April 24, 2014

The Force Is Strong In This One: a review of "Dark Forces" edited by Kirby McCauley

Dark Forces: The 25th Anniversary Edition
edited by Kirby McCauley
originally published in 1980
re-released via Cemetery Dance
ASIN: B005CRQ938

When I was on a real tear a couple years ago, reading as much short fiction in a summer as I could, this anthology was recommended to me more than a couple of times. Had I not already been swamped with a line-up of collections and anthologies to read at the time, I would have added this one to the pile sooner. Now, having read it, I see that I should have made it a priority.

Dark Forces is not only a truly entertaining book from front to back, but serves as a valuable time capsule for its time, having been published in the very early 80s it manages to show how some of the then up-and-comers fared alongside some true legends in the horror genre.

Right off the bat, the book gave me the chance to revisit Stephen King's The Mist, which is the very last story and the one I immediately jumped to. I don't often re-read books, but for this gem of a tale I'd make an exception. Honestly, if you haven't read The Mist yet, then do yourself a favor and just go buy this anthology. It'll be worth the pricetag for that one novella alone.

Ramsey Campbell's "The Brood" reminded me that I need to pick up one of the novels I have of his sitting on my bookshelf and get to reading his work again. The guy is a wee bit amazing with the tales of terror. Robert Bloch's "The Night Before Christmas" on the other hand was a bit of a letdown, though not because it was poorly written--quite the opposite--but the author of Psycho felt a bit too clever in this one. Then Charles L. Grant's "A Garden of Black Red Roses" offered a really great glimpse of a guy whose work I need to get to know, as he deftly spins a quiet, smalltown horror story here. Joyce Carol Oates is another writer with a skilled hand at disquieting stories, and "The Bingo Master" manages to do just that, though it's one of the few tales I felt took a good long while in getting warmed up.

It's been nearly thirty-five years since Dark Forces originally came out--nearly ten since Cemetery Dance republished it for an anniversary edition here--and there are times while reading that it does feel dated. Not out-dated, mind you, but there is a kind of nostalgic kick that comes with reading some of these stories. Or mayne it's just the brand of new horror that I've been reading with a harder, slightly meaner tone, which has me seeing this book with a rose-colored hue. In any case, I wholly recommend it to horror readers who have yet to give it a try, especially those who maybe have only read recent works lately. It might serve you well to dip into the past for this one.

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