I liken short story anthologies to a supermarket trip – you go in for what you want, see things you don’t like and often come away with something extra you didn’t know you liked in the first place. An odd analogy perhaps, but you get my drift I’m sure. In other words, in Full Throttle by Joe Hill, there were some stories I liked, some I didn’t like at all and a couple of nice surprises.
Too early for Christmas, I hear you say?
Well, maybe. But there’s no escaping it – supermarkets’ seasonal aisles have sprung up before we’ve even thought of storing our summer clothes, and social media’s awash with panic-inducing adverts for Christmas Day dinner (“If you don’t book now, you’ll be eating beans on toast!”). We have two options – embrace it or ignore it, but reading material, I argue, is a different matter.
Small-town weirdness meets supernatural thriller in screenwriter Michael Rutger’s The Possession, a sequel to The Anomaly, which was released in 2018. Hands up – I have not read The Anomaly, so came to this cold. Despite a few small mentions about the climax of the last book, which of course meant nothing to me, I did not suffer. Rutger doesn’t labour the point, and just gets on with the business of a new adventure.
“It’s my experience that we all have a secret heart, even brutes.”
This quote from Nathan Ballingrud’s Wounds not only sums up this cleverly connected collection but is also, perhaps, a comment on humanity; a theme the author has elegantly expounded through some genuinely disturbing stories. Wounds: Six Stories from the Border of Hell is exactly as it says on the cover, and we end where we start, leaving the reader with an immensely satisfying feeling.
We readers of what’s broadly labelled horror fiction have seen it all. We know a creak on the stair means trouble, that a glint of metal in a darkened doorway isn’t going to end well. To keep us on our toes, to have us constantly guessing at what’s about to happen, whether we are even being told the truth, is a skill, and one John Langan has in spades. Sefira and Other Betrayals is a masterful collection of the weird and eerie; seven visions of personal hells, peppered with some perfectly crafted killer lines.
Parapsychology professor Philip Goodman doesn’t believe in the paranormal – do you? From the very beginning, Ghost Stories tells you the supernatural is a trick of the mind but then presents a three-part fable that pushes rationality to its limits.