Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Book Review: The Rare Anthology

As with any short story compilation, The Rare Anthology is something of a mixed bag. A collection of horror stories ranging from impressively brutal to disappointingly tame, the book's host Brian Knight (credited as "Compiled by") has assembled a bunch of horror stories with no discernible theme connecting theme, despite Knight's convoluted explanation in the introduction that the stories all contain "something rare." Of course, the reason for why the stories are included in the book isn't important, what's important is how good the stories are.

There are some truly choice cuts in this compilation, and three of them actually share a theme of obsessions. J. Newman's opening story, When Satan Sings Th' Blues (13 Sinful Selections From A Little South O' Heaven)...Vol. I., is a charming little tale about a vinyl record collector's ultimate find, a demonic blues album. Sasquatch Cafe, by the book's Compiler Brian Knight, is a cautionary tale of what happens when you push the boundaries of culinary experiences, and features a truly great twist ending. Then there is Funky Chickens by Drew Williams (The Corruptor), which explores the darker side of roadside attractions featuring mutated livestock. All three deliver on the promises made by the opening paragraph, the true sign of a competent short story writer.

Two other excellent entries delve into the battle-of-the-sexes, and takes 'battle' quite literally. Old Bones, Old Bones is a well-crafted examination of of battered women, emotional trauma and protective fetishes by Kim Guilbeau, while M.J. Euringer (The Jaws of Adanadelivers a cryptic yet compelling tale of power, desire, submission and dominance in The Jeweler. Both are a little deeper then your typical shock and slash stories, deserving of compilation if feminist-themed horror stories.

My personal favorite of the bunch, however, is Freak Gallery by Daniel W. Gonzales. A journalist's journey into the twisted world of a demented painter that can only end in madness, Gonzales' story is not only full of startling imagery, but features masterful lines that will attack your eyes and lay eggs in your brain, and that's what good writing is about.

The rest of the collection ranges from poor to passable, and is mostly populated by the usual suspects: killer plants, killer tattoos, family curses, medical torture, and brutal killers who have the tables violently turned against them. Not all of them are bad, but none of them brings anything fresh or new to the table. Even the Edgar Allen Poe parody at the end, The Tell-Tale Fart, is a bit longer than the joke demands.

Still, six out of seventeen isn't that bad of a ratio for a horror compilation. If nothing else, it fits into the book's theme after all: really good horror stories are a rare find indeed.

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