Blurring The Line, ed. by Marty Young – Review by Greg Chapman

12003146_879319075487621_892517258321694034_nBlurring The Line

ed. by Marty Young

Cohesion Press

Review by Greg Chapman

Blurring the Line was definitely not the anthology I expected.

But, in this case, that’s a very good thing.

Described as a collection of fiction/non-fiction, Blurring the Line delivers on its intent of exploring the grey area between real and inventive horror, and in doing so, revealing just how diverse – and satisfying – horror fiction can be.

Commencing with probably the most definitive non-fiction piece, Tom Piccirilli’s Our Doom is Nigh, is a poignant and revelatory insight into his battle with cancer. From there though, the lines do indeed begin to blur. What follows are stories that delve into paranoia, witchcraft, cryptids, human anomalies, conspiracies and several cracking ghost stories.

Some of the stand-out tales included Lisa Morton’s Woollen Shirts and Gumboots, Tim Lebbon’s Clown’s Kiss, Miskatonic Schrödinger by Steven Lloyd Wilson, Consorting With Filth by Lisa L. Hannett, Hoarder by Kealan Patrick Burke, With These Hands by Brett McBean, The Body Finder by Kaaron Warren, Paul Mannering’s Salt on the Tongue and Annie Neugebauer’s Honey.

All in all, the selections by editor Marty Young, are inspired and several of the stories even managed to have me scanning Google to see if there was any truth to them.

The only negative – if there is one – was the inclusion of the “non-fiction” articles interspersed between the stories. Although I believe they were designed to give the reader a taste of the proceeding stories, I found the articles occasionally inhibited the flow of the stories. But this is just the reviewer’s personal opinion.

Blurring the Line is a very solid anthology of horror stories that certainly kept me enthralled and entertained and wondering what is truth and what is fiction.

Recommended.

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THE 11th BLACK BOOK OF HORROR – Reviewed by Mario Guslandi

11thblackbook_zpsbsssfok2THE 11th BLACK BOOK OF HORROR

Edited by Charles Black

Mortbury Press 2015

Reviewed by Mario Guslandi

The eleventh volume in the successful series edited and published by Charles Black continues to offer new, exciting material to horror fans, always with a distinct trend towards the more graphic aspects of horrific fiction.

The current instalment includes fourteen original tales penned by established authors in the field , whose contributions provide an effective source of shivers and disturbing sensations for many evenings of pleasantly scary reading.

Among the various stories assembled in the book, some have especially pleased your humble reviewer.

First of all I’d like to pinpoint “Two Five Seven” by Thana Niveau, a creepy tale where an old radio becomes the vessel to convey forbidden information about the relative of a little girl.

Another winner is Edward Pearce’s “ East Wickenden”, a sinister piece à la MR James, portraying a greedy man haunted by an inhuman creature seeking vengeance.

Equally worth mentioning is the excellent “Teatime” by Anna Taborska, a vivid horror story featuring a sadistic killer who finally gets his long due punishment.

Other, well crafted and accomplished tales are Stephen Bacon’s “Lord of the Sand” , depicting the well deserved fate of a stern former sergeant who served in Iraq, and David Williamson’s “And the Dead Shall Speak”, which revisits in an unusual way the time honoured subject of the séance by showing how a fraud gets in actual contact with a vengeful spirit.

The other contributors to the present volume are Tom Johnstone, John Llewellyn Probert, Kate Farrell, Stuart Young, David A Riley, Tony Earnshaw, Marion Pitman, Sam Dawson and John Forth.

Long live this hair-raising, delightful horror anthology series!

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Book of the Dead by Greig Beck – review by Geoff Brown

9781760082437_Book-of-the-Dead_cover1Book of the Dead

by Greig Beck

Momentum Books

(review by Geoff Brown)

Military horror. That’s what I like. Hell, that’s what I tend to publish through my own press. The term is pretty self-explanatory. Guys with guns shooting at things that shouldn’t exist. When you put it that way, it seems pretty basic, but it’s hard to pull off one of these tales without losing the reader. Things get too hard to believe, and then bam, the reader rolls their eyes and you’re lost them.

Australian writer of military horror Greig Beck manages to keep the reader engaged throughout his books, and I can tell you, that is hard considering some of the creatures that act as the villain in them. I’ve read Beck’s books since I first discovered This Green Hell, the third book in the Alex Hunter series, his most well-known works. As soon as I read that one, I raced off and found copies of the two earlier books, and then waited (somewhat impatiently) for the follow-ups. Since then, he’s written two more in that series, and a number of other books, all as exciting and thrilling as I had come to expect.

Book of the Dead is not an Alex Hunter novel. It follows a side character from that series, paleolinguist Matt Kearns, on a mission that even Hunter may not have survived. From the depths of history, word has carried through the ages of elder gods and of a time they will rise up. Many of the prophets of these events have been called mad, and to anyone listening to what they try to warn us of, they surely do seem insane. Yet… in this madness lies the seeds of a dangerous truth.

In our age, massive sinkholes begin to open across the globe, dragging anything on the surface down into the depths. When authorities investigate, they find no trace of any living thing. No bodies, no forensics… nothing. When these sinkholes start to get bigger and bigger, there are also reports of ‘things’ rising from the depths. As more and more people start to disappear, the government is forced to act. They recruit a team of specialists which includes Professor Kearns. The team explores one of the sinkholes, and find evidence to show that the ancient, elder gods are once again ready to rise from their ancient slumber. Their aim? Another catastrophic extinction event, just like the last few times they have risen. Life on Earth would cease to exist.

The team of military and civilian experts find themselves in a race against time, and against an unknown but powerful and ruthless enemy, to find the Book of the Dead before it’s too late.

Beck takes a man-made mythos, that of Cthulhu and the pantheon of elder gods he leads, and brings it blazing into the Twenty-First Century. Things that have only caused fear in legend and literature are now rising up to destroy the world. The characters are believable, the pacing is frantic, and the plotline is so incredible only a few authors could make it seem so believable. Beck is one of those authors. He has really hit his stride with Book of the Dead, and I cannot wait to see what he does with his next book.

– review by Geoff Brown

Geoff Brown AKA G.N. Braun is an Australian writer and Australian Shadows Award finalist-editor raised in Melbourne’s gritty Western Suburbs. He writes fiction across various genres, and is the author of many published short stories. He has had numerous articles published in newspapers, both regional and metropolitan. He is the past president of the Australian Horror Writers Association (2011-2013), as well as the past director of the Australian Shadows Awards. He is an editor and columnist for UK site This is Horror, and the guest editor for Midnight Echo #9.
His memoir, Hammered, was released in early 2012 by Legumeman Books and has been extensively reviewed. He is the owner of Cohesion Editing and Proofreading, and has now opened a publishing house, Cohesion Press.

Here With The Shadows by Steve Tasnic Tem – review by Mario Guslandi

mid_shadows1Here With The Shadows

by Steve Rasnic Tem

Swan River Press 2014

First Edition Hardcover, 165 pages

A review by Mario Guslandi

Here’s a short story collection by an American writer, published by a small British imprint, reviewed by an Italian reviewer and posted on an Australian website. Globalization has reached the world of dark fiction and this is a good thing because the present volume deserves to be enjoyed by as many readers as possible.

Steve Tem is a very prolific author of  “quiet” horror in its various shades, probing the secrets hidden in the human heart, which is the very source of any real horror. In his work you’ll hardly find monsters, gore and violence; you’ll find the sad, disquieting side of the horrors that affect our daily  life.

This particular collection is devoted to ghost stories, but, again, you won’t find here howling spectres lurking in old castles, but disturbing shadows lingering at the corners of our towns and cities. And most of those shadows are images of a past that still haunt our souls.

Among the fifteen tales assembled in the book, most are really outstanding examples of how good Tem is at his best.

The title story “Here with the Shadows” is a delicate, insightful piece where an old man lives his last days surrounded by a crowd of shadows, the shadows of the dead, while “A House by the Ocean” is a mesmerizing ghost story full of sorrow and despair, featuring two sisters separated for too long.

In the gentle  “G is for Ghost”, the main character is the ghost of a child, while in the subtly unnerving “Telling” the hidden secrets of a haunted house are finally disclosed.

“Back Among the Shy Trees” is an enigmatic, disturbing tale where a man returning to his now abandoned family house discovers some sinister facts about his long forgotten childhood.

“Seeing the Woods”, a story of intense lyricism, portrays an old semi-blind lady living in a cabin in the woods. Here the ghosts are those of her beloved trees burned down during a fire.

The nostalgic, melancholy “Smoke in a Bottle” depicts how the past is a ghost haunting our present and “Est Enim Magnum Chaos” is yet another great story about life and death, loneliness and old age, where people, as in the lyrics of the famous song “Ol’ Man River” are “tired of living but scared of dying”.

All great stuff.

-Review by Mario Guslandi

Caution: Contains Small Parts by Kirstyn McDermott – review

smallpartsCaution: Contains Small Parts

by Kirstyn McDermott

ISBN 978-1-922101-05-1

This book is a collection of four short stories by award-winning author, Kirstyn McDermott. There are themes here of gender and sexuality, damage and rehabilitation, but those themes never overpower the stories. It’s an excellent collection and well worth its recent Aurealis Award nomination.

McDermott is a powerful writer, evoking a great sense of place with all her work and her characters are well-drawn and fully realised. I found the writing in this collection to be a little less poetic than some of her other work, like the novel, Madigan Mine, for example, but no less impactful for that difference. And she retains her masterful use of language, the occasional phrasing that’s just so electrically right.

The four stories here are all bordering on horror and reality, skating that thin line between the real and the fantastic.

What Amanda Wants follows the trials of a counselor who has fluffed her way through actual qualifications because she has a supernatural ability to see to the very heart of people’s issues and actually, physically relieve them of those burdens. Until she is presented with Amanda, a troubled young woman whose walls are so solid, the powerful counselor can’t see anything through them.

In Horn, we have an unusual narrative broken into parts – regular storytelling, interviews, excerpts from academic papers – all slowly building the picture of a writer who hit the big time with a big fat fantasy series about warring unicorns and the problems that’s brought him. Very interesting asides into fantasy gender tropes in this story, but the format didn’t quite work for me as well as I might have hoped.

The title story, Caution: Contains Small Parts, is a poignant and disturbing horror story about a man haunted by a toy dog. He tries to get rid of it and can’t, it keeps coming back and will clearly continue to do so until he stops and works out what it wants. This is a very sad story, and powerfully written.

The final story is a long one, novelette length, I think, called The Home For Broken Dolls. This is a truly disturbing story about those realistic sex dolls that many people collect and truly obsess over. It’s told form the point of view of Jane, a woman horribly disfigured and traumatised in a moment of domestic violence, who has found peace in refurbishing damaged dolls. This story received a nomination for Best Horror Short Story in the Aurealis Awards as well as the collection as a whole getting a nod in the Best Collection category. You can see why. This is by far my favourite story in the book. McDermott does a great job in normalising the fetishes of these people, as of course, their fetish is entirely normal to them. It’s also very much on the border between literary/fantastic fiction and horror. It’s not a horror story like you’d expect, the darkness subtle and almost hidden behind the fantastic and the allegorical. But it is a truly excellent tale. And quite disturbing.

This is a great collection and a testament to McDermott’s skill. Highly recommended.

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