August 2, 2012

Rabid Reads: "Old School" edited by Louise Bohmer


Old School
edited by Louise Bohmer
ISBN 9781926912202

I like my monsters with sharp teeth, and it would the folks at Belfire Press do too. In answer to the call of sparkly vampires and lovelorn lycanthropes, Louise Bohmer tasked six other authors--and an undead poet known as Zombie Zak--to give horror's iconic monsters a reprieve from the romantic.

Now, I'm not a fan of poetry, so excuse my boorish ways. I will say, however, ol' Zombie Zak did cook up a couple poems that I did enjoy, particularly the introductory one entitled "Red Red Rain." It worked quite well in leading up to Greg Hall's story about vampires, "The Gorgeous Undead." I've only read two other works from Greg before--his debut novel, At the End of Church Street, and the less lengthy Dracula's Winky (just Google it). With this short story, Greg strips away the immaculate gothic nature of the vampire myth and offers an eye-opening experience for a young woman absolutely obsessed with the bloodsuckers.

Monsters of nearly every stripe are re-imagined in this anthology. Vampires, werewolves, and zombies are the big three, yes, but then there are the ones you might have forgotten about. The monsters from those classic Universal days of horror and sci-fi.

Horace James' "Mummies of the Caribbean" might be my favorite among them all, with a wickedly effective depiction of the mummy of old, but seen through a more grotesque lens. It had a great blend of the B-movie nature of the plot with some really well drawn characters. Couldn't ask for better from a book like this. I hadn't heard of Horace before reading this book, so I'll have to watch out for his work now. Jackie Gamber's "Heart of Stone" is another one that highlighted a less popular monster and gave a truly humanizing and horrifying point of view, this time on the golem. The ending didn't feel at all surprising to me, but it was a kicker nonetheless and felt right on point.

For a great blending of humor and horror--an emphasis on the horror--were R. Scott McCoy's "Play Time" and David Dunwoody's "The Missionary." Respectively, creepy kids and things from outer space are two great cliches from horror and sci-fi that I will likely never tire of, and these two stories offered very fun and frightening moments.

Not all of the stories are as entertaining as the ones I've lined out, but that's the way it goes with any anthology. With each author, including Louise, penning two stories each, there are more than enough elbow room for each to explore the monsters of old, and either offer a new spin or untangle them from the twists the modern age has given them.

If you're like me and you've got an appetite for those classic creature features, this is an anthology for you. Old School explores the familiar and tries to cast it in a new light--and for the most part it succeeds.

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