I've read my fair share of horror compilations and anthologies, but rarely do I encounter a collection as well fleshed out as this. R.J. Cavender really went all out with this volume, presenting 30 interesting, unique, provocative, and - at some points - truly terrifying short stories to keep you up at night, and make you look at the world in a different way.
There's no real way to synopise something like this, but I can tell you that you're not going to waste your money if you pick this one up. The players involved run from little known authors, all the way to the more frequently seen names of the genre.
Here's an idea as to what you can expect:
Cavender and Boyd E. Harris start things off right with Lavese las Manos - an introduction that reads like a story itself. In fact, I thought I was reading a lead off story until the end, as what they present here are some seriously scary, chilling images of the world we live in.
Them, by Sunil Sadanand, tells the story of a man infected with a parasite not unlike the hairworms that you might find infecting/brainwashing an insect. Sadanand's take on this is obviously more intense - replacing the insect host with a human - resulting in an awesome display of his descriptive prowess.
Short Stacked, by Rodney J. Smith, a wicked little story about betting more than you can afford on a game. I loved this one. Smith's writing style is great and reminded me of Ketchum and some of the early Splatterpunk writers.
Being Supreme, by Mark Justice, gives us a little taste as to what it's like to sit down with God. A funny and dark little story - this one won't leave your brain any time soon.
The Station, by Bentley Little, has a great feel - written by a true master of the macabre. Little has given us a new perspective to think from when faced with the eternal question - what happens when we die? Truly unique.
Extra Innings, by John Peters, is a superb little story about a baseball team that never loses, and how far they will go to prove that. This was really a great treat, as I've rarely ever come across anything so refreshing and interesting in a horror anthology.
Fish Bait, by John Everson, is an awesome story that really has to be read by all. Everson's take on a backwoods little town and their dirty little secrets was a shining point in this book. I absolutely loved it.
The Apocalypse Ain't So Bad, by Jeff Strand, was - hands down - my favorite story in the whole book. A very funny, sarcastic, and...well...Jeff Strand take on the end of the world, from the perspective of a lone survivor. The world has been overrun with zombies, and the main character finds himself in several interesting situations. Personally, I think Strand should turn this story into a novel. You'll agree once you read it.
I have to say something about the cover here. I don't usually talk about artwork on this site mainly because I'm focussed on the content of the book itself - not the cover. But seriously, this series has some of the most incredible covers I have ever seen. The cover of Volume 3 (as you can see above) features a 3 faced priest with an inverted cross hanging from his neck. If that image doesn't stay with you for life, you've got to be blind. From what I've seen, every cover is incredible, and I would have these in my collection just for that fact alone.
Overall, this book is incredible. At no point did I feel I was reading the work of an amateur, and every story evoked something strong from me. Cavender has shared a really impressive set of stories with us. I would wholeheartedly suggest this to anyone who likes short stories.
Check out Cutting Block Press at their website. You can buy the book direct from them, and on Amazon and various other online retailers. Also available - Horror Library volumes 1 & 2. Look for Volume 4 to hit the streets in Early Fall 2010.
Submissions for Volume 5 are now being accepted for a publication date of 2011 in Trade Paperback Format.