This review originally appeared on Kendall Reviews in 2019.
*4 out of 5*
Although I own The Faithful, Various States of Decay was my first reading of Matt Hayward. Collections have proven to be very useful to me when tackling new authors, so I was excited to dive into this one when its promotions began. Let me start by saying I was far from disappointed.
Various States of Decay is satisfyingly thick with content. In its strongest entries, Hayward shows his prowess in setting atmospheric scenes and preparing you for struggle. A lot of these stories concluded with me wanting sequels. For example, “Where the Wind Blows” needs to be followed by a story in which the winds hit town; “More Will Follow” needs a prologue tale and an apocalyptic epic loaded with solo characters and clashing tribes; “Rodent in the Red Room” makes it easy to follow our deity hunter around the world for more battle; and “Comes with the Rain” sets the scene for an overrun town in what could be a great body-horror story.
There are also several stories that worked wonderfully as one-shots. “Bangers and Mash” featured excellent dialogue and a bloody conclusion; “In the Pines” was thoroughly creepy and exciting; and “An Unusual Pet” is heartwarming and intriguing (especially if you’re a Jurassic Park fan).
It was interesting that Hayward also included multiple entries that were connected by the mind-warping company, OneWave. Some of them worked – like “Intercepting Aisle 9” and “The Conductor” – while others fell a little short. Still, it seems like Hayward could easily make any number of novels from this world he’s dived into here (excuse me if any exist – again, this is my first time reading this author).
As with most collections, Various States of Decay features some stories I would skip on a second reading. But more often than not, Hayward had me glued to the page. His expert writing and variety in style kept things fresh and enticing throughout, even when things get maybe a little too weird (like “Things Found in Couches”). I will definitely be reading my copy of The Faithful in the coming months and keep an eye out for anything else Hayward has or will soon release. The hype surrounding this author is well-earned.