Robert McCammon, Norman Prentiss, Shawntelle Madison, Graham Masterton, and Richard Christian Matheson scale new heights of horror, suspense, and grimmest fantasy in Dark Screams: Volume Two, from Brian James Freeman and Richard Chizmar of the renowned Cemetery Dance Publications.
Of all of the sub-genres grouped under the umbrella term of speculative fiction, horror is the one I’m least at home in. After an early experiment reading Carrie and a rather disastrous encounter with It, it has only been in the past few years that I’ve slowly stuck my toe in the pool that is horror fiction to test whether I dare get in the water. And I’ve mostly enjoyed those first few steps into the pool to stretch the metaphor a bit. Still, my first reaction when offered a horror title for review is always caution, because “I’m not a horror reader.” This year I decided to try and read more of it so I could broaden my knowledge of what horror is exactly, so Dark Screams: Volume Two was a great way to introduce myself to five new horror authors and five different flavours of horror.
Robert McCammon – The Deep End
McCammon’s story about a father convinced that his son’s drowning in the local community pool wasn’t accidental and bent on revenge, is both heart-breaking and chilling. With Calder positioned to be the perfect unreliable narrator, torn apart by grief as he is, the story retains a flavour of uncertainty as to whether there truly is a monster in the water right up to the end. I liked the way McCammon developed the tension in the story and keep it going until the end.
Norman Prentiss – Interval
While I really liked the premise of Interval, I can’t really discuss it as it would completely spoil the story. What I can comment on some of the other elements that bring the horror to the story. Any plane crash is horrific, and though I was very confused by what actually happened to the flight at the centre of the story – did it actually crash? If so, why? – Prentiss manages to convey the uncertainty and fear of the people waiting for its passengers palpably. What I found horrible as well was the way the man in charge of communications with the survivors fumbles the ball, not telling anyone anything, keeping people out who should be allowed in – I found the refusal of the man who was there to pick up his (same-sex) partner especially infuriating – and basically just mishandling the entire situation. Interval made for an interesting read and was quite self-contained.
Shawntelle Madison – If These Walls Could Talk
If These Walls Could Talk is perhaps at first glance the most traditional of these horror stories, containing some of the most classic tropes in the genre. Eleanor, the story’s protagonist works on a show called America’s Mysterious Hotspots, which in itself is fertile grounds for a horror story, yet Madison takes it in a completely different direction. I really like the twist she put on the story and while discussing it more in depth will only lead to spoilers, I can say that this one might be my favourite of the bunch.
Graham Masterton – The Night Hider
Masterton’s The Night Hider left me somewhat conflicted. I loved the premise of the haunted antique piece of furniture, in this case a wardrobe, but the reason for that haunting and the way the story resolved fell somewhat flat for me. Still, I really enjoyed the book until the last couple of scenes and the idea of the wardrobe was just very cool.
Richard Christian Matheson – Whatever
Whatever is a great story, but to me it didn’t exactly feel like a horror story. I loved this alternate history/reality telling of the rise and fall of the super band in the vein of The Beatles and The Rolling Stones. It was fun to catch all the references to real people and bands and seeing how Whatever would have fit right in there. The structure and telling of the story was fascinating, in that the story is a collection of notes from a reporter that haven’t really been ordered into a proper article and as such the story jumps around in time and in the form of recording—sometimes its notes, sometimes transcriptions. Whatever is also very much a sketch of an era, of the way the music scene was in the late sixties and in the seventies, which I very much enjoyed.
Of these five stories Shawntelle Madison’s If These Walls Could Talk was my favourite, just edging out Richard Christian Matheson’s Whatever, due to the latter’s tenuous (to me) horror status. Overall, Dark Screams: Volume Two is an interesting collection of horror stories and an entertaining read for those interested in the horror short form and those looking for new authors or trying out a new genre to read.
A Fantastical Librarian is the first stop on this blog tour. Please visit the other stops for different views on not just Dark Screams: Volume Two, but Volume Three as well and for giveaways for both books.
Wednesday, April 29th: No More Grumpy Bookseller – Volumes 2 and 3
Monday, May 4th: Bell, Book & Candle – Volume 2
Tuesday, May 5th: From the TBR Pile – Volume 2
Wednesday, May 6th: Wag the Fox – Volume 2
Thursday, May 7th: Bewitched Bookworms – Volumes 2 and 3
Friday, May 8th: The Reader’s Hollow – Volume 2
Monday, May 11th: Bibliophilia, Please – Volume 2
Tuesday, May 12th: In Bed with Books – Volume 3
Wednesday, May 13th: Bibliotica – Volume 2
Thursday, May 14th: Bell, Book & Candle – Volume 3
Friday, May 15th: Wag the Fox – Volume 3
Monday, May 18th: Bibliotica – Volume 3
Tuesday, May 19th: From the TBR Pile – Volume 3
Wednesday, May 20th: Sweet Southern Home – Volume 3
Thursday, May 21st: The Reader’s Hollow – Volume 3
Tuesday, May 26th: Kahakai Kitchen – Volumes 2 and 3