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Posted October 25, 2013
** spoiler alert ** 4.5 stars Overall, this was a very good col
** spoiler alert ** 4.5 starsWas this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Overall, this was a very good collection of horror stories, with a nice variety of both supernatural and psychological monsters. It's worth reading just for the stories by Laird Barron, with whom I was already familiar, and Gary McMahon, who is now on my "authors to watch" list. My rating and review of each story appear below.
Nikishi, by Lucy Taylor: 2.5 stars. An utterly predictable tale of a bad guy finding out that there are worse monsters in the world than he is.
Little America, by Dan Chaon: 4 stars. A post-apocalyptic tale, involving mutated children similar to werewolves. I liked the way Chaon brought his post-apocalyptic world down to the human level, where one old man is trying to save one child, while that one child is trying to hold onto his humanity.
A Natural History of Autumn, by Jeffrey Ford: 3.5 stars. Introduces a supernatural entity with which I was not familiar, the Japanese Jinmenkin. There is an interesting twist at the end regarding that entity's motivation for its action.
Mantis Wives, by Kij Johnson: 1 star. Seemed to be using yoga positions or martial arts kata as metaphors for male/female relationships, but ultimately, I just didn't get it.
Tender as Teeth, by Stephanie Crawford and Duane Swierczynski: 4 stars. An apparently sympathetic portrayal of a former zombie. I would have given this story 4.5 stars; however, the sympathy the authors seemed to intend that the reader feel for Justine was destroyed in the last few paragraphs, leaving me feeling betrayed.
The Callers, by Ramsey Campbell: 4.5 stars. A story of strange and indistinct rituals which manages to build dread through the unlikely device of bingo rhymes. I spent the entire story trying to interpret what those rhymes meant for Mark, and although the ending didn't resolve that question for me, the juxtaposition of the bingo game and the menace of the women's behavior was nevertheless satisfying.
Two Poems for Hill House, by Kevin McCann: 1 star. Simply didn't get them, although I have to admit that poetry has never been particularly attractive to me.
Mariners' Round, by Terry Dowling: 5 stars. I am always amazed by stories which recognize the hidden creepiness of carousels. I liked the way in which the theme of circles appeared throughout the story.
Nanny Grey, by Gemma Files: 3 stars. An average story of a bad guy getting his comeuppance from a girl who wasn't exactly what she seemed to be.
The Magician's Apprentice, by Tamsyn Muir: 3 stars. An average story in which human sacrifice is used to power magic.
Kill All Monsters, by Gary McMahon: 5 stars. An excellent exploration from the wife's point of view of her husband's response to monsters, real or imagined.
The House on Ashley Avenue, by Ian Rogers: 5 stars. A wonderful haunted house story involving a paranormal investigation group known as the Merefield Group. I would enjoy reading more stories involving the adventures of Merefield Group agents.
Dead Song, by Jay Wilburn: 4.5 stars. Intriguing exploration of the power of music in post-zombie America. I really liked the documentary-style discussion of the different music types which emerged after the apocalypse. I would have liked more fleshing out of the theme of Appalachia as a secretive, backward area with its own traditions.
Sleeping, I Was Beauty, by Sandi Leibowitz: 4.5 stars. A variation on the tale of Sleeping Beauty, with an erotic tone reminiscent of A.N. Roquelaure's Sleeping Beauty trilogy and a hint of the necrophilia in Neil Gaiman's "Snow, Glass, Apples." Although I generally don't like poetry, Leibowitz offers some beautiful images: "fresh bud of ankle/flowering through the rip"; "unsnarling the skein of words/one hundred years of sleep have knotted up."
Bajazzle, by Margo Lanagan: 2.5 stars. The most memorable line for me was Don's opinion of Kindle owners: "To Don's mind, there was no way to read off one of those things without looking smug. Ooh, look at me. I've got all of Jane Austen in here, and everything Charles Dickens wrote, no bigger than a couple of CDs. I just love it!" I was confused by the author's note on Sheela-na-gigs, which seemed to contradict their portrayal in the story.
The Pike, by Conrad Williams: 3 stars. An OK story, although I would not describe it as horror.
The Crying Child, by Bruce McAllister: 5 stars. A fine take on the remote village with an ancient secret to hide.
This Circus the World, by Amber Sparks: 2.5 stars. The repetition of the phrase "the way" gave a nice rhythm to the story, but there was little substance.
Some Pictures in an Album, by Gary McMahon: 5 stars. The simple, almost clinical description of each picture leads to a creeping sense of dread as the reader tries to understand the story behind the pictures.
Wild Acre, by Nathan Ballingrud: 3.5 stars. Although this story of a werewolf killing is nothing special, it is elevated by the description of the effects on the survivor's self-image and marriage.
Final Exam, by Megan Arkenberg: 5 stars. A very interesting approach, in which the author guides the reader into piecing together the story from the options offered in the answers to multiple-choice questions. I liked the answer key, which let the reader in on what really happened. I also liked the comparison of the end of a marriage with the end of the world.
None So Blind, by Stephen Bacon: 3 stars. If the author intended this story to be suspenseful, he failed, as it was apparent almost from the beginning what Alex had done. Still, I enjoyed seeing the horrific incident from the point of view of the (somewhat sympathetic) villain.
The Ballad of Boomtown, by Priya Sharma: 3 stars. A clichéd story of adultery leading to tragedy, in which the Three Sisters legend is poorly integrated.
Pig Thing, by Adam L.G. Nevill: 4 stars. A better-than-usual version of the "parents protecting their monster child" tale.
The Word-Made Flesh, by Richard Gavin: 4 stars. Similar in plot to Stephen King's Pet Sematary, but with more pathos.
Into the Penny Arcade, by Claire Massey: 4 stars. Another reminder that a girl should not get into a strange man's vehicle, but with the added twist of her lucky escape and the poetic justice meted out to the ultimate victims.
Magdala Amygdala, by Lucy A. Snyder: 5 stars. A wonderful synthesis of the vampire and werewolf mythoi, in which the reader gradually understands that both have resulted from a common virus and have a symbiotic relationship forced upon them by the persecution of the uninfected population.
Frontier Dead Song, by Laird Barron: 5 stars. A new approach to the legend of the Wild Hunt, and the best entry in this anthology.
I received this book for free through Goodreads First Reads.
Posted June 20, 2014
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