Cutting Block Press / October 2008
Reviewed by: Martel Sardina
If you’re not sure what to get the horror lovers on your Christmas list this year, Horror Library: Volume 3 would be a welcome addition to most fans’ collections.
This reviewer was not sure what to expect from this anthology, having not read previous volumes. But with names like Bentley Little, Gary Braunbeck and John Everson gracing the table of contents, how could a reader go wrong? It wasn’t until this reader flipped to a story called “After” that she initially suspected the editors had.
Kealan Patrick Burke’s “After” is a story about a school shooter, a topic that this reviewer found fascinating when she discovered Richard Bachman’s “Rage” — but one that had lost its appeal as fiction became reality in schools across the country in recent years. It was hard to want to read this story. With all the media scrutiny on the various real-life cases, how could Burke spin the subject matter to add something new? Happily, Burke does just that, leaving the reader with an emotionally satisfying payoff at the end.
Frustrated by airport security procedures put in place in the wake of 9/11? Michael Arzen’s “Guarded” explains why you have more to fear when you don’t pass the initial screening process.
Have you ever wondered what drives people to starve themselves? In “The Living World,” C. Michael Cook explores the motivating force behind one woman’s eating disorder, and caused this reviewer to suffer a loss of appetite herself. The scariest thing about this story was the realization that the patient’s logic is true.
City dwellers avoid small town living for fear of a lackluster nightlife. In John Everson’s “Fish Bait,” two friends find out what they’ve been missing when a stop for food and camping supplies in a Podunk town goes horribly wrong.
The funniest story in the anthology is Jeff Strand’s “The Apocalypse Ain’t So Bad.” Strand’s protagonist is an optimist who can’t understand why the people left in his post-apocalyptic world aren’t thankful to have survived. Yes, there are mutants. But the lines at Disney World are now shorter. And thanks to the untimely demise of most of the world’s population, Barnes & Noble has now become his own personal library. What’s not to love? Even the dreaded mutant bite can’t get him down.
It’s not often that a book reviewer is the protagonist in a horror tale, though it stands to reason why an author might want to subject a book reviewer to torment and woe. Rick Moore’s “The Review” was the most enjoyable story to this reviewer on a personal level. Moore caused me to reassess why I chose to review books in the first place. Unlike Wilton, Moore’s renowned book critic, my intent was not to pontificate, but to learn something about the craft of writing by reading and analyzing other writers’ works and see if I could apply that knowledge to make my own writing better. It’s not known to the reader whether Wilton ever held that same intent, but it is clear that over the span of his career the joy he once derived from reading books has waned. And perhaps now, he only derives joy from the failure of others. The receipt of a strange book called “The Review” causes Wilton to take a hard look back at his own failures and to remember all that he’d hoped to forget.
If the quality of the stories selected for Horror Library: Volume 3 is any indication of what to expect from the series on the whole, readers may want to add the previous volumes to their Christmas wish lists as well.
Purchase Horror Library: Volume 3, edited by R.J. Cavender.