Review: “Selected Stories: Horror and Dark Fantasy,” Kevin J. Anderson

Pros: Some gripping stories
Cons: Breaks in mood
Rating: 4 out of 5

Kevin J. Anderson’s Selected Stories: Horror and Dark Fantasy is definitely good, but I preferred his Selected Stories: Science Fiction Volume 1. There’s a handful of stories in here that are humorous, and while I definitely agree with Anderson’s assertion in the introductions to these stories that horror can also be funny, some of them were just so silly that they disrupted the feel of the book. When I settle in to read something described as horror and dark fantasy, I’m definitely looking for a certain feel. Humor can leaven that, but I prefer that it not get too silly. There are also a few stories that are a little cartoonish or ham-handed in one way or another, such as the opening story set in Tucker’s Grove (Anderson has a number of dark stories set in this fictional town). That said, there’s plenty of delightful, spine-tingling, downright chilling material in here as well, so the book as a whole is well worth the read. Just a content warning for you: there is one brief, frank rape scene in here. It’s handled well (i.e. it isn’t lurid or prurient), but it might be a tough scene for some readers.

I enjoy the Tucker’s Grove stories, but some are definitely better than others. There’s a humor piece about a man who goes to great lengths to track down Dracula for entertaining reasons. There are several werewolf stories, including a nicely chilling one set in the middle of nowhere and a rather silly one set in Hollywood. The humorous story about resurrecting a one-hit wonder metal singer starts out well but gets over-the-top goofy at the end. There’s a fabulous story about an antique camera inhabited by an incubus, which delightfully manages to include the phrase “psychic moebius strip.” There’s a Dan Shamble, P.I. story set at a cosplay convention that is just a bit of silly fun.

I think my favorite stories were some of Anderson’s very short flash fictions. “Age Rings” was the first story in this book to truly make my jaw drop. It’s short enough that I can’t really say anything about it without giving too much away. The same can be said about a chilling Christmas story later in the book.

There’s a delightful piece that explores the origins of the pieces of Frankenstein’s monster, deftly interweaving the tales. There’s also a story about a drummer who bikes through Africa, only to discover a mysterious little town that is the source of some truly unusual drums. A few chilling ghost stories round things out, mostly set in various historical periods.

On the whole I recommend Anderson’s collection of dark fantasy and horror tales. Maybe if you’re expecting the bits of silliness they won’t break the mood for you quite as much as they did for me, and there’s plenty of good, chilling material in here.

They were like ghosts from his past who had come–not to haunt the General–but to let him haunt himself.

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