Monday, December 14, 2015

13 Horrors: A Book Review

13 Horrors, edited by Brian A. Hopkins, has the subtitle, A Devil’s Dozen Stories Celebrating 13 Years of the World Horror Convention and let me assure you that the majority of the writing is top notch. If you enjoy literary prowess, you have found a wonderful foray into the art right here by some genuine masters of the craft.

Everything Broken, by Edward Bryant: a psychological tale of a young woman coming to terms with angst and loss. It is very well written, but though there is a fantastic element to the story, I am hard pressed to call it horror. In fact, if the tale did not start with the theme of suicide, I would be hard pressed to even call it dark fantasy.

Wandering Child, by the late Melanie Tem features an unreliable narrator who is foster mother to a gathering of some very strange children.

Anti-Claus, by Graham Masterton is a retelling of the story of Santa Claus and though I had to suspend quite a bit of disbelief as to the motives of the narrator, the retelling of the legend was certainly interesting.

Pritty-Pritty, by Jessica Amanda Salmonson is about a mentally ill woman driven even more mentally ill by her neighbor’s little yappy dog, a sentiment and experience I can understand.

The Place of Revelation, by Ramsey Cambell with a young boy visiting relatives was reminiscent of the best of Welsh writer Arthur Machen.

The Sacerdotal Owl, by Michael Bishop was more of a dark fantasy romance than horror, but different readers may disagree about this tale of a young woman traveling to a war-torn Central American country to marry her archeologist-fiancé.

The Ice Prince, by Chelsea Quinn Yarbro is certainly not a horror tale and though very well written by a proven master, it would have been more at home between the covers of Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine.

Conner Versus Puppet Head on Killmaster 3, by John Shirley deals ith a young boy who is addicted to video games and what happens when his friend brings a modification to his gaming console that brings the playing up to another level.

Cookies for Mr. Carson, by Nina Kiriki Hoffman is a subtle horror story that I had to reread twice to fully grasp what had happened to the young narrator with his creepy neighbor.

Gross Out Contest, by Michael Slade (the pen name of Canadian author Jay Clarke) is exactly that. A segment of a novel, it opens with an introduction to the World Horror Convention’s annual Gross Out Contest and the story is just that: repugnant to the extreme.

Black Shoes, by Gene Wolfe is a portal story and a meandering one. It touches on so many subjects as a reader I was hard-pressed to sum up the short story simply and succinctly.

The Bereavement Photographer, by Steve Rasnic Tem is an odd little offering more into the realm of fantasy than horror with its subject of an amateur photographer who takes pictures of grieving families with their deceased loved ones. Certainly creepy, but I am reluctant to call it horror.

For My Birthday, Another Candle, by the late Charles L. Grant tells the story of a man enduring the horror of his fortieth birthday with its reminder of encroaching mortality.

Like all anthologies, 13 Horrors is a mishmash of tales, wildly deviating in quality and emphasis. Not all comfortably fit into the horror genre, but as I said, there is no denying the literary prowess of the majority of contributors.

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