Friday, April 23, 2010

[Anthology Reviews] Dead Souls Part 4

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


“Dead Souls” does a follow-up on humanity and civilization. Each section examines a slice of the human condition and its fears in context of the literary form of the day; myths, fairy tales, urban legends and so on.

“The Beast Without” returns the reader to the familiar present with the drone of technology in the background and the emotionally barren silence within the cacophony and daily rush. Here the fears are closer to the reader, perhaps, hiding in our own closet in numerous variations and all sizes. “The Beast Without” is also the thickest segment with seven stories in total, and as such has proved to be a mixed bag of blessings.

"The Dead Must Die" by Ramsey Campbell, although competently executed, from what I read, pushed the wrong buttons, because of the fanatic Christian element. The concept behind the deformation of faith into something inhuman and monstrous has always fascinated me, but at the same time makes reading any story with it grossly uncomfortable. "The Ringing Sound of Death on the Water Tank" by Stephanie Campisi did not capture my interest. I couldn’t establish any connection with the prose and my reading was a dotted line of stutter starts and pauses.

"Contaminator" with fears of invading the personal space and the paranoia associated with diseases and "A Shade of Yellow", the post-traumatic stress of war, both fit the segment concept-wise and do so with a great understanding of how modern society has evolved into. Both stories have no faults in the prose department. I was impressed with the prose in "A Shade of Yellow" & Gary McMahon has morphed the consequences of the negative social opinion into a frightening meltdown, but both stories did not evoke an emotion in me. Maybe, because I thought "Contaminator" would be speculative fiction, but the mysterious narrative did not deliver, and maybe because "A Shade of Yellow" centered on modern warfare.

"Tatsu" shines as an exceptionally concept piece, observing a human behavior, all too familiar not to recognize. The protagonist is empty. He is misguided hunger, avarice and ambition to surpass himself. He fills the void through a whole body tattoo, turning his skin into a canvas in hopes to become something more through something, which does not come from within. His end is most deserving and though quite bloody in the story, the protagonist’s death serves as a metaphor for what happens to these people on a pure emotional level.

"June" is the longest piece. A plot driven, fast paced stomper, taking place in a no-go riot zone in the UK, where aggressive and violent behavior from the youth is a real problem. Violence has taken a more physical shape and the reader is treated to the best elements of the cop under genre along with gothic, almost Lovecraftesque supernatural dealings, which lead back to certain human sacrifice practices performed in June.

"Wayang Kulit" brings the reader back to the realm of myth, this time in exotic India. What starts as an innocent puppet show, imbued with religious mystery and charm, morphs into a life imitates art situation, where the narrator is treated to an ultimatum and a chance to reach spiritual revelation and alter his own behavior. This is an obvious story, but the beauty comes from the anticipation, the language and the satisfaction from the deserved fate to a conceited, materialistic person.

The anthology ends with "Blue Stream" by Kaaron Warren, an author I respect for her creativity. She looks ahead into the future, where teens are forced into the Blue Stream, where they hibernate until they reach adulthood. The story follows the integration society of the first Streamer generation through as witnessed by a young girl. It is a numbing journey, through a dystopian utopia of stale politeness, depriving the youth of life, leaving hollow men and women in the process. But it also ends on a positive note, which adds a power to the story.

Verdict: [B+] Diverse, well arranged and edited. You can’t make a wrong decision with this anthology.

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