Friday, March 5, 2010

[Review Anthology] Dead Souls: Part 1

Title: Dead Souls
Editor: Mark S. Deniz
Pages: 286
Genre: Horror / Dark Fiction
Anthology: 25 Stories
Publisher: Morrigan Books

Dead Souls contains twenty five stories that will only ensure the darkness without enfolds you in its cold embrace…beware…be ready…be damned! Before God created light, there was darkness. Even after He illuminated the world, there were shadows — shadows that allowed the darkness to fester and infect the unwary. The tales found within Dead Souls explore the recesses of the spirit; those people and creatures that could not escape the shadows. From the inherent cruelness of humanity to malevolent forces, Dead Souls explores the depths of humanity as a lesson to the ignorant, the naive and the unsuspecting. God created light, but it is a temporary grace that will ultimately fail us, for the darkness is stronger and our souls…are truly dead.


CONTENTS

Bernie Mojzes The Collector
T. A. Moore Licwiglunga
Carole Johnstone The Blind Man
Tom English Dry Places
Sharon Irwin Begin with Water
Robert Holt In the Name
William Ward When they Come to Murder Me
Chris Johnstone The Unbedreamed
Elizabeth Barrette Goldenthread
Catherine J. Gardner When the Cloak Falls
Anna M. Lowther The Price of Peace
James R. Stratton Your Duty to your Lord
Kenneth C. Goldman Mercy Hathaway is a Witch
Lisa Kessler Immortal Beloved
Lisa Kessler Subito Piano
Michael Stone The Migrant
Robert Hood Sandcrawlers
Reece Notley Tatsu
L. J. Hayward Wayang Kulit
Rebecca Lloyd Contaminator
Ramsey Campbell The Dead Must Die
Stephanie Campisi The Ringing Sound of Death on the Water Tank
Paul Finch June
Gary McMahon A Shade of Yellow
Kaaron Warren The Blue Stream

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Anthologies, always give me a run for my money, when I sit down to write review, because I am usually left with more to say than the review as a format allows before it struggles to reach a conclusion. I seek ways to segment the anthology and then dissect the segments. With ‘Dead Souls’ this process is obsolete, since all the stories are arranged, according to topic, which is both helpful and speaks about the great care editor Mark Deniz has arranged the material in order to give the anthology an overall storytelling frame. The segments are Genesis, Once Upon a Time, The Beast Within, The Beast Without and Then…

This post will be dedicated to Genesis. The stories here develop at the dawn of civilization in general and use world mythology as a foundation, which in turn gives these stories a myth-like essence. I am especially impressed with the diversity of lore and mythology to be found. We have Slavic, Biblical, Norse, Arabic and Sumerian cultures, with which the authors here enthrall, disturb or chill.

‘The Collector’ by Bernie Mojzes is the perfect opening story. It features the infamous witch Baba Yaga, who is an everlasting figure in Slavic folklore and incidentally indigenous to my country’s culture. It was a most pleasant surprise to see a name from my childhood envisioned as a story collector, which puts a dark twist to her role in this story, where Byzantium soldiers lay waste to a Slavic village.

‘Licwiglunga’ by T.A. Moore captivates with lyrical prose and a journey that takes the reader to Yggdrasil, the World Tree, where the old nun Gutrid, former spae-wife, must bargain with Loki himself for a soul. Heavy with mythological facts and a cold beauty, evoked by the prose and Moore’s creativity, this story is a breath-taker, especially with its ending, where the guilty receive their punishment.

The opening stories speak of dead souls in a more literal sense, ‘The Blind Man’ by Carole Johnstone decides to explore the dead soul in a more metaphorical sense, while holding on the supernatural element. In this story Duncan’s family is plagued every night by a dark being, which rapes and hurts his wife, but disappears at dawn, when Duncan returns from fishing trips with his ship. The revelation, where the darkness comes from, is interesting, although I am not particularly fond of nautical themes.

‘Dry Places’ by Tom English continues the metaphorical trend with a Christian tale, where I believe the dead soul stems from unbelief in the mythology that comes with Christianity. The setting is a desert journey with an important mission, carried by the Church’s holiest warriors, who become attacked at night by unholy forces. Not sure what’s the story’s message was by leaving the sole non-believer in the demonic Mateo alive, but I enjoyed it nonetheless.

‘Begin with Water’ by Sharon Irwin gauged my interest with a mysterious Arabian setting, but I am not sure what this story was completely about. The ending read like a very different version of the great Biblical Flood, which started as childbirth. If I had better understanding of the lore, perhaps this wouldn’t perplex me so.

‘In the Name’ by Robert Holt and ‘When they Come to Murder Me’ by William Ward are the shortest among the stories in Genesis. Holt presents a rather brutal insight to Sumerian human sacrificial rituals, which although a few pages long is a punch to the gut with a twist ending, which is most unpleasant. Ward’s story, however, was not my cup of tea. I was not pulled in as much as I would have liked to and the protagonist does not make much sense to either.

So far, ‘Dead Souls’ has had a terrific start with Genesis as a solid foundation.

4 comments:

cj said...

Okay, that one would've lost me on the cover alone, never mind I'm not crazy about anthologies!

cjh

Bookfool said...

Ha! I was going to say the same thing. That is one seriously creepy cover. I like short stories, though.

Harry Markov said...

I know you don't like horror, so I am not surprised you would pass this one up.

The cover, I believe, is quite gorgeous.

Lenore said...

Yikes! Now my eye hurts!

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