A strong and all-too short collection here, with Aberrations ranging from shocking and surreal, to scary and even heart-breaking. Not a duff story among them, although particular standouts were, ‘Bug House’, ‘The Hounds of Love’ and ‘Bus People’. ‘Goat Boy’ by Jeremy C Shipp also requires a re-read or two, as he continues to push the boundaries of surreal and disturbing storytelling. Most of these would also make excellent TV episodes, along the lines of the much-missed Masters of Horror. Strongly recommended for any fan of the frightening, horrific and bizarre.
Also, that cover is brilliant.
Money Well Earned by Joseph Nassise
The notorious Mothman is a very usual case for a professional hitman, and his hunt doesn’t pan out quite how he expects. An effective and genre-bending story with a slick resolution.
*Bug House by Lisa Tuttle
Eeeew. Gross, horrible, and excellent. Some deeply unpleasant, squelchy body horror gets superbly carried off, more by suggestion than graphic detail, and it’s all the more icky for that. You came here for uncomfortable, and now you’ve got it. Shudder.
The Thing in the Woods by Nate Kenyon
The first of two ‘couple hit monster with their car’ stories in this collection. With its domestic abuse aspects, there’s a dash of Stephen King in its DNA, but this is very much its own beast. Fighting to survive can bring out the best and the worst in people. It also refuses to easily answer who you should think the real monster is. Great writing.
Survivors by Joe McKinney
This deals with the human cost and emotional fall out following a worldwide zombie holocaust. A soldier revisits old and painful memories of someone he tried to save. Emotional stuff that doesn’t skimp on the gore, as well as adeptly handling the character’s post traumatic stress and survivor’s guilt.
The Hounds of Love by Scott Nicholson
The toughest, most rewarding story here. Disturbed, nightmarish, and extremely sad, it’s very hard to read (content-wise) and yet utterly compelling. You’ll need a strong stomach for the quite graphic description of animal cruelty, yet if you stick with it the payoff more-than compensates. Deftly delivered and brilliantly written, with complex layers of darkness. Love is truly all around.
Goat Boy by Jeremy C Shipp
It’s about a goat boy. Who, er…well, he….look, just read it, ok? I’ll get back to you. Maybe you can explain it. Because this was great. Yes, I liked it. Huh? No, I did. Supreme surrealism as always, recommended despite the inevitable head-scratching. I may have to re-read again. And again. Strange relationships get pulled through every possible dimension. There’s a goatlike-man, who…look, let’s just go with it.
Tested by Lisa Morton
The second ‘couple hit a monster with a car’ story from a very different viewpoint. This time it’s all from a male perspective. After a dreadful car crash in an isolated spot, a mild-mannered husband has to dig for his long-buried courage in order to make it through a terrifying ordeal. A very solid survival story.
Bus People by Simon Wood
A totally accurate portrayal of the population one generally encounters when using public transport, albeit taken to gruesome extremes. Marvellously grotesque, displaying a fine eye for the freakishly uncomfortable. Bus journeys really are just like this. Highly recommended.
Beggars at Dawn by Elizabeth Massie
A former soldier confronts his guilt and trauma after surviving the trenches, receiving support from an unexpected quarter. This is a gentler story about the healing of the human spirit, and it feels noticeably different to the rest of the stories in this collection, but it’s effectively written and well worth a look.
From Hamlin to Harperville by Kealan Patrick Burke
A very famous fairy-tale gets a disturbing modern update, although it’s really more of a ‘what happened next’ piece. Can a monster really live as a human? Can they ever escape what they are and what they did? Creepily effective, and fully in the spirit of the original children’s story.