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Horror Library, Volume 3 Paperback

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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
Great Literary Horror 19 Jan. 2010
By Nancy O. Greene - Published on
Format: Paperback
*Full disclosure: I'm a contributor to Dark Recesses magazine, which is a part of Cutting Block Press, the publisher of the Horror Library Series.

When I set out to buy HLV3, I knew it would be good. I was familiar with some of the names, so anything less would have been a surprise. But what I didn't expect was it to be one of the best literary horror anthologies I've read in a long time.

R.J. Cavender and Boyd E. Harris start off the anthology with an introductory short tale about some of the gruesome things that can happen in real life. Not the monsters hiding under the bed, not the shifting demonic shadows, but the terrifying things that happen in broad daylight, the things that invade the mind or the body or the sanctuaries we as human beings seek. As I was reading, I wondered how all of the vignettes would come together, and, while surprised to find the true meaning behind the bits and pieces, I was not disappointed.

There are 30 stories in all, and I hardly know where to begin to break down the types of tales one will find in this volume. A few stories stood out to me because of their unusual flavor (or the unusual events surrounding the reading of the story, but more on that later) and others just stunned me with the way they grabbed onto the insides and never let go. While I may not delve deeply into each any every one in this review (though I may go back and review each one individually in bite sized chunks), I can say that they're all excellent and that any fan of literary horror should give this anthology a try.

One of the first stories I read was "The Apocalypse Ain't So Bad" by Jeff Strand. It was a scary laugh riot. Strand's apparent talent for combining self-help mantras and attitudes with the grotesque really shines. Almost anything with zombies will get my interest, and the writing in this one is sharp, with all of the elements combining to deliver a delightful, literary, well-crafted story. With zombies.

"Toll" by Blu Gilliand is probably one of my favorite stories for the book, as much for the writing as for the somewhat spooky and hilarious personal experience had while reading it aloud. The storytelling is precise and creates scenes of despair, anger, confusion, and revenge as each piece of the puzzle unfolds through the short appearances of ghostly characters. It all leads the protagonist on her own short journey to uncover the truth of her child's suffering. An emotional and gratifying story of both compassion and revenge. On a personal note, the story itself may be haunted. Strange things happened while reading this story. Needless to say, it should not be read out loud or while around any electronic devices. (I'm only half kidding about the previous three sentences.)

"Blink the Blood Away" by R.M. Ridley is a very short but effectively chilling story about a man that can't seem to get images of violence and death out of his mind. The story follows closely with the main character and the reader is carried along on his torrent of mental anguish as he tries to separate reality from fantasy. The story comes full circle with a gruesome and solemn ending that sends chills down the spine.

Sunil Sadanand's "Them" is both creepy and emotional. The pain that the character goes though as he loses control is palpable and Sadanand's writing displays the gut-wrenching agony in a beautiful light.

"After" is a tricky story that leads the reader down one path and surprises with another. At first it seems to be a school tale ripped from the headlines, but it turns out to be something more complicated. True to the theme of this anthology, this story isn't so much about the external as it is about the internal, the experience behind it all. Kealan Patrick Burke doesn't disappoint as the story delivers the revealing conclusion.

All of the stories in this anthology deliver. Whether dealing with mysterious dead bodies (Bentley Little's "The Station") or the revenge of the dead against the greedy ("Teeth" by A.C. Wise), each story had something worthwhile to offer up to the reader. It may not be everyone's cup of tea, but it is certainly a well-crafted anthology that deserves recognition.
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