Thursday, April 23, 2015

Dark Screams Three

I just finished reading a review copy of Dark Screams: Volume Three, and I've got to say, this series just seems to keep going downhill.

The book starts off with "The Collected Short Stories of Freddie Prothero," by Peter Straub. This is a fake collection of short stories told as if written by a five-eight year old boy with no grasp of spelling. If reading a series of "stories" rendered into borderline gibberish is something you think you'll like then you might like this story, otherwise you're better off not wasting your time.

Next up come the utterly predictable and sadly disappointing "Group of Thirty" by Jack Ketchum. It's the story of a hardcore horror author who is asked to address a group of wannabe science fiction writers. When he finds the group meeting at a church , it becomes blindingly obvious that this is going to be about a writer who is forced to defend his writing to a bunch of religious nutbags, or face the consequences. The ending of the story borders on being deus ex machina, making it all even less appealing. The main character seems to be a stand in for Ketchum himself, as one of the stories he defends seems to be a thinly veiled version of his own extremely disturbing The Girl Next Door, which makes it not completely crappy, but far from Ketchum's best work.

Next up comes a tale of highschool angst called "Nancy," by Darynda Jones. It's about a teenaged girl who moves to a small town and tries to get to know a misfit girl named Nancy, who is haunted by a ghost. I found the story to be extremely tedious until we got to the twist ending, which actually surprised me.

Story four is "I Love You, Charlie Perason," by Jacquelyn Frank. It's about a disturbed teenage boy who is obsessed with a cheerleader. You can tell after the first paragraph that he's going to end up kidnapping her or something. As with the previous story, I just found it tedious and boring until it gets to a twist ending that I didn't see coming.

The final tale is the only one that I actually enjoyed, "The Lone One and Level Sands Stretch Far Away," by Brian Hodge. It's about a middle-aged married man who has a young woman move in next door. She introduces him to parkour, urban exploration, and thinking about the apocalypse. She also causes trouble between the man and his wife. Despite the horror elements not showing up until near the end of the story, this is my favorite of the lot.

So, this anthology consists of one story I think is terrible, one story I think isn't very good, two stories that are kind of boring but with good endings, and one story that is actually good. I can't help but think that passing on this anthology would be a wise move.

Thursday, March 05, 2015

A Head Full of Ghosts

A Head Full of Ghosts is not what I'd normally expect to see in a book where a character is said to be possessed. I mean that in a good way.

This book is told from the point of view of a woman who as a young girl who saw her older sister suffer from schizophrenia. Unfortunately, there father has recently lost his job and found religion. This combination causes him to become convinced that the elder girl is possessed and to get the family to take part in a reality show culminating in his elder daughter's exorcism.

There are no obvious supernatural elements. Instead of being a horror story about a girl's head doing 360° turns while projectile vomiting pea soup, it's about what happens when the horrors of mental illness, religious fanaticism, and the reality TV culture intersect.  This makes for the sort of book that is as likely to appeal to people who don't read horror as it will to those of us who do.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Dark Screams Two

The good folks at Cemetery Dance were nice enough to send me a review copy of Dark Screams: Volume Two for reviewing Dark Screams One. As much as I enjoyed the first volume, I thought number two wasn't anywhere near as good.

The first story in the volume is one of the reprints, "The Deep End," by Robert McCammon. Despite being a reprint, I had never read it, and I enjoyed this tale of a fathers quest for revenge against a terror lurking in a public swimming pool.

The Second story is "Interval," by Norman Prentiss. This one is a bit slower moving, and revolves around people at an airport waiting for word on a plane that is late.  It's a good enough story, especially the big reveal ending.

Next is "If These Walls Could Talk," by Shawntelle Madison. This is a creepy story about people getting a rural house ready for a TV crew, but something strange starts happening. I enjoyed this one, too.

Then we have "The Night Hider," by Graham Masterton. This was probably my favorite story. It revolves around a wardrobe that's haunted by the ghost a horribly burned man.

The final story is another reprint, and it stank so bad that it dragged the rest of the book down. The story in question is "Whatever," by Richard Christian Matheson. I have no idea what this story is even doing in this anthology, as it's not horror by any definition I'm familiar with. There are no ghosts, monsters, aliens, or serial killers. It's just the story of the rise and fall of a mega rock band in the 1970's told through song lyrics, letters, and excerpts of magazine articles. It's long and boring.

I think the ebook edition is worth it just for the first four stories, but you might as well skip the last one.

Monday, February 09, 2015

Red Equinox

I have to say that Red Equinox, by Douglas Wynne, is probably one of the better Lovecraftian novels that I've read. It's not a particularly original one, but  Lovecraftian horror usually isn't.

It uses the standard plot about a secret society who is plotting to release the Great Old Ones and bring about the destruction of humanity. This is a plot that H. P. L. himself used, so it's not all that original. Even the addition of a secret government agency tasked with stopping  supernatural evil doesn't help, as that's been done so much it's rapidly becoming cliched.

I think what really set this story apart for me was the characterization. I don't know why, but I found myself genuinely caring about the characters, even to the point that when the protagonist was temporarily grabbed by the aforementioned secret government agency, I found myself getting angry on her behalf.

This is a book that I'd recommend to any fan of Lovecraftian horror.