Rating: 4 out of 5
Year’s Best Hardcore Horror Volume 6 includes a number of very good stories, including a few by authors I know and love (Christine Morgan, Hailey Piper). I also definitely found a few new authors to check out!
Ronald Kelly’s “The Nipples In Dad’s Tool Box” is unexpected and fascinating. There’s a serial killer called “The Handyman Killer,” and Cody is starting to worry that his father might be the killer. I was very drawn in by this one.
Christine Morgan’s “Going Green” doesn’t really seem to fit the tone of the rest of the book, but it’s also one of my favorite stories in here. Zeaa wants to finally best her frenemy Brangelina’s knack for getting ahead of all the ecological trends and making her look bad. She’s going to the company Eden to have a radical procedure done. She’s warned that once the process has started, it can’t be stopped. The story unfolds much like the flowering of a plant.
Rachel Nussbaum’s “Whiskey to the Wound” is another favorite from this book. When someone grabs Derek off the street and takes his kidney, he finds he cannot die. The story surrounding how this came about is minimal, because it isn’t really relevant to the tale. This is an interesting sort of not-quite–romance, half-friendship, semi-sexual tale set against a backdrop of blood and guts.
Hailey Piper’s “In Subspace, No One Can Hear You Scream” delves into the mind of a person who is allowing herself to be dominated in front of an audience. As they sink deeper into the experience than ever before, something unexpected happens. This is, in part, a delve into the thoughts of someone who is deeply unsatisfied with their body.
Sean Patrick Hazlett’s “The Pogonip Fog” is a fairly straightforward story of people being killed by monsters in the snow, but the ending adds to the experience in an unexpected way.
Alicia Hilton’s “Gunfire and Brimstone” rode a kind of line for me. At times it was too surreal, and at times it was absolutely fascinating. Baby Gordon is oddly aggressive with his mother, but all is not as it seems.
Matthew V. Brockmeyer’s “The Happiest Man in the World” is another favorite, particularly when you add the title of the story into the rest of it. A widower deputy participates in a raid against a doctor who’s selling prescriptions and performing back-alley abortions. He finds a very strange baby(?) and against his will is drawn to take it home with him. Things get a bit wild after that!
Patrick C. Harrison III’s “Full Moon Shindig” tells a brief and bloody tale. Travis returns from the military to go to a party with his old high school friends. He’s shocked at the state of the party–half-naked people, sex in full view of the crowd, drug use, and oh yeah, a young woman tied to a pool table. I really appreciated where this story took the reader. My only difficulty with it was trying to figure out a weird detail in the ending.
Christine Morgan has a second story in here with “The Drinking-Horn.” Ullvik the Bottomless has trouble finding enough alcoholic beverages to keep himself satisfied. This takes a rather fascinating and unexpected turn.
Octavia Cade’s “Otto Han Speaks to the Dead” tackles the guilt of developing weapons of war, combined with a ghost story. Instead of haunting her own husband, the ghost decides to haunt an acquaintance who might still be salvageable.
Deborah Sheldon’s “All the Stars In Her Eyes” introduces us to Janet and her daughter, Aurora, who has an odd condition that leaves sparkling stars in her eyes. When a dog shows up with the same condition, Janet thinks Aurora’s mysterious father is going to return. It’s hard to figure out how much to believe in Janet’s assertions, and to me there was a little too much ambiguity still, but it definitely gave me a chill.
Alessandro Manzetti’s “The Saint” just confused the hell out of me. There’s a mysterious serial killer who’s taking apart prostitutes. And… that’s sort of it. It’s a weird time, maybe a sort of dystopian future I think?, and the story just abruptly ends without anything really happening on-screen.
Robert Guffey’s “Her Wounded Eyes” is another story that confused me. One character seems to die in two different ways, and maybe one or both are not real? And how much of what Wanda thinks is happening is really happening? I wanted to like this one, but couldn’t pin it down enough.
Too-surreal events are one of the things that turn me off in horror, as are abrupt endings, and those are the problems I experienced in most of the stories I didn’t like as much. If those two stylistic choices aren’t ones that bother you, you’ll probably find the entire book even better than I did.
Content note: Torture, murder, gore, body horror, masochism, sexual content, memories of rape, cancer, dysphoria, dismemberment, animal death, suicide, the lead-up to rape, domestic violence.