What is evil? The answer to that question has an awful lot to do with perspective. What some people consider to be evil, others see as heroic. With that thought in mind, have you ever wondered if there is a capacity for all of us to engage in dark and lurid conduct? It can certainly be argued that nobody begins life with evil in their heart. It is a conditioned behavior. We all rely upon one another in some fashion, and when it all goes sideways… so do our actions. Pretty controversial and thought-provoking stuff! In her book All Roads Shattered, author Lisa Diaz Meyer explores such a human dynamic. This is a must read for all lovers of intelligent and fascinating prose- which will take you deep into the inner depths and disturbing psyche of the human mind!

Essentially, All Roads Shattered is the third book in Lisa Diaz Meyer’s All Roads collection. It includes two short story sagas, twelve macabre poems and five multi-genre dark fiction stories.

The two sagas are entitled “Outpost III” and “People of Gods.” The former is a continuation of the Outposts saga which appears in Meyer’s previous work. It is a dark, dystopian Science Fiction tale which picks up where the previous installment left off. The latter is similar in the sense that it is another great piece of Science Fiction. However, it is more than this. It inexplicably studies the human experience. In this particular case, what actually happens when a particular group is persecuted to the point of virtual extinction. How far will individuals go to maintain their own quality of life? Would this include turning on those who are closest to them? We all may have this in us depending upon the conditions. Considering the countless analogous circumstances throughout the history of human civilization… this is a haunting story indeed!

The two sagas which Meyer includes in her impressive anthology would have been more than enough to ensnare this particular reader’s complete engagement. Nevertheless, she is by no means finished. The book also includes a number of macabre poems and various pieces of dark fiction. I personally find these to be the strongest and most gripping segments of the entire collection. The term “macabre” does not even do them justice. It is more like soul-sucking! For instance, I absolutely loved the tragic and forlorn nature of the Graveyard poem. Life certainly has a way of sneaking up on you, and none of us are immune to its clutches. Further, the five stories in the Enduring and Oddities collections were horrifyingly delightful! For example, while “Helge” is frightening and gruesome, The Clearing is equally fearsome and utterly harrowing-yet heartbreaking,

There is no question that the plotting and overall theme of these stories is superb. The reader has no choice but to become engrossed and entirely emotionally invested in the work. The human condition is explored, but in a way which makes us question ourselves. These are not particularly heroic or nefarious characters. Indeed… they are us. Living each day the best we can and depending upon other people for what we need. What happens when it all goes astray? Read on and find out! The irony and paradoxical nature of this anthology is brilliant!

While the plot and overall theme of these stories are captivating, the characters and world building are enthralling as well. The various players are complex and grow a great deal throughout the pages. As readers (and human beings), we cannot help but feel akin to their various plights and emotions. Even the horrific doctor in “Helge” will inspire some form of sympathy and understanding…despite the overall feeling of repugnancy. How is that possible considering his evil and gruesome deeds? The answer to this question is provided by Meyer herself. She cleverly provides pertinent background, detail an ample growth in her characters so that the reader can easily identify with them. Character development at its best!

There is little doubt that this is a top-notch anthology. Meyer’s pen has a poetic flow and her writing is morbidly beautiful. Everything is supported by a creepy and well fleshed out setting. This lets the reader easily visualize and become lost in the worlds which Meyer has created.

I give this anthology my highest recommendation. There are dark and graphic scenes so be forewarned. As such I recommend it only to adult readers.

5 out of 5 Ghastly Stars for this one! *****