I’ve always had trouble reading anthologies. I don’t know why, but I read this one in a few days.
Let’s get into it.
Ellen Datlow has put out a lot of anthologies, which is putting it mildly. I have a couple of the others she’s done, but this one is my favorite. The variety of stories, the depravity of a couple of them, and how I felt after I read them are something I haven’t felt with an anthology in a while.
I had fully intended to cover each story in this anthology, but with the twenty-four stories, novelettes, and one poem, I felt it would be too long of a post and while I enjoyed every story in this anthology, there were some standouts, at least to me and what I look for in horror.
While it is an anthology of horror, some of the stories are noir and crime, but they all have that horror element.
I wanted to cover all the stories I enjoyed from this anthology, but as this is the third attempt at writing this review, eliminating the story by story analysis, I hope this works better.
Each one of these stories stuck with me but there are five that stood out to me. This doesn’t mean I didn’t love the rest, only that with how I approach horror, these five stood out.
Story five, “Cleaver, Meat, And Block”, by Maria Haskins. I wasn’t sure about this story as it was relatable to our current pandemic and all that goes with it, but it ended up being my favorite in the anthology.
The story, of which I won’t spoil as you’d hate me if I did, was devilish, and I caught myself laughing at times I probably shouldn’t have. The ending of this story gave me a bit of peace, as I thought of numerous things while I read it.
There is a frostiness to this anthology, and with that, I mean there are a few settings in the cold. My favorite of these “Mine Seven”, by Elana Gomel, was creepy and the descriptions of the cold left me feeling chilled. It had the feeling of being hunted, which is somewhat prevalent in this anthology as well. There were many times when I’d finish a story and think, wow, but “Mine Seven” and the coldness throughout the story, made me feel like I was there.
“Scream Queen” by Nathan Ballingrud gave me so many feelings. There were times it reminded me of Adam Neville’s “The Reddening” and that detachment from civilization thing that Neville does in that book. I love the idea of this story so much. I love old horror movies and the premise of this story made me think of some of those movies.
“Trick of the Light”, by Andrew Humphrey reminds me of Gemma Amor’s “White Pines”. Driving to the coast to look at some small town, take pictures and discover things that aren’t what you believed them to always elicit fear in me.
Growing up in Utah where the mountains, lakes, and rivers are within driving distance, I could relate to being away from society aspect and wondering what’s going on in that small town you just drove through but didn’t stop because it gave off a weird vibe. That’s what this story was.
“Two Truths And A Lie”, by Sarah Pinsker, gave me all the feelings of Channel Zero’s first season. The old TV show, and all that happened on that show, not to mention the mental decline of Denny in the story, which we see only through the eyes of his brother, was a story that made me think about if Mr. Rogers was a sinister person, similar to the character in Chitty-Chitty-Bang-Bang, but I honestly thought more about the Bowler Hat Guy in “Meet the Robinson’s”, which I know is weird.
Those were my favorites of this anthology and while I wanted to dive into each story, it would make this post a lot longer and I’m fighting off a cold.
This is the first anthology I’ve ever read cover to cover, and I think that says a lot about the stories on the pages. I loved every one of them, but as I said, the post would have to be so long to accommodate that.
Please pick up this anthology. There are so many stories that I loved but didn’t list because of the sheer volume of greatness on the pages.
While I linked to either the author’s website or their author page, I was not able to find one for Andrew Humphrey, so my apologies Andrew.
I’m linking to Amazon, but you can get it at an indie bookstore as well.