D09: Afterlife by Ethan Vonday is a unique collection of five spellbinding, psychologically rich stories that explore themes of mortality and eternity as realities that perpetually brush the edges of the human spirit. The stories feature five key characters who are not connected in any way, yet their journeys evoke the ever troubling quest to endure life and to be connected with self. The first story introduces readers to Ralph, who has a near-death experience and the author explores his psyche, his struggle to be linked to the world he has known, and a disturbing vision of Super Mario, the hero of his childhood. It moves on to present characters in other stories that are dealing with complex psychological issues, including depression, acute anxiety, out-of-body experiences, suicidal thoughts, and more.
Ethan Vonday’s collection of short stories has an irresistible appeal to fans of stories with dark themes and those that are psychologically thrilling. The narrative voice shifts from the first-person to the third-person narrative voices as one reads from one story to the next, but what is fascinating about the writing is the author’s unique gift for imagery and the exploration of the human psyche. Each story is introduced by poetic lines and interesting illustrations that translate the atmosphere into which the reader is about to enter: “Keep close to the soul/Lost in Time /One forgotten.” The prose is gorgeous and it is sprinkled with vivid descriptions and exciting dialogues.
The author uses streams of consciousness and internal dialogues to plunge readers into the deeper recesses of the minds of the characters, exposing disturbing mindscapes and emotions that strong. These characters are complex and richly developed, each with a unique background and relationships that are well-explored, even if not elaborately. The characters are relatable and they are symbolic of the darkness that occasionally or often invade the human mind: “The thoughts cycled through my mind and unleashed the images of unacceptable darkness. Though I waited patiently through my insomnia, I strove for answers.” I adored characters like Ralph and Dr. Lawffer, who are infused with humanity and realism. Ethan Vonday deftly balances action and introspection, making a gorgeous offering for fans of realistic characters and dark themes. Overall, D09: Afterlife features great storytelling, skillful handling of the inner worlds of the characters, and an unsettling evocation of the darkness we experience in our low moments.