Cern Zoo
Edited  by D F Lewis

Megazanthus press
2009, Paperback

Authors: Rosalind Barden, Gary McMahon, Amy Kinmond, Tim Nickels, Bob Lock, Lesley Corina, Jacqueline Seewald, Dominy Clements, A.J. Kirby, Brendan Connell, Daniel Ausema, Gary Fry, Mick Finlay, Robert Neilson, Steve Duffy, Geoff Lowey Stephen Bacon,  Rod Hamon, Lee Hughes, Lyn Michaud, Tony Lovell, A.C. Wise, Roy Gray, Travis K. Weltman

"Maybe the ancient fables don’t hold water anymore. Maybe a change has come upon us and nothing’s safe in its cage"

Reviewed by Mario Guslandi

Now at its ninth instalment, the Nemonymous series continues to represent a challenge for those reviewers who might be influenced by the authors' names (here, as always, not linked to any specific story). And if it's not hard to recognize a great story, even if penned by an unknown writer, it may be harder not to forgive a favourite writer for contributing a mediocre piece. So, in the end, famous writers and timid reviewers are those taking more chances when accepting to deal with temporary anonymity. Being neither of the above, I'm facing once more the task of commenting upon an extremely varied anthology, this time loosely revolving around the assigned "theme" of Cern Zoo (whatever it may actually mean).

The volume assembles twenty-four stories covering such genres as SF, horror, fantasy or simply mainstream fiction, some longish, some very short, apt to satisfy the taste of different readers. Quality also varies and without meaning offence to anyone, I'll mention only the tales that to me seem to be more remarkable.

Artis Eterne is a peculiar story set in a British pub hosting a regular "customer" who tries to live for ever. Implausible as it may sound, the tale does work thanks to the author's excellent narrative ability. The Last Mermaid is a delightful historical piece portraying the life and death of Carlo II, King of Spain. In the well crafted Being of Sound Mind a mysterious little girl bursts into the lonely existence of an old retiree.

Salmon Widow provides a captivating, back and forth ride across the life of a woman whose fate seems to be tightly connected with salmons. Even though the flashback technique appears occasionally confusing, it's a really good story by a talented storyteller. Horror fans will appreciate The Devourer of Dreams, an offbeat tale where an alien creature living in a wooden box sucks ideas and dreams from the human mind , producing, in return, a special milk endowed with uncommon properties.

City of Fashion is an excellent, delicate piece depicting a pub's small world with its main characters (bartender, regular customers etc). A tranche de vie drawn, in just a few pages, with a steady hand and a deep insight into the human condition. The compelling Fragment of Life is a modern ghost story deeply rooted in real life's daily troubles (financial problems, job shortage, marital difficulties).

The real standout of the anthology, however, is The Lion's Den, an exceptional piece of fiction where the anonymous author employs his/her firm, superior skill for storytelling to create a tense story full of menace, thrill and growing terror. Set in an actual zoo, the events take soon an unreal, inexplicable turn. This story alone would be worth the price of the volume, but since there is much more to enjoy, buy the book and start to feast.

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 Horrorwold.
mario's other Short Reviews: Simon Stranzas "Cold to the Touch"
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