Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Dark Screams, Volume Two

 Volume Two of the DARK SCREAMS digital Horror series arrives, with new stories by Norman Prentiss, Graham Masterton, and Shawntelle Madison, and classic reprints by Richard Christian Matheson and Robert R. McCammon.
 While nowhere near as strong a collection as Volume One, there are some worthwhile moments to be had. Editors Brian James Freeman and Richard Chizmar have pulled together a lineup of talented newcomers and seasoned pros. The stories shake out like this:

THE DEEP END, by Robert McCammon is a claustrophobic tale about a distraught father confronting the strange thing that took his son's life in a community pool. This is a weird little story, but McCammon milks the bizarre premise for all it's worth. Clearly the best story in the collection.

Norman Prentiss' INTERVAL deals with the aftermath of a horrific commercial airline crash, and features an imaginative monster. Well-written and perfectly paced, Prentiss delivers a heartfelt, emotional tale that takes a sharp turn into weird tale territory towards the end.

 Shawntelle Madison's IF THESE WALLS COULD TALK is probably the weakest story of the bunch. A jumbled mix of haunted house investigation and serial murder, I found her style very difficult to enjoy, and the story just didn't flow for me. There was a good idea here, but it wasn't developed enough.

 Things take a turn for the better with Graham Masterton's creepy THE NIGHT HIDER, a truly outlandish story that starts out with a man hiding in a sleeping woman's wardrobe, and develops into a twisted take on C.S. Lewis' THE LION, THE WITCH, AND THE WARDROBE. Masterton always excels in short stories, and this one is no exception. 

 The collection kind of goes off the rails with the final story, Richard Christian Matheson's WHATEVER, a novella that takes up nearly a third of the book. Matheson's epistolary tale chronicles the rise and fall of a '70's rock band, and its an interesting, compelling read, but.....it's not a Horror story. It's not especially dark, and there are no screams. In short, it doesn't belong here. It's good, for what it is, but it's so different from the rest of the book that it was almost jarring to read, especially being presented as the final story. I kept waiting for the twist, the dark turn, but nothing ever happened. It took a while for me to get into the story, though I ended up enjoying it...but it really wasn't suited to a collection of this type.

 Overall, it's a decent little collection...not as good as Volume One, but it was good enough to make me want to read Volume Three.

 Hydra provided a review copy.