There’s something about horror that really works in short story format. Don’t get me wrong, I do like a good horror novel especially at this time of year when the nights are drawing in the temperature slowly creeping down. I think I prefer, in general, horror in short format especially when there’s an interesting twist in the tale. I remember as a kid reading ghost story collections and though my love of sci fi took over, it has always been there.
Spectral Press are an independent publishing house who have had works nominated for British Fantasy Awards. They have published a number of novelettes and collections and this is their first anthology. Does it hold its own against the collections that boast much bigger names?
Most of these tales are dark and twisted, quite reminiscent of the 1980s TV series Tales of the Unexpected rather than M.R. James yet they also have a classic and timeless feel about them too. However, I can’t imagine some of these plots ever being commissioned on that show back then. It’s curious and I can’t quite put my finger on why the theme works so well, but work it does and if you like large volumes of short stories then you will almost certainly enjoy this. Some of the subject matter is a bit out there, some of it quite abstract and some of it more about shocks than scares, twisted rather than terrifying. It’s not so much a lazy Bank Holiday read as one you need a quiet, dark room with the lights dimmed – for concentration as much as atmosphere!
There are 19 stories here which are varied an interesting. From a nostalgic tour of The Beatles’ Liverpool, a dying woman who desperately wants to see the dog she gave away to her nephew, a woman who desperate needs a place to live rents a room for one week in a house full of weird old women, they present fairly simple premises and that is what is often so engaging about this style of horror. Sadly, I didn’t think all of these stories worked and a handful were not my sort of thing at all. Nothing really stood out as particularly great but none of them stood out as particularly bad either. I would say that my two favourites were The Book and the Ring and Eastmouth(which both had an MR James feel).
Most of my complaints are of personal taste, so I give this 4 stars rather than 3 stars.