Saturday, November 4, 2017

Dark Screams Vol. 8 edited by Brian James Freeman and Richard Chizmar

"Dark Screams Vol. 8" edited by Brian James Freeman and Richard Chizmar 

Dark Screams Vol. 8 was edited by Brian James Freeman and Richard Chizmar.  Published by Hydra an imprint of Random House. 

This anthology had six stories total.  The anthology opened up with "Walpuski's Typewriter."  A fairly strong story.  A good opener for this anthology.  Followed were the stories "The Boy," "Tumor," "Twisted and Gnarled," and "The Palaver."  Ending the anthology was "India Blue" which I found to be the weakest story of the set. 

This was a horror themed anthology as if the title didn't give that away.  Rest assured these were horror stories.  I did find them to be on the softer side of the horror spectrum though.  Nothing too hardcore or extreme. 

In fact, I found a couple of the stories that didn't quite feel like horror to me at all.  They had a little bit of the horror genre in them, but very subtlety.  A couple I would have called thrillers more than horror.  This was definitely a mixed bag of stories in this anthology. 

Overall the writing of the stories was average, with the exception of one story that was poorly written in my opinion.  Nothing really stood out to me with most of the stories and they were done to expectation.  Sometimes that is a good thing.  There was no roller coaster of writing skills in this anthology.  They were all pretty solid in their delivery. 

The exception to the writing be solid was "India Blue."  I found this to be poorly written and very confusing.  I didn't find anything about the story entertaining and spent most of my time wondering what the hell was going on.  I was disappointed to see this as the closing story in the anthology.  I think it could leave a bad taste in people's mouth after reading some decent stories before it.  I wish they would have left this story out of the anthology and, or, replaced it with a different story.  That's how it goes sometimes though. 

For the price I found this to be an excellent buy.  I was given a copy for a review, but the price of the e-book is a fair price for what you get.  You get some good stories that are worth the price by themselves, the rest are just extra bonuses. 

If you enjoy hardcore horror, this probably won't be the anthology for you.  If you enjoy the slightly mysterious, the slightly thrilling, all of them with an undertone of the dark you will enjoy this anthology.  I don't think you can go wrong for some quick entertainment with this anthology. 

I give reviews of each of the stories for this anthology on my website: www.afantasymuse.com . 

Thursday, November 2, 2017

Twisted and Gnarled by Billie Sue Mosiman

"Twisted and Gnarled" by Billie Sue Mosiman 


This story was from "Dark Screams: Vol 8" edited by Brian James Freeman and Richard Chizmar.  Published by Hydra an imprint of Random House. 

Which number will you be?  This was a story about a serial killer and his victims.  A serial killer who refers to his victims as numbers... just numbers.  How much more can you disassociate yourself from what you're doing than not even naming your victims.  

This serial killer story was not just your run of the mill serial killer story.  The story was a serial killer with a paranormal twist.  The story gave me a familiar feeling like I was reading a Dean Koontz novel.  The same type of paranormal twists that he would use.  Just subtle enough to make it believable, but just enough to give it the supernatural feel. 

The story was told from two perspectives.  The story switched perspective with a Him/Her heading to the respective sections.  The him was the serial killer's perspective.  The her was related to a victim.  Mostly the story was told from the perspective of the serial killer.  That's where we spent most of our story time. 

The serial killer was a literal genius.  Based on testing he was well above the average I.Q. of most people.  He liked to pride himself on his intelligence.  He also liked to pride himself on being smarter than the police.  He liked to play games with the police and know that he pulled off the perfect murder.  The perfect crime.  Until the day he made mistake number one.  And mistake number one led to mistake number two.  Number two was his undoing. 

The serial killer liked to follow his victims and get a feel for their activities.  Then he would make his move and kill his victim.  After his kill he liked to pose the victims for the police to find.  The pose is all part of the game for the serial killer. 

One day he was walking along the beach and found a piece of driftwood.  It had a gnarled, knobby, end with a razor-sharp point on the other end.  The idea struck him immediately.  This would be his next weapon for the next number on his list. 

After seducing a woman and leading her to a beach he killed her exactly as he planned.  He used the gnarled and twisted piece of driftwood to stab her to death.  After he committed his crime he made mistake number one.  The next day on the news they mentioned his mistake and the serial killer went crazy with self-hatred of making a mistake. 

He decided to press on and go after another victim.  This time he found a victim and followed her to a bar.  Here his victim was at the bar with her mother.  After some pleading for her daughter to come home with her, the mother eventually left.  After a while the victim finally left the bar.  While on her way home she met her demise.  This was mistake number two. 

The mother has psychic visions.  These visions led her on a chase with the serial killer and a game of cat and mouse.  This mother was the her part of the story when the perspective changes. 

The rest of the story is the cat and mouse game they play with each other.  Who will come out the victor?  The serial killer who is smart and always one step ahead of his prey?  Or a mother determined to take revenge and the man who killed her daughter? 

This was a great serial killer short story.  I very much enjoyed this story.  This was one of the longer stories in the anthology, but felt like one of the shorter ones.   Pages just kept turning and I was wondering what would happen next. 

I liked the writing style the author had.  The style made the story very easy to read and everything flowed smoothly from section to section.  Never was there a time I felt lost or confused.  The style was easy to read without much fluff or overdone big word language that seems to put speed bumps in paragraphs. 

If you like serial killer stories you'll like this story.  If you enjoy cat and mouse stories, you'll enjoy this story.  Overall, even if you don't this wouldn't be a bad story to start with because I think you'll enjoy the story.  If you get the chance to read this story don't pass it up.  Give it a go, I don't think you'll be disappointed

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

India Blue by Glen Hirshberg

"India Blue" by Glen Hirshberg  
  
This story was from "Dark Screams: Vol 8" edited by Brian James Freeman and Richard Chizmar.  Published by Hydra and imprint of Random House.  
  
Not sure what to make of this story.  To be honest I wasn't even sure what the hell was going on during most of what was being read.  A lot of mindless cricket chatter and descriptions that didn't really seem to convey much.  I was too busy trying to make sense of the writing and the style to even catch much of what was being described.  
  
A man, Mr. Sifuentes, was called to do a DJ, or announcement, gig at the local stadium, The Fault.  There was a new professional cricket league that was starting up in San Bernardino and he was going to be there for the opening day.    
  
Upon arriving at the parking lot Mr. Sifuentes could see two groups of people at opposite ends of the stadium parking lot.  They were rough looking and at least one of them had a gun. They were local gang members expecting the parking lot to be empty tonight.  Probably a gang war, nothing new in San Bernardino.  He went about his business and parked in the lot. 
  
That’s when the new owner of the league saw him and came running over to greet him.  Due to his extremely blue shirt, Mr. Sifuentes decided to call him Blue Shirt, or Mr. Blue.  That’s how their relationship started.  
  
Mr. Blue was a whimsical man, but serious, especially about cricket, his cricket, the American Rockin’ Cricket League.  He was also quite excitable.  He wouldn’t stop moving and talking and giving directions to any and all who would listen to him and some of those who wouldn't. 
  
Mr. Blue and Mr. Sifuentes seemed to hit it off right away.  They had a mutual respect for each other.   
  
After Mr. Sifuentes arrived and he and Mr. Blue got the pleasantries out of the way they got down to brass tax.  Mr. Blue was told that Mr. Sifuentes would have the keys to all the stuff in the stadium, have a security team, and everything else under the sun that someone would need to run a proper sports event.  Mr. Sifuentes told him the bad news. He had none of those things.  Mr. Sifuentes was able to at least get Mr. Blue and his teams into the stadium.  That’s about where the rest fell flat.  That didn’t seem to bother Mr. Blue though and the game went on as scheduled. 
  
While the game was going on, a few very special visitors arrived to the game.  Mr. Blue was ecstatic to see them arrive.  He told Mr. Sifuentes that this was an honor to have them there.  The Destroyer as he was known to most people in the cricket leagues was an administration god.  He turned around everything he touched into a more profitable situation. 
  
There were a few other people arriving as well, but they were in the parking lot.  A large group of people on both sides of the parking lot were growing as the minutes wore on.  Something was brewing and it wasn’t good.  Could it be the end of cricket, or just the start? 
  
The game of cricket was going on and was a weird mix of playing cricket and antics by the players for show.  It was some of these antics that made the game fun and also brought an abrupt end to everything, even a few lives. 
  
Cricket would be the catalyst for so many people in the story and also be the detriment of a few. 
  
I try not to write bad reviews, I try to keep them neutral and look for the positive in what I did read or find.  I had a hard time with this story.  The story didn’t flow well and was not very smooth. There was something off about the writing style.  The story seemed to jump around and used a lot of description that was unnecessary which led to confusion.  The author could have done a much better job with his description and pace of the story. 
  
There was also a sense that the one reading the story should be familiar with the game of cricket.  In defense of the author he did try to give the basics of the game in the story, but it just didn’t work.  More confusion, more jumping around, more antics. You were left re-reading paragraphs trying to figure out what the hell was going on.  
  
Overall, I was very disappointed with this story.  This was the last story in the anthology and sadly it left a bad taste in my mouth.  The rest of the anthology was pretty decent, but I left the entire book with this story in my brain.  Not how I wanted to end a book. 
  
Give it a shot if you want, or like cricket.  Maybe you can see the polished gems that I mistook for rough rocks.  How this story made it past the editor in my opinion baffles me.  Then again that is just me.  I’m not an editor or a professional in the literature field.  I just read and know what I like and don’t like.  And I didn’t like this story. 

All That Robot Shit by Rich Larson

"All That Robot Shit" by Rich Larson   All That Robot Shit was first published in Asimov Magazine, August 2016,  issue  ...