The Toilet Zone: 32 Horror Tales Best Read Over Water, edited by Bret McCormick, (Hellbound Books) is a short story collection best taken in small doses. Preferably doses that are self-administered while ruling your empire from your porcelain throne. The Toilet Zone is designed to deliver one short story at a time during your bathroom breaks. It revels in the idea that you are taking small bites out of a large collection while you are at your most vulnerable. The book is completely unapologetic in its approach, delighting in the fact that the editorial team has researched how long it takes the average bathroom goer to finish their business and rejoin their day. You could say The Toilet Zone has it down to a science: deliver one slice of horror to the reader at a time, tongue firmly planted in cheek even as the stories themselves are soaked in gore and fright.
I was given a copy of The Toilet Zone to read in exchange for a review and I am glad the idea caught me by surprise. My life is full of avid readers, friends and family members keep bookshelves next to their loo, stacks of bookmarks at the ready. I even know a few hardy souls who have specific “toilet” books, tomes only read while completing the act that The Toilet Zone has been crafted to enrich. The conceit works well, the stories fill their time in a fear-soaked flash-fiction inspired deluge. I found that I couldn’t quite make The Toilet Zone my “toilet book”, rather I found myself bringing these stories with me to my office, to my couch, and even as I curled myself beneath my quilt in bed. I broke the rules but I think most readers will find the stories compelling enough to read four or five at a time.
The collection is rollicking, ranging from the height of gross-out splatter horror to the quick and sly ghostly-driven terror that I am in love with. The horror tropes fly at will but The Toilet Zone simply winks at you and reminds you to wash your hands between each story. Good advice for an entertaining flume ride through all horror has to offer.
I recommend The Toilet Zone to any reader who is pressed for time but loves a quick and dirty read. These stories are best digested in small clusters or at your leisure as you command your forces from the comfort of a bathroom stall. If you’re looking for something with deep layers and stygian complexities, The Toilet Zone isn’t for you BUT I still recommend picking it up for water closet shelves. For those who are willing to dive into a bit of gore, a few demonic happenings, a range of double-barreled funhouse tropes, this book is definitely for you. There are moments when you will catch yourself with the horror-smirk as you follow the life and times of a pack of inbred mountain folk or sit with a family struggling with the darkness growing in their home.
The Toilet Zone is the kind of story collection that is unabashedly celebratory of what makes horror both delightful and ridiculous. I recommend taking a peek but just remember, wash your hands when you’re finished!