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Beneath a Pale Sky

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Beneath a Pale Sky collects eight stories of horror, including two original novelettes, that will take you from the high-security ward of a mental hospital to the top of a Ferris Wheel on an ocean pier. These stories will bury you in the rubble of an earthquake, pull back the veil on a soul's journey into the afterlife, and turn a small Midwestern town into the secret doma Beneath a Pale Sky collects eight stories of horror, including two original novelettes, that will take you from the high-security ward of a mental hospital to the top of a Ferris Wheel on an ocean pier. These stories will bury you in the rubble of an earthquake, pull back the veil on a soul's journey into the afterlife, and turn a small Midwestern town into the secret domain of cross-dimensional gods. Combining old-school horror with the modern weird, Philip Fracassi will take you places you've never been before, and show you sights you won't soon forget. The supernatural intrudes upon a wedding; a pier becomes the site of tragedy; a collapsed building is only the start of the nightmare for those trapped in the ruins; a scientist who makes the discovery of a lifetime, only to find out that what he's unearthed has dire consequences not only for himself, but for all of mankind.


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Beneath a Pale Sky collects eight stories of horror, including two original novelettes, that will take you from the high-security ward of a mental hospital to the top of a Ferris Wheel on an ocean pier. These stories will bury you in the rubble of an earthquake, pull back the veil on a soul's journey into the afterlife, and turn a small Midwestern town into the secret doma Beneath a Pale Sky collects eight stories of horror, including two original novelettes, that will take you from the high-security ward of a mental hospital to the top of a Ferris Wheel on an ocean pier. These stories will bury you in the rubble of an earthquake, pull back the veil on a soul's journey into the afterlife, and turn a small Midwestern town into the secret domain of cross-dimensional gods. Combining old-school horror with the modern weird, Philip Fracassi will take you places you've never been before, and show you sights you won't soon forget. The supernatural intrudes upon a wedding; a pier becomes the site of tragedy; a collapsed building is only the start of the nightmare for those trapped in the ruins; a scientist who makes the discovery of a lifetime, only to find out that what he's unearthed has dire consequences not only for himself, but for all of mankind.

30 review for Beneath a Pale Sky

  1. 5 out of 5

    Richard

    Just like with the previous collection, Behold the Void, Philip Fracassi gives us a curious collection of horror stories that find a great balance between the cerebral and the emotional, where even if you don’t fully grasp the totality of what transpired, the evocative feeling that the stories give you will be wholly satisfying. The book is a collection that combines some of his latest short stories and novellas, ones that were both published previously and ones that were written for this book. Just like with the previous collection, Behold the Void, Philip Fracassi gives us a curious collection of horror stories that find a great balance between the cerebral and the emotional, where even if you don’t fully grasp the totality of what transpired, the evocative feeling that the stories give you will be wholly satisfying. The book is a collection that combines some of his latest short stories and novellas, ones that were both published previously and ones that were written for this book. Fracassi is great at detailing horrific but believable disastrous events and taking them to places that hint that they go beyond everyday tragedies and into the realm of the supernatural. This is on full display in many of these stories, such as with the horrifying Ferris Wheel tragedy in “The Wheel,” the deadly tornado in “Harvest,” or the earthquake in my favorite story in the collection: the novella Fragile Dreams (which I read previously as a stand-alone and reviewed it here). Each of these stories take everyday horror and transform them into something much more cosmic and extraordinary. Along with Fragile Dreams , my other favorite stories are “Death, My Old Friend,” a stunning story that I also read previously and I still think is the best of Fracassi’s shorter tales, and “ID,” a sly, playful, and unreliable look at a friendship born in a mental hospital that will make you question your own sanity. This author is always consistent with his engaging stories and I’m really looking forward to reading his upcoming debut novel later this year! Thanks to the publisher for the Advanced Reader’s Copy.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Terry

    Thank you, Mr. Fracassi for the Advanced Reader’s Copy. What a thrill and honor to read this book before you unleash it to the world. Eight short stories to pull the reader in and engage them in a world of love, anger, fear, tension, suspense, shock and horror. I am always looking for a book where I can say “What the F%$K did I just read?” and this one fits perfectly. The language, prose and writing style Mr. Fracassi bestows upon us is second-to-none. Where else do you get magical sentences lik Thank you, Mr. Fracassi for the Advanced Reader’s Copy. What a thrill and honor to read this book before you unleash it to the world. Eight short stories to pull the reader in and engage them in a world of love, anger, fear, tension, suspense, shock and horror. I am always looking for a book where I can say “What the F%$K did I just read?” and this one fits perfectly. The language, prose and writing style Mr. Fracassi bestows upon us is second-to-none. Where else do you get magical sentences like these? “The rain was different than in the dream world. The haunting music was still distinct, but faint, as if pressed against a massive membrane that separated this world from that of dreams. The sound of drops hitting the earth and flora was like the arguments of fairies, soothing with an underlying hostility.” ~ Symphony “When you’re lonely and socially inept, you don’t choose your friends, you simply glide through life and keep your exterior sticky, hope to hell someone grabs onto you and holds on long enough to eventually discover the real you, the buried you that isn’t so bad, or scary or insane.” ~ ID Harvest Childhood friends, Carrie and Eli, create a special bond early in their lives due to traumatic events. As they grew older, the friendship remained but Carrie moved on to a “normal” life while Eli was considered by many to be an outcast. As Carrie’s wedding day arrives, her soon-to-be husband’s jealousy of her childhood love with Eli culminates in a whirlwind of events. The Wheel Mary and Rob are a young couple ready to embark on a path that leads to the rest of their lives. Rob just needs to “pop the question”. In an effort to create the perfect proposal, he decides to take things to the next level: he will ask Mary to be his wife on the top of a Ferris Wheel. Jeremiah Peters is a former carnie who now operates the Santa Monica pier Ferris Wheel. He has a criminal past for sexual harassment. He has tried to escape his past, but the desires of the flesh are often too much. Frank is a divorced, drunk amateur pilot. One night, in a drunken stupor, he decides to take a quick flight. Alcohol, depression and flight is a recipe for a disaster cocktail. Will the worlds of Mary, Rob, Jeremiah and Frank collide? Symphony Esther is teenager who lost her mom when she was a young child. Her father, coping with the loss, began drinking heavily. His efforts to comfort his daughter during his alcohol filled nights, begin to cross the line. In her room one night, she sees a shadowy figure who she calls Hobbes. He is a creature from another realm. Will he help her and if so, at what cost? Soda Jerk Ellie is a 16-year-old who recently moved from Chicago to the small town of Sabbath. The town is nestled beside the beautiful Sabbath Lake. Ellie meets James Honeycutt (Jimmy), who offers to show her around town. She quickly discovers Sabbath is like no other town. Perhaps its something in the water? Ateuchus Alfie is a geologist in Utah. His colleague discovered a meteorite unlike any found before. Alfie decides this new discovery is his and takes the meteorite to his home lab for further analysis. Perhaps this will be the break he has been waiting for all his life? A new space rock that may prove life exists elsewhere in the universe. ID A thought-provoking narrative about a nameless young man and his struggles with mental health. After a botched suicide attempt, he finds himself in the mental ward of a hospital. Here he develops a friendship with Crystal, another patient. After being released from the hospital, the two continue their friendship. It quickly turns into a bizarre relationship where everyone questions their sanity. Fragile Dreams Matthew is fresh out of law school and ready to embark on his future. He just needs to land a job. As he is awaiting an interview, the state of California experiences a powerful earthquake. Thousands of people are trapped or killed, and Matthew is one of them. While he is crushed and unable to move, he experiences numerous flashbacks on his life. He also meets Dee, a paralegal in the law firm who is trapped beside him. Will he make it out alive? Death, My Old Friend John is best friends with Death and has been his entire life. Although they are inseparable, Death has taken away the people John loves the most. John eventually meets and marries Sophie, his soulmate and begins to spend less time with Death. Whose time is next?

  3. 5 out of 5

    Raechel

    Honestly one of the best short story collections I've read in a long time. Every single story surprised and horrified me, none of them are boring. I was hesitant to read this book because I was guilty of one of the worst Reader Sins: I judged it by the cover, which I thought was boring. The cover certainly suggests a "dreamlike" vibe for these stories, which they have... but it's the kind of dream that disturbs you upon waking. The kind you don't want to linger upon, but can't help to do. I wasn't Honestly one of the best short story collections I've read in a long time. Every single story surprised and horrified me, none of them are boring. I was hesitant to read this book because I was guilty of one of the worst Reader Sins: I judged it by the cover, which I thought was boring. The cover certainly suggests a "dreamlike" vibe for these stories, which they have... but it's the kind of dream that disturbs you upon waking. The kind you don't want to linger upon, but can't help to do. I wasn't even sure what these stories were about, which I think enhances the reading experience. I had no idea where these paths would take me--and I found myself in the midst of madness and demons and ghosts and the devil and alien worlds. It was fantastic. Harvest - This story is like if Carrie and The Lottery had a baby. The Wheel - A doomed date. The ending really hit me. Soda Jerk - Gross and creepy and nostalgic for those old scary story collections I'd read as a kid. Symphony - I absolutely loved this one and all its occult weirdness. Ateuchus - Probably the one story that you can kind of guess where it's going, but it takes you farther than you anticipate. ID - This entire story is unsettling and the ending truly horrified me. Fragile Dreams - Do you have specific horror scenarios you think you'd go insane if they happened to you? This is one of mine. If you are a fan of horror stories I HIGHLY recommend you read this collection. I am blown away by Fracassi's ability to write and the themes and scenarios he weaves into his stories. I don't re-read a lot of books but I can honestly see myself going back to these. Death, My Old Friend - A fitting end.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Jennifer *Last Book on the Left*

    "All the devils have come to feast on the dead"   I have been looking forward to this book for a while. I am so happy to be able to review this ARC from one of my favorite authors! I had no doubt that it would be a fantastic collection of stories. I started reading this one with super high expectations and it turns out I wouldn't be disappointed!   In this collection we get a range of stories from subtle and dread inducing cosmic horror to sad and horrifying tales of disasters just waiting to happen "All the devils have come to feast on the dead"   I have been looking forward to this book for a while. I am so happy to be able to review this ARC from one of my favorite authors! I had no doubt that it would be a fantastic collection of stories. I started reading this one with super high expectations and it turns out I wouldn't be disappointed!   In this collection we get a range of stories from subtle and dread inducing cosmic horror to sad and horrifying tales of disasters just waiting to happen. Stories of the symphony of Hell and gods hiding just below the surface of the water.   Here are the three stories I liked the most:   🦇‘Wheel’ takes us to Santa Monica pier in California, a place I've been many times. I always feel more connected to the story when it takes place in an area I am super familiar with (I lived in SoCal for 35 years). I couldn't put down this tale of a couple headed to the top of the Farris Wheel while something is coming their way that will destroy their lives forever.     🦇‘Soda Jerk’ is a dread inducing account of a town that has a secret to hide. Where something strange is lurking in the cold expansive depths of the lake and the local diner has a very special menu.   🦇‘Symphony’ tells the tale of a little girl dealing with the loss of her mother and the inappropriate advances of her grieving father. She takes solace in her new friend Hobbes, a creature from outside our world.   The other stories take us from a wedding with disastrous consequences to the mountains of Utah to a mental ward where a strange relationship is forming between two patients. We get earthquakes, Death, meteorites, and a trip to Hell.   I highly recommend getting this book when it comes out on June 15th, you won’t be disappointed!    I received this book from the author in exchange for an honest review.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Alex Wolfgang

    Outstanding collection, Fracassi continues to impress me. I've been following his work since Behold the Void, and though I really enjoyed his standalone novellas, this is the followup I've been waiting for. To me, he's mastered the balance between gorgeous, literary prose and high octane thrill rides. I don't want to reveal too much about the stories' plots because of how much I enjoyed going in blind, but The Wheel was so suspenseful that it had me pacing around my house to cope with the stress Outstanding collection, Fracassi continues to impress me. I've been following his work since Behold the Void, and though I really enjoyed his standalone novellas, this is the followup I've been waiting for. To me, he's mastered the balance between gorgeous, literary prose and high octane thrill rides. I don't want to reveal too much about the stories' plots because of how much I enjoyed going in blind, but The Wheel was so suspenseful that it had me pacing around my house to cope with the stress. Ateuchus was delightfully gross and cosmic, a classic sci-fi horror scenario made unique and memorable. ID had me questioning my sanity. Harvest felt like a sister story to Behold the Void's Altar, where humans encounter something far bigger and more dangerous than they could ever truly comprehend. I can't recommend this collection enough. If you love weird fiction and literary horror, this will likely be one of your favorite releases of 2021.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Becky Spratford

    Coming to Booklist Magazine soon. Three Words That Describe This Book: slathered in dread, economy of words, overflowing with emotions From my draft review: This is a must read collection for those who enjoy horror in its short form by authors who can morph two dimensional words on the page into a very real terror from which readers cannot hide, even if they wanted to, such as Nadia Bulkin and John Langan.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Bianca (Belladonnabooks)

    This was such an incredibly beautiful collection of stories and I am honestly a bit in awe of Fracassi's prose and his ability to weave such beauty together yet somehow create horror stories. To make horror beautiful, well that's art in itself and takes incredible skill. This is not the sort of collection you speed through, eagerly racing towards the finish line. These are the type of stories you want and need to savour, taking time moving from each story to the next and reflecting in between. A This was such an incredibly beautiful collection of stories and I am honestly a bit in awe of Fracassi's prose and his ability to weave such beauty together yet somehow create horror stories. To make horror beautiful, well that's art in itself and takes incredible skill. This is not the sort of collection you speed through, eagerly racing towards the finish line. These are the type of stories you want and need to savour, taking time moving from each story to the next and reflecting in between. Attention to detail is needed if one is to truly appreciate this collection for what it is. These stories are largely centred around the theme of sky but yet each is executed in a unique way. The breadth and scope within this collection is incredible. Each story pulled me in immediately and I found myself wishing the collection wouldn't end. I wanted to write about each story but I did not feel I would describe them to the true extent of what they deserved. To be honest, this is also the sort of collection that I feel the less you know the more you will appreciate each story for its true merit. I cannot wait to read more of Fracassi's work.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Andi

    This was one of the books in my Night Worms June 2021 box. I am still working on finishing the other book that was included. The theme all these stories seemed to share: death, death in its strange end. Bitter, bittersweet, and odd. The ending of some of the stories were a bit lost on me, but again, I think the character some of these characters come to meet up with the end is 'death' personified. I had some favorites, and I had some that sort of bored me. I tend to enjoy anthology style short st This was one of the books in my Night Worms June 2021 box. I am still working on finishing the other book that was included. The theme all these stories seemed to share: death, death in its strange end. Bitter, bittersweet, and odd. The ending of some of the stories were a bit lost on me, but again, I think the character some of these characters come to meet up with the end is 'death' personified. I had some favorites, and I had some that sort of bored me. I tend to enjoy anthology style short stories where the stories intertwine/overlap, and the cover story involving the Ferris Wheel would probably be my favorite. It was a pretty gruesome tale. It was my first time reading anything by this author, and I can see why Josh did an introduction for his book. If you like his stories chances are you'll probably enjoy his.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Ryan Parks

    Fracassi is a master storyteller, plain and simple. As a reader you cannot help but to be led through the rabbit hole, which can be at times to the very depths of hell. Always exciting and always a pleasure. Stephen King once famously crowned Clive Barker as the future of horror, I sincerely hope Mr. King gets some Philip Fracassi in his hands soon, as it is very likely he would give the new crown to Philip !!

  10. 5 out of 5

    Blake Blanco

    Beneath a Pale Sky, the newest offering from Philip Fracassi is as beautiful as it is frightening. It is a collection that paints imagery with such vividness, it’s as if you’re walking through the scenes yourself. Fans of short fiction will surely find something to enjoy among these pages. I must preface this review with my agreeance with Josh Malerman’s introduction, Fracassi’s writing is extremely influential. The twists and turns that most of the stories in this collection will catch you off- Beneath a Pale Sky, the newest offering from Philip Fracassi is as beautiful as it is frightening. It is a collection that paints imagery with such vividness, it’s as if you’re walking through the scenes yourself. Fans of short fiction will surely find something to enjoy among these pages. I must preface this review with my agreeance with Josh Malerman’s introduction, Fracassi’s writing is extremely influential. The twists and turns that most of the stories in this collection will catch you off-guard. Honestly, most people probably can’t imagine beauty in horror, or even stories meant to disturb, but what Fracassi manages to do in most of these stories, is create characters that you feel for, that you become attached to. The emotions are authentic, grabbing hold of your reader's heart and pulling you along for the ride. Most of the stories are dipped in dread but packaged so delicately, you’re enticed to keep reading, discovering just what happens next. Often, I found myself on the verge of yelling out, wanting to intervene, only to realize that what’s playing out before me, is merely words on a page. If you like your fiction to evoke those sorts of reactions, well, you’ve found your next read right here. I want to move into some of the stories and what I enjoyed most about them. I’ll start with probably my absolute favorite of this collection. Harvest: This is a beautiful but touching story about two friends, Carrie and Eli. I won’t say much about this one for the sake of not spoiling it-but the writing here is perfect. The raw emotions and imagery transport you into the scene, living and breathing among them, watching it all play out. This one still sits with me today after my initial reading of it almost two months ago now. The Wheel: This story gave me so much anxiety, I couldn’t stop reading it though. From the beginning, I had the impression that I knew just what was going to happen, but let me tell you, Fracassi came in and derailed that theory almost immediately. It was chaotic, but in a good way, had me in the depths of a panic attack. Sodajerk: A new family moves into town, but what they don’t know, is that there is something awfully wrong with the other families, specifically the children. What frightened me most about this, was how it seemed no one really noticed, or that they were okay with it. Symphony: Okay, this one is heartbreaking. Reading the struggles that Esther faces after the death of a loved one is disturbing yet, her escape, from that reality, is moving. Is this truly how things can end. Ateuchus: This one was wild, imagine making a discovery so great your very existence is questionable. I asked myself if I so happened upon anything like this, how I would respond, and the truth is, I would leave it all alone. ID: When reading this story, it felt as though I were living through a fever dream. ID tells the story of a young man who has been admitted to a psychiatric ward, meets a young woman, and they become friends. They even seem to continue that friendship when each is released, sometimes it’s good to have friends. Fragile Dreams: A man enters a building for a job interview, little does he know that his entire life is about to change. The odd part about this story is that we live in a time where something like this could happen at any time, and that’s truly terrifying. Death, My Old Friend: Emotionally driven and touching, despite his reputation Death, doesn’t seem like such a bad guy. On the other hand, that nagging feeling at the back of your mind that it looms around every corner could begin to creep in here. Overall, this collection is inspiring, the ability to weave stories that evoke emotions in readers is what I think every author aspires to achieve, and with Beneath a Pale Sky Fracassi has certainly done so with my first encounter with his work. When we look at the possibilities around us and can create something so vividly believable, that’s when things become truly horrific. I would like to extend an enormous thank you to Philip Fracassi for the PDF that allowed me to experience this collection before its release. Now that I have the physical copy things have come full circle.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Beth

    These stories were simply breathtaking. What a wonderful collection.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Thomas Joyce

    Original to this collection, ‘Harvest’ is the perfect example of a Philip Fracassi story, and a fantastic choice for opening the book. Using multiple points of view to give us a complete picture of unfolding events, the author begins with a small-town wedding in a cathedral in the middle of acres of corn crops. We meet Carrie, the innocent bride-to-be and, in separate scenes, the outwardly charming (yet inwardly belligerent and bullying) groom, Parker, and Eli, Carrie’s misunderstood childhood f Original to this collection, ‘Harvest’ is the perfect example of a Philip Fracassi story, and a fantastic choice for opening the book. Using multiple points of view to give us a complete picture of unfolding events, the author begins with a small-town wedding in a cathedral in the middle of acres of corn crops. We meet Carrie, the innocent bride-to-be and, in separate scenes, the outwardly charming (yet inwardly belligerent and bullying) groom, Parker, and Eli, Carrie’s misunderstood childhood friend, and her admirer. These are complex characters, as evidenced by the flashbacks to reveal more about Carrie and Eli’s friendship, and Fracassi takes the perfect amount of time and pace to explore the complex relationships, all the while allowing the drama to build. Like a kettle left unattended on the stove, the action builds toward a terrifying conclusion, as Eli’s unusual ability comes to the fore, just as a nightmarish incident unfolds. There are a few separate elements that Fracassi expertly weaves together to create an intricately-paced and gripping tale, equal parts terrifying and emotional. ‘The Wheel’ is another story original to this collection, and it too effectively weaves together separate strands to make for an entertaining whole. While a young couple celebrate the anniversary of their first date with a low-key trip to the funfair, their night is about to take a turn for the worse thanks to a degenerate Ferris wheel operator with a shady past and a recent divorcee with a pilot’s license and a taste for alcohol and destruction. Told from multiple points of view, we watch the drama and horror unfold in slow motion, as we quickly grasp what is most likely about to happen, before the main players. The relationship of the main couple is beautifully explored, just as the vile thoughts of the carnival worker are laid bare for all to see, Fracassi juxtaposing the light with the dark, luring us in before hitting us with the horror. In ‘Soda Jerk’, sixteen-year-old Ellie is new in town, having just moved to the quaint little town of Sabbath with her parents. Feeling homesick for her old home and her old friends, she is surprised when local boy James, in her year at high school, interrupts her unpacking and offers to show her around. Still unsure of her new surroundings, and practically pushed out of the door by her mother, Ellie takes a while to come out of her funk, even as James drives her around the sights of the town. But no sooner is she beginning to feel better, than she learns a horrible truth about her new home. Fracassi does smalltown horror with the best of the genre, as has been stated by many of his fans and peers before, and this disturbing tale is further proof. He has a tremendous ability to set a story in a charming, close-knit community, before unearthing the hideous horror that lies beneath. It makes for a compelling read. There are similarities between ‘Symphony’ and Guillermo del Toro’s Pan’s Labyrinth, in that a young girl, tormented by a male guardian, befriends a fantastical beast that is not what they seem, has motives of their own. But, as dark as Pan’s Labyrinth is, Fracassi really drags us down to the darkest depths of the human heart with this story. Esther’s father is consumed with grief after the loss of her mother, but this soon leads him down a terrible and disturbing path of nightly visitations to his only daughter’s bedroom. Esther records her own dreams and grief in a journal, which is where she writes of finding the strange unicorn statuette in the nearby forest, and the terrifying yet comforting beast that visits soon after. But will it lead to her salvation, or damn her to hell? One of the Weirder stories in the collection, this dark fantasy stands out thanks to the vibrant and nightmarish descriptions, as well as the bleak and disturbing circumstances. Beginning with an archaeological dig in Utah, ‘Ateuchus’ quickly develops into something much, much bigger. The discovery of a meteorite leads to a horror story of cosmic proportions when university professor Alfie takes it home to his basement laboratory and begins his analysis. The secrets the rock holds within are sure to send shockwaves throughout the world when they are revealed, unless Alfie can exert some kind of control. But, metaphorically speaking, once the genie is out of the bottle, it is much more difficult to put it back in. Consumed by this quest, Alfie begins to lose track of time, and soon loses track of himself, so obsessed with the rock he has become. Fracassi mixes the horror of obsession with some truly gruesome body horror, while hinting at a deeper story of first contact which could come at a very steep price. A further example of the range of Fracassi’s storytelling abilities. Told from the (frank) point of view of the former patient of a psychiatric hospital, ‘ID’ our unnamed protagonist describes their stay in the ward, while hinting at the more barbaric ward next door, before he is finally released and starts a relationship with another former patient. While he seems to be getting his life together, this relationship leads him to relapse into some bad habits while his new partner, Crystal, exhibits increasingly disturbing characteristics. Another one of the stranger stories in the collection, this one is propelled along by a warm and charismatic narrator, who struggles to extricate himself from a stranger-than-usual and awkward social situation. With some horrific added visuals and disturbing behaviour, this further showcases Fracassi’s versatility as a storyteller. ‘Fragile Dreams’ was originally released as a standalone novella (with the following story in this collection, ‘Death, My Old Friend’, as a bonus story) by Journalstone in 2016, and was subsequently reviewed on This Is Horror. But, upon our reread, we are steadfast in our belief that it is a suspenseful and terrifying trip. Matthew arrives for a job interview at a law firm on the fourth floor but, thanks to a particularly devastating disaster, finds himself buried under tons of metal and concrete. We discover much about his character through introspection and hallucinations, what he has come through to be here, and what he stands to lose. But how much is really imagined and how much is some terrifying presence that has found him beneath the rubble? While the penultimate story makes for a tense and nail-biting affair, the final story is a little more light-hearted. ‘Death, My Old Friend’ tells the story of the lifelong friendship between John and his childhood friend, Death. As with most friendships, they face their own share of hardships and awkward disagreements, but they are, of course, complicated by Death’s role as guide for the newly deceased. Although readers may feel confident in predicting the ending, Fracassi still manages to deliver a poignant and emotional journey for the reader, displaying his ability to adopt all manner of tones within his fiction. While the new collection includes a couple of previously released stories, this is the first time they have been included in a collection and, with the inclusion of the longer original stories to open the book, we see how his fiction has progressed. Not to say his new work is a dramatic departure in style or quality from his previous work; he certainly seems to have a particular style combining incredibly detailed and compelling human relationships with big concept horror, sometimes cosmic, other times earthbound but older than human comprehension. Fracassi’s publishing history is jam-packed with quality quicksand fiction that seems serene on the surface, innocently drawing readers in, until we cannot escape its devilish clutches, and this collection is no exception. Surely a contender for those year-end awards shortlists but, even more so, a winner in the eyes of old and new fans alike.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Patrick Delaney

    Beneath a Pale Sky is the second anthology from Mr. Fracassi that I've had the pleasure of reading, the first being Behold the Void. Fracassi is a phenomenal writer, there's no question there. Using beautifully written descriptions and striking imagery, he's able to WHEEL you (see what I did there?) into his stories as if you were there with the characters. There were a few standouts to me in this book as with any other anthology I've read, including WHEEL, SODA JERK, ID, and my personal favorit Beneath a Pale Sky is the second anthology from Mr. Fracassi that I've had the pleasure of reading, the first being Behold the Void. Fracassi is a phenomenal writer, there's no question there. Using beautifully written descriptions and striking imagery, he's able to WHEEL you (see what I did there?) into his stories as if you were there with the characters. There were a few standouts to me in this book as with any other anthology I've read, including WHEEL, SODA JERK, ID, and my personal favorite, DEATH, MY OLD FRIEND (this last one I could see working as a novel-length work as I LOVED this concept). Highly recommended to any readers of the genre!

  14. 4 out of 5

    Michael Tkach

    5 star read! Each story is just dripping with emotion, sadness and terror. I loved every single one of them and blazed through this collection as fast as I could. Dont even hesitate on this one, just get it. It will have you crying and begging for mercy by the end. Romance, family trauma, cosmic horror, it has everything. The last story and the last few lines just left me weeping in my bed, alone on a Sunday morning. For fans of Stephen King, Laird Barron and having a bad time.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Sarah

    One of the best short story collections I have read. Each one horrifying in it's own way. My eyes bulged to take in every word and my breath caught numerous times. I could hardly put it down. To contradict myself, I did have to take pause after each story, to absorb the detail, allow my mind to reset; the stories were masterful in their writing and caused a number of emotions to be felt. I couldn't help but pause in order to take it all in. One of the best short story collections I have read. Each one horrifying in it's own way. My eyes bulged to take in every word and my breath caught numerous times. I could hardly put it down. To contradict myself, I did have to take pause after each story, to absorb the detail, allow my mind to reset; the stories were masterful in their writing and caused a number of emotions to be felt. I couldn't help but pause in order to take it all in.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Melanie

    There is beauty in darkness. This collection of stories proves that.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Jodi

    This book is stunning. I was lucky enough to receive an ARC on PDF and I enjoyed it so much I plan on buying a physical copy to add to my collection when it releases on June 18th. From the very first story to the beautifully haunting ending Fracassi crafts words that pique the imagination and put you right into the book. This is the first of his books for me and I will be following him from now on and reading everything I can get my hands on. Philip Fracassi definitely has a new fan in me. For a This book is stunning. I was lucky enough to receive an ARC on PDF and I enjoyed it so much I plan on buying a physical copy to add to my collection when it releases on June 18th. From the very first story to the beautifully haunting ending Fracassi crafts words that pique the imagination and put you right into the book. This is the first of his books for me and I will be following him from now on and reading everything I can get my hands on. Philip Fracassi definitely has a new fan in me. For any horror lover, please add this to your to be read list as this is a beautiful collection that’s not to be missed.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Dean

    This is a combination of new (2) and previous stories from one of my newer favorites in horror. The two new stories, "Harvest" and "The Wheel," are well worth the price of admission. His voice reminds me of early King (think "Apt Pupil"). Just wish he'd get around to the horror epic he's got in him. Recommended. *Many thanks to Lethe Press for the ARC* For anyone who would like a free copy of the ARC, please message me. This is a combination of new (2) and previous stories from one of my newer favorites in horror. The two new stories, "Harvest" and "The Wheel," are well worth the price of admission. His voice reminds me of early King (think "Apt Pupil"). Just wish he'd get around to the horror epic he's got in him. Recommended. *Many thanks to Lethe Press for the ARC* For anyone who would like a free copy of the ARC, please message me.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Sean Lynch

    Beneath a Pale Sky is an eclectic set of stories from Philip Fracassi that left me wanting more. Paul Tremblay’s blurb on the cover describes Fracassi’s fiction as “a mix of old and new school horrors”, and I feel that is a very apt description. His stories range from Lovecraftian horrors, Bradbury-style rural towns, terrestrial sci-fi horror, disaster horror, to even tales of unlikely friendships (twice)! The collection begins with a quote from Ray Bradbury, which is quite fitting as the first s Beneath a Pale Sky is an eclectic set of stories from Philip Fracassi that left me wanting more. Paul Tremblay’s blurb on the cover describes Fracassi’s fiction as “a mix of old and new school horrors”, and I feel that is a very apt description. His stories range from Lovecraftian horrors, Bradbury-style rural towns, terrestrial sci-fi horror, disaster horror, to even tales of unlikely friendships (twice)! The collection begins with a quote from Ray Bradbury, which is quite fitting as the first story in the collection, "Harvest", certainly has a Bradbury vibe in its small-town setting. The story follows a woman on her wedding day, the arrival of an old friend, and the events that follow. The wedding day story is interspersed with flashbacks of the relationship between the bride and her old friend, the latter of whom has telekinetic powers (or, more aptly, control over air). Some may find the story to be a bit slower in the first half, but I loved this one. I found the flashbacks fascinating and wanted to hear more about the life of Eli, the old friend. I'd like to see this one fleshed out and built up to a larger story, perhaps with the wedding day being the climax of a novella-length tale. That being said, it still stood up very well as a short story. The second story, "The Wheel", is a disaster story involving a Ferris wheel and protagonist Mary at the center. The first half of the story is told from the point of views of the involved characters, which was a fun way to build up to the disaster itself. The second half is entirely told from Mary's point of view and was quite thrilling. It also has the best opening line of the whole collection with "It takes three men and a furious fate to destroy Mary's life" (I cheated and read the opening lines of the remaining four stories to validate this claim), though I think it's a bit unfair to one of those men who had nothing but the best intentions throughout the whole story. A pretty solid disaster story nonetheless. The third story, "Soda Jerk", brings the reader to the small town of Sabbath, which definitely has some Lovecraftian undertones. The new girl in town is shown around by a teenage boy who seems slightly off. I loved the 1950s setting (at least I believe it was the 50s) and would love to read more about this strange town. It is my understanding that this town IS actually used by Fracassi in some of his other works. The only thing I didn't like about this particular story was a portion in the middle where the new girl is brought to the town junkyard. It serves as almost a teaser trailer for another of Fracassi's stories (a novella called Commodore, I believe), but I don't think it really added anything to this particular story. The fourth story, "Symphony", is the story of a young girl dealing with her alcoholic and abusive father in the wake of her mother's passing. She manages to do so with the help of an unlikely friend, a hellish and humanoid "unicorn". The story reminded me of A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness, but in a good way. It was the most emotionally driven story (so far) and it was fun to read about the friendship between the girl and her new demonic friend, especially since this demonic unicorn has nothing but the best intentions for the girl. The fifth story, “Ateuchus”, was my favorite story in the whole collection. A 5,000-year-old meteorite is discovered and the scientist studying it discovers that it contains alien life. He secludes himself and the alien larvae in his basement morgue-turned-laboratory and decides to observe them as they continue to grow. The story is very reminiscent of classic sci-fi horror tales and yet it never feels dated or derivative. It screams to be adapted into an episode of an anthology series, such as Tales from the Crypt or Creepshow. “ID” is the sixth story and ended up being the only one in the collection that I did not enjoy. It’s a story about a relationship formed between the narrator and his unstable girlfriend, both of whom met within the psychiatric ward of a hospital. It is very reminiscent of Chuck Palahniuk’s style, but I don’t think that it quite reaches the bar. I didn’t particularly find any of the characters to be sympathetic. And while the same can be said of many Palahniuk characters, his characters can still be fun to read about. Unfortunately, I do not feel that the same could be said for the characters in this story. “Fragile Dreams” is the longest story in the collection at nearly 60 pages and yet it flies by. It’s another disaster story of sorts, except that the disaster occurs within the first few pages and then the rest of the story deals with the protagonist’s fight to survive the aftermath of the disaster. It was well done considering that a majority of the story takes place within the narrator’s headspace. I’ve said before that many of the stories could have been longer, yet I feel that this one is the perfect length. It could shine as its own novella outside of this collection and is worth the price of admission for the whole collection. The last story, “Death, My Old Friend” is the short conclusion to the collection. It tells the story of a man who is best friends with the living embodiment of the Grim Reaper / Death. Fracassi manages to squeeze a lifelong friendship into just under ten pages, but the story doesn’t feel rushed at all. The brief nature of this story actually works in its favor, as anything longer would have detracted from the story. It is a friendship that is rather warm-hearted in its subject matter and it doesn’t flounder on any heavy-handed death metaphors or jokes (other than one about the narrator selling life insurance). It also has the perfect conclusion for such a collection. Fracassi has an easy-to-read writing style that is quite literally colorful. Seriously, he uses colors as part of a good many descriptions within the stories. He also uses a lot of similes in his style. I'm sure that some may not be a fan of so much color usage or similes, but I didn't find them to be particularly overbearing. If anything, it certainly helps to paint a mental picture of the settings and stories that Fracassi is building. Overall, I've enjoyed the stories and they've left me wanting more.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Brennan LaFaro

    Beneath A Pale Sky collects eight stories from Philip Fracassi into a 250 page volume. As is the norm with a collection, some of the stories resonated with me, others didn’t. But the one constant lies in Fracassi’s prose, consistently striking in every story. Fracassi crafts an immersive experience on every page. The reader could be an observer in a scene where nothing is happening, but by describing the chill in the air, the sound a crisp leaf makes when it hits the ground, Fracassi draws you o Beneath A Pale Sky collects eight stories from Philip Fracassi into a 250 page volume. As is the norm with a collection, some of the stories resonated with me, others didn’t. But the one constant lies in Fracassi’s prose, consistently striking in every story. Fracassi crafts an immersive experience on every page. The reader could be an observer in a scene where nothing is happening, but by describing the chill in the air, the sound a crisp leaf makes when it hits the ground, Fracassi draws you onto the page and invests you. Yeah, you never had a choice. Many of the stories contained are in the novella/novelette length, giving Fracassi the time to craft character and setting, though my favorite is also the shortest, proving this author has the chops at any length, and making me look forward to his first novel later this year. Beneath A Pale Sky offers an admirable variety, including “The Wheel”, a harrowing, all too-plausible tale that provides the inspiration for the beautiful cover art. “ID” utilizes form to tell a manic story with roots in the psychiatric ward. Fracassi takes us into the head of the main character, and it’s not an enviable position. The final story “Death, My Old Friend” isn’t particularly scary, but reads as equal parts coming-of-age and existential literature. The innate beauty in this story hits all the right emotions, twisting your gut. A deep exhale as you read the last line and sit with the book open on your lap and just ponder. I remember having the same feeling after reading “You Are Released” by Joe Hill a few years ago. I think “Death” might be my favorite short story since then. You don’t wind up with blurbs from Paul Tremblay and Christopher Golden, as well as an introduction from Josh Malerman without being pretty damn good at what you do. Fracassi is just that and proves it with Beneath A Pale Sky.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Kristen Lindsey

    I've tried to read Laird Barron in the past (The Imago Sequence) and either I was in the wrong mindset or mood, but I ended up DNFing it. When this book showed up in my Nightworms subscription, I was hesitant to start it because the author seemed heavily influenced by an author I just didn’t mesh with. I began this collection thinking that I would feel the same disconnection, but I was pleasantly surprised. Each entry was a joy to read, even if the subject matter was hard to swallow. Fracassi ha I've tried to read Laird Barron in the past (The Imago Sequence) and either I was in the wrong mindset or mood, but I ended up DNFing it. When this book showed up in my Nightworms subscription, I was hesitant to start it because the author seemed heavily influenced by an author I just didn’t mesh with. I began this collection thinking that I would feel the same disconnection, but I was pleasantly surprised. Each entry was a joy to read, even if the subject matter was hard to swallow. Fracassi has a way of making the literary more relatable, and it’s evident from his character work and writing style that each word is lovingly crafted to make the reader connect to the story’s world. I have already added most of his backlog to my Amazon wishlist, mostly because he left me wanting more. And I also plan on giving Barron another chance in the future 😊

  22. 4 out of 5

    Tracy Robinson

    Originally on www.scifiandscary.com Beneath A Pale Sky contains eight stories that traverse different sub-genres of horror. It is a true showing of an author who is versatile and talented; Fracassi explores quite a variety of themes and styles within this collection. What follows is a quick highlight of some of the best stories. “Harvest”: It includes hints of the supernatural, of strong love, and of unusual abilities. It is a bit slow to get going, but, as so many of these stories do, once he get Originally on www.scifiandscary.com Beneath A Pale Sky contains eight stories that traverse different sub-genres of horror. It is a true showing of an author who is versatile and talented; Fracassi explores quite a variety of themes and styles within this collection. What follows is a quick highlight of some of the best stories. “Harvest”: It includes hints of the supernatural, of strong love, and of unusual abilities. It is a bit slow to get going, but, as so many of these stories do, once he gets to the characters and the action, Fracassi hods nothing back. “It takes three men and a furious fate to destroy Mary’s life.” Philip Fracassi, “The Wheel” “The Wheel”: “It takes three men and a furious fate to destroy Mary’s life.” Quite possibly the star of this collection, although a couple others give it a run for its money. Lives collide in a brutal manor and readers should prepare for a whirlwind of emotions. “Ateuchus” – A foray into sci fi horror/thriller territory. A few hints of Kafka and some excellent body horror combine for an entertaining and gory read. “Fragile Dreams”: An interesting view on situational horror. We follow the path of a mind that is trapped, a mind that is desperately trying to extend its tenuous grasp on reality. This is a bit of a mind-bender and it really provides a unique perspective on an impossible situation. “Death, My Old Friend”: A stellar story to round out the collection; it bookends nicely with “Harvest”. Fracassi personifies Death in a such a way that it causes the reader to reconsider their own relationship with death. A true heartbreaker, this one ties for my favorite of the collection; one of the best short stories I’ve read. Be sure to check out Beneath A Pale Sky. A little over half are highlighted in this review; these are the ones that resonated, that caused this reader to take pause, to sit back and let the story take over. Fracassi has several other books available, so be sure to check them out after reading this one.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Dom Voyce

    Outstanding! Philip Fracassi's second collection of short fiction follows in the footsteps of his first (Behold The Void- in case you missed it) with another great selection of stories guaranteed to give you sleepless nights. What I love about Philip's work is his skill in blending classic horror with a literary sensibility. You'll find plenty here if you love gruesome terror, but it's always backed by emotional storytelling that feels very real. I also enjoy the pervading sense of cosmic dread Outstanding! Philip Fracassi's second collection of short fiction follows in the footsteps of his first (Behold The Void- in case you missed it) with another great selection of stories guaranteed to give you sleepless nights. What I love about Philip's work is his skill in blending classic horror with a literary sensibility. You'll find plenty here if you love gruesome terror, but it's always backed by emotional storytelling that feels very real. I also enjoy the pervading sense of cosmic dread that builds across the individual stories and binds them together despite their differences. Every story is a winner, but a hat- tip to the closing short 'Death, My Old Friend' for being so beautifully touching and bringing unexpected tears to my eyes. Recommended!!

  24. 5 out of 5

    Andrea

    I rarely freaking love short stories, or short story collections but this is an amazing work. The first story, Harvest, pulled me in & didn't let go. It was emotional, touching, endearing, horrifying. The next story, The Wheel, delivered as well. Fragile was one of the hardest stories I've endured - claustrophobic and extremely cringe-worthy. Death, My Old Friend was a perfect conclusion to the collection. These stories stick. I rarely freaking love short stories, or short story collections but this is an amazing work. The first story, Harvest, pulled me in & didn't let go. It was emotional, touching, endearing, horrifying. The next story, The Wheel, delivered as well. Fragile was one of the hardest stories I've endured - claustrophobic and extremely cringe-worthy. Death, My Old Friend was a perfect conclusion to the collection. These stories stick.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Aksel Dadswell

    A fantastic collection that takes you to some unexpected places. It's got horror and magic, some fantastic genre trappings and brilliantly orchestrated set pieces, and everything's grounded in fantastic character work that hooks the reader emotionally. Fracassi does tension brilliantly, and his writing is often quite cinematic. A brilliant, varied collection I highly recommend. A fantastic collection that takes you to some unexpected places. It's got horror and magic, some fantastic genre trappings and brilliantly orchestrated set pieces, and everything's grounded in fantastic character work that hooks the reader emotionally. Fracassi does tension brilliantly, and his writing is often quite cinematic. A brilliant, varied collection I highly recommend.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Mia

    4 1/2 stars

  27. 4 out of 5

    Amanda Watson

    Wow, pretty amazing if you ask me

  28. 5 out of 5

    Jay

  29. 4 out of 5

    Mommacat

  30. 5 out of 5

    Joseph L

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