Review: “Love, Death, and Other Inconveniences”

Pros: Some reasonably fun stories in here
Cons: A lot of repetition; poor showing when it comes to female characters
Rating: 3 out of 5

Normally when I review anthologies, I end up pointing out that one reason it’s tough for a multi-author anthology to get a 5 out of 5 is because it’s difficult for every single story to appeal to any given reader, which means most anthologies get a 4 out of 5. In the case of Love, Death, and Other Inconveniences: Collection of Horror Stories, it’s the other way around. Some stories are bound to appeal to any given reader, so that kept the rating at a 3 out of 5 instead of going lower. Honestly, I’m not really sure why this is labeled as a horror anthology. Quite a few of these are really drama rather than horror. Still, there are a few good horror stories in here.

The opening story, Blair Daniels’s “Let Me In,” is one of my two favorite stories in this collection (yeah, it’s not a good sign when I can only label two stories as favorites). It’s a beautiful little nugget of horror surrounding a mysterious break-in at a house. My other favorite is P. Oxford’s “Some Smells Shouldn’t Be Ignored,” in which an artist who just moved in with her boyfriend hears rats in the walls, and then starts to smell something horrid. A short, chilling read. Both stories go just far enough for maximum chills, and leave all the right questions unanswered.

The editor of this anthology must really love stories about men whose girlfriends (or wives) die and then have to help them move on from beyond the grave, because there are a lot of variations on that theme in here (two of them are even by the same author, and there are three of them in a row). The women in most of these stories serve as nothing more than agents of change for the men they leave behind. Another theme is that women who are sexually aggressive often turn out to be monsters. We’re really racking up the bad female tropes here. There’s also a story in which a female scientist seemingly randomly decides to give her scientific subject the best sex ever because… why, exactly? There’s a story about “The Devil’s Wife” that has an intriguing setup, but again, it’s another story of female-solely-as-agent-of-male-change.

At least “Letters From My Dead Wife” handles the dead loved one in a very different and much more original manner than most of the other stories do. “A House of Only Memories” by J.P. Carver is another dead wife story that has a little more of interest to it than some of the earlier ones. Tara A. Devlin’s “Last Room of the Cave” is yet another dead-woman-as-agent-of-male-change, but at least it has a monster in it and a really interesting secret.

Many of these authors have two, three, or even four stories in here, and I don’t think that was a great idea. In many cases it seemed pretty obvious that one of an author’s stories was noticeably better than the other(s). I really liked J.D. McGregor’s “Mile High Club,” for instance, but his other two stories didn’t really do it for me. (I felt like one was mostly just weird, and the other elided over some details that were necessary to the story.) However, two stories that I thought were quite good were both by Hayong Bak, “My First Relationship Was My Craziest” and “My Wife and Her Baby Doll.” Both went in fascinating directions.

Note one major formatting error: there’s a long duplicated passage in the middle of Grant Hinton’s “The Desert Stars.” I definitely saw this story as more of a thriller than a horror story. Hinton’s “Looking for Love” (involving some Tinder dating) definitely fit the horror milieu.

A couple of otherwise-good stories gave us too-confusing endings. I don’t mind some ambiguity or unanswered questions, but it’s possible to take that too far. P. Oxford’s “My Boyfriend And I Were Taken” falls into this category, which is a shame, because otherwise it was a good story.

I’d say the anthology as a whole was just okay. Luckily it has a few individual stories that make me glad I read it anyway.

Content note: sex, mild gore, sex with produce, reference to off-screen rape, and one incidence of animal harm.

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