edited by Johnny Mains
was tightly knotted around her throat and evidently it was this that
had caused her death. In the brilliant winter moonlight I could tell
that the ribbon was scarlet."
Reviewed by Mario Guslandi
Anthologies are, by
definition, mixed bags and this one is no exception. Horror
enthusiast Johnny Mains has selected for the first installment of
Obverse Books new venture (Obverse Quarterly) six brand new dark
tales penned by well-known authors in the genre, which make up ninety
pages of extremely uneven material in terms of quality.
Truth be told I’m
still trying to figure out what Conrad Williams’ The Carbon
Heart is about. To me, alas, it remains just a hazy, confused
story featuring a fifty year-old guy playing detective.
On the other hand The
Unquiet Bones by Marie O’Reagan is, fortunately, a
straightforward piece, although rather conventional, set in a
forsaken monastery where old bones are in waiting.
Johnny Mains himself
contributes The Rookery, a flimsy story in which a divorced
gamekeeper hunting with his young son (Sean? Shaun? The name keeps
changing during the course of the narrative) meets with a truly
horrific but rather unintelligible ending.
Now it’s time to take
a walk on the bright side. Paul Kane provides the tense, well
crafted The Between, featuring a group of people trapped in an
elevator, facing an inexplicable horror lurking in the surrounding
Joe watched in
horror as Carter grabbed the first thing he could to steady himself:
Elaine’s arm. As he fell backwards, his head crossed the barrier
between the light of the lift and the darkness beyond it. Then, the
next image: his head was gone. It hadn’t simply vanished, though,
because as Joe looked more closely he could see the teeth that had
plunged into Carter’s shoulder. Then the two, white eyes opened
just above this. Blood exploded from the wound, splattering the
entrance of the lift.
Kane displays a
remarkable ability to depict credible characters dealing with a
terrifying situation and to hold the reader’s attention throughout
the whole story.
Wary as I am of zombie
tales I was immediately and completely mesmerized by David A Riley’s
His Pale Blue Eyes. In this cruel, gripping tale a smart brave
young girl fights hard to save her parents from the attack of a bunch
of zombies in a world going crazy.
Her parents had told
her to stay indoors. But it was dark and scary. She could hear them,
the things she thought of as zombies, even though her parents forbad
her to use that word. They were outside, groaning, shuffling,
sniffing at the walls. They were nearly always there, especially at
night…… Her father and mother had been gone for hours now,
scavenging for supplies. They were not usually gone so long and
Allison had begun to feel worried.
The highlight of the
book is penned by Reggie Oliver, by now a recognized master of dark
fiction. His contribution, The Brighton Redemption is a tragic,
outstanding tale of sin and redemption with a ghostly undercurrent.
As usual in Oliver’s work the characterization is excellent and
the storytelling simply terrific.
There is nothing
exceptional about Alice Southern. She is neither beautiful nor ugly
and she has a simple, honest face as I would like to see on a wife of
mine if I ever marry….She looks younger than her thirty five years,
though perhaps it would be truer to say that she seems to belong to
no particular age….The only indication that she has lived a less
than contented life is to be found in her mouth which is long,
thin-lipped and has been formed into a perfect downward curve, a kind
of permanent smile in reverse.
Riley’s and Oliver’s
stories alone are worth the price of the book. If you’re looking
for top notch dark fiction you’d better hurry and buy it, because
the print run is only of 100 copies (and I can’t lend you mine,
since what I’ve got is just a pile of A4 sheets from a PDF file…)
|Mario Guslandi lives in Milan,
Italy. Most likely the only Italian who regularly reads (and reviews)
dark fiction in English, his book reviews have appeared in a number of
genre websites such as The Alien Online, Infinity Plus, The SF Site,
The Agony Column and Horrorworld.