Review: “Shiver,” ed. Nico Bell

Rating: 4 out of 5

I’m a big fan of snowy, icy horror. Once you’ve found yourself in the eerie stillness of an evening snowfall, it’s easy to imagine all sorts of horrors to go with. The anthology Shiver: A Chilling Horror Anthology (edited by Nico Bell) is icy, snowy horror.

My favorite stories from this volume include Nicole M. Wolverton’s “Waiting for Winter.” The daughters of a group of “final girls” that survived serial killer attacks seem to be targets themselves. They decide to turn the tables and get ready for the man who’s coming after them. This one is fun and clever, but honestly I wish it had been stretched into a full novella.

Mark Wheaton’s “Mongrel” is another excellent tale. Sled dog Asra isn’t able to keep her person, Katie, from being killed by a mysterious and deadly creature. But she’ll get a second chance. (As is probably obvious from the fact that the main character of this horror story is a dog, there is animal harm involved.) Asra makes a wonderful main character.

Cristopher Wood’s “Do They Know It’s Christmas?” is a short, funny horror story of two men who go to work Christmas Eve to butcher and package meat. Only some of that meat has been contaminated. Mason McDonald’s “On the Frozen Waters Of Lake Namara” introduces us to a lake where many children have gone missing–no bodies to be found–always in the wintertime. When Ian dares his friend to go out on the ice, you know things won’t end well!

Michael Tichy’s “The Partisan” involves a sniper who goes after Nazi forces in Europe in the 1940s. A creature from childhood warning stories puts in a frightening appearance. Stephanie Rabig’s “For Sale: One Nightmare,” definitely gripped me! Natalie ordered “a nightmare” from Etsy on a whim while buying other things. Oh yeah, she definitely regrets that now!

Red Lagoe’s “A Cold Day In Hell” shows us Jean, who has stolen a car and is taking her baby to a supposedly haunted house in order to avoid the police. This one has some excellent surprises in it! Jessie Small’s “Bad Bunnies” has several delightful parts to it. The main character’s father, when asked by his child not to hunt bunnies, promised only to hunt the “bad bunnies.” Of course the child eventually recognizes that for the fig leaf it is.

Tiffany Michelle Brown’s “Addison House” is an urban legend tale with a chilling ending. Sarah Jane Huntington’s “The Snow Woman” is another urban legend with a literally chilling ending. Brennan LaFaro’s “A Shine In the Woods” is a terrifying creature-feature.

There are quite a few other stories that were good, but didn’t haunt me as much. One story had a beautiful plot, but the narrative details were all over the place as though they were too conscious of themselves. It was distracting, and it made some of the descriptions weird: “Al’s jumpy blood wiggled through their left fingertips to flick their headlights off.” Another story kept pointing out weird “coincidences” (without explaining what made them coincidences rather than just weird things going wrong) as though they meant something, which they didn’t seem to. And the tone of it was kind of flippant and off-handed rather than scary. Another story of the wendigo felt clunky and awkward, particularly when it came to dialogue.

Another urban legend story had a bit of a rough, tumble-on narrative and a protagonist who was annoying enough that it was hard to feel the horror of the ending. One story centered on a particularly bad drug trip, and other than the ending it didn’t really appeal to me; I’m not fond of surreal, dream-like narratives. I somewhat liked a story about two friendly skeletons in a bio lab, but it doesn’t really go much of anywhere. A story about a prison escape similarly got a bit too surreal at the end; I like to have some idea of what’s happening. A story about a winter sprite run amock killing people doesn’t entirely add up: it’s just when people seem to be noticing and appreciating the winter wonderland around them that the sprite decides to kill them for not noticing and appreciating the winter wonderland? Another surreal and confusing story seems to be about a very disturbed woman who’s supposedly caretaking for a mansion while the owners are away. I honestly have no idea what happened in that story.

Content note: standard horror blood and death fare.

This anthology is loaded with some very good stories, and I definitely recommend it.

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