Review: “Far From Home,” ed. Samantha Kolesnik

Rating: 4 out of 5

Samantha Kolesnik edited this anthology of short, adventure- and travel-themed horror stories, Far From Home: an Anthology of Adventure Horror. Like many anthologies, I think that people will find the overall quality solidly good, but of course not every story will resonate with every reader.

Some stories really hit the spot for me. Hailey Piper’s “Crepuscular” was tormented and bleak, a story about a girl who’s having increasingly dangerous fits, and the two mothers who will do anything to save her. Lenn Woolston’s “Hungry,” about a high school couple who goes off into the woods to take photographs before leaving for different colleges, is enrapturing–it captures the hungry emotions of its characters perfectly.

Ali Seay’s “Descending” is a riveting and unusual look at a sociopath (psychopath?) who’s desperate to feel something, anything. Stephanie Ellis’s “Penance” is a beautiful story about two women who seem like they’ve taken a wrong turn, and their husbands who are having mid-life crises. Ross Jeffery’s “Towing the Chum Line” is a shudder-inducing story about a couple of newlyweds who want to see as many major varieties of sharks as they can. A.K. Dennis’s “Those Who Wander” introduces us to Derek, who apparently got lost in the woods after his girlfriend, Sarah, broke up with him. When he finds a smug, possibly threatening man by a fire, he has to weigh the desire to warm up and dry off with his distrust of the man.

“I tend to find things I like and kill them. Jeans, lipsticks, shoes. People.”

Villimey Mist’s “Hell of a Ride,” about a woman who’s still grieving for her dead foster child, is one of those stories that can be interesting and engaging despite being predictable (really, many horror stories work because they use classic horror tropes). A.A. Medina’s “An Open Casket Adrift,” in which Delilah finds herself adrift in a boat with her father’s corpse, is a great look into the mind of someone who’s going a touch mad.

I enjoyed Vaughn A. Jackson’s “The Thing at the Top of the Mountain.” Nix Rhodes, history student, wants to find some ruins to spice up her thesis with. Antonella, her guide, seems awfully nervous. Cynthia Pelayo’s “The Light Blinds,” about a couple who’ve been chasing stories of mysterious lights in the skies, was good but not really my thing. Michael Patrick Hicks wrote “A Song of the Earth,” a story of four people who go hiking and what they find. I couldn’t understand how a group of people would think it was a good idea to take someone who’s never hiked before on a hundred-mile(!) hike for funsies, but the ending was intriguing. Beverley Lee’s “Little Girl Lost” was very good (a woman going on a treasure hunt by horseback gets lost in the snow), but I was more intrigued by the abandoned original plotline than I was by the eventual conclusion.

Some of the stories just struck me as… kind of odd. Good, but I couldn’t connect with them in some way. The events in these stories felt a little random. Ed Kurtz’s “Lay Low” with its unlucky prospector, Charlie Lee Landry, was one of those. Mitch Sebourn’s “The Apostle” is about a lawyer who did some embezzling, and the weird mural in her new home that won’t go away. The story was good, but the ending didn’t really work for me. Audrey Williams’s “I Never Want to Go Back” felt oddly random, as though the story was a kind of free association exercise, which didn’t really work for me; the tone was also very matter-of-fact. It’s a tale of a woman who finds herself going through a mirror into a dark world beyond. Carmen Baca’s “Deavale’s Design” sees grad student Nate inheriting a cursed trunk. I couldn’t understand why his and his professor’s reaction to reading an outlandish account of two-foot-tall natives and a cursed trunk led to immediate unflinching belief and resignation.

Content note–this is not an anthology of “extreme” horror, but still has its moments. Expect a bit of body horror, blood and gore, deaths, murder, one detailed instance of animal harm/death (in Ross Jeffery’s story), and a touch of cannibalism.

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