video of Mafioso Jr. inside a room, chanting some ritual before putting on a wolf’s skin and becoming a werewolf. Again, don’t want to spoil anything, but I liked the supernatural element here, along with the maze type adventure. Gripping, open ending that leaves you chilled for minutes to come. 5 Stars
I hope you can tell that I really enjoyed reading this book. Please understand that a 3 star to me isn’t indicative of bad writing. All of the stories are written well, there were just some that I liked more than others. Two things going against Michael: some of his main characters are despicable, and if something bad happens to a character I don’t like, I’m not as affected as in stories where I like the main character; and his later stories set the bar high for a 5 star. That said, if you like short stories, and don’t mind being scared, you should definitely pick up this book.
Overall Rating: 4.2 Stars ”