Friday, March 19, 2010

[Review Anthology] Dead Souls Part 3

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.


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

As ‘Dead Souls’ progresses, the reader steals through the streams of time and leaves the years of fairy tales and fears of the external behind to immerse himself in the horror that originates from within. As humanity builds upon civilization and catalogues explanations of everything that transpires, the horror does not come from the environment from the people, surrounding us. The Beast Within submerges the readers in this fear and in five distinct exposés stays true to the theme of the anthology, while casting limelight on the internal bestiary humans hide inside their ribcages, both metaphorically and literally.

In Mercy Hathaway is a Witch by Kenneth C. Goldman the reader is whisked away to Boston during the Salem Witch Trials, when women were feared, suspected and accused as vessels of Satan himself. The protagonist is a young Jonathan Browne, who is soon to inherit his father’s practice and marry his sweetheart Miss Amelia. However, his life is altered severely, when he escorts Amelia’s seamstress Mercy Hathaway. Though it starts off straightforward and rather predictable, Goldman has taken the witch theme and ran wild with a twist ending, which is most satisfying and grim.

The highlight in The Beast Within stems from Lisa Kessler’s involvement in the anthology. Her Immortal Beloved and Subito Piano are sibling short stories, which recall Anne Rice in setting, atmosphere and the sophistication of vampires rather their sexual objectification in recent years and novels. On the surface there is not much to these stories. The elements are all the same everywhere. Vampires with tortured pasts, humans who want immortality and angst bred with melancholy. However, only when read together as they are listed in Dead Souls can the reader appreciate the artistry and the play between works. Subito Piano acts as an echo as well as a sequel to what happens in Immortal Beloved, while in the same time the pianist, who unifies both pieces remains offstage and yet the reader can feel her presence.

The Migrant by Michael Stone offers supernatural insight as to how Adolf Hitler transformed into the monster Europe suffered under for so long. Considering Hitler’s personality I bought the concept Stone presented. The creativity and attention to detail invested in The Migrant as to mold the supernatural into historical reality as well as the use of Christian Mythology and black irony, impressed me. On the other hand, I never fancied World War II as a setting or as a theme, so I didn’t experience this story the same way as a World War II enthusiast and SFF enthusiast would.

Sandcrawlers by Robert Hood is bereft of speculative fiction. At least I would never classify it as speculative fiction and that almost made me drop it completely, but since it took place in the UK I pushed on to see what actually transpires in between the pages. Fine, so I established Hood’s story is not spec-fic, but still fits perfectly in the theme of the anthology and this segment. Because there’s no evident supernatural foul-play the horror here is starker, since all the atrocity and cruelty stems from an average, middle-aged man. It does not take too much to conclude that middle-aged males are quite common as a demographic and it is that realization that gives the extra punch.

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