edited by Jason Sizemore
Apex Books (2010)
When I got it in my mind to dedicate a month to reviewing anthologies, I was sure I had already reviewed this one, as I read it over a year ago. Somehow, I let it slip, so I went back and revisited some of the stories from this book to refresh my memory.
ApexMagazine has been a wellspring of short stories for years, but the ones I have gravitated to have been the ones that lean towards the horror genre. Thankfully, Jason Sizemore saw fit to compile a great many of those stories in this compendium of cringe-worthy tales. Twenty-one, if my math is right. There's no real running theme among the stories beyond sharing a dark bent, as this anthology was originally put together to highlight the works of these authors in order to help get them a little more exposure. Plus, there is the added convenience of having some of the magazine's darkest stories all in one handy e-book.
The table of contents boasts both established authors and up-and-comers. After reading Jason's introduction, you'll find stories by Nick Mamatas, Gene O'Neill, Lavie Tidhar, Fran Friel, Mary Robinette Kowal, and Jennifer Pelland.
The first story, "It Tasted Like the Sea" by Paul Jessup, really kicks the anthology with a surreal, stirring tale of an artist with a morbid preoccupation towards his art. One of the early stand-outs is Dru Pagliassotti's "To Every Thing There is a Season", a Lovecraftian-inspired bit of alternate history with some fantastic dialogue and unique twists on the old mythos. Apparently, Apex isn't in the habit of publishing Lovecraftian stuff, so it's nice they made an exception in this case.
Oddly enough, another story I took a liking too had allusions to the Lovecraft mythos. R. Thomas Riley's "Enough to Make a Devil" incorporated one of those settings that should have been retired from horror a long time ago, yet some authors continue to find ways to breath new life into the insane asylum. I thought this was just a really nice treat of a story, even with its macabre tone.
As for picking a favorite, I might have to go with Jennifer Brozek's "Eulogy for Muffin", which has another well-worn trope in horror: creepy kids. Jennifer's story about a mother's growing concern over the new game her kids are playing with the neighbors' kids is delightfully creepy. It's the kind of story that I'd love to see played out in an episode of The Twilight Zone or The Night Gallery, and the ending is just great despite seeing it coming from a mile away. Wonderful stuff.
I think this anthology is only available as an e-book, but it can be bought just about anywhere they sell them. I got mine from the Kindle Store, in fact it was probably one of the first Kindle purchases I made. Dirt cheap too, so for a couple bucks you can get yourself a whole bunch of grim goodness.