fantasy book reviews science fiction book reviewsDark Visions: A Collection of Modern Horror, Volume 1 edited by Anthony Rivera & Sharon Lawson

Dark Visions by Anthony Rivera Sharon Lawson Horrible Monday science fiction book reviewsDark Visions: A Collection of Modern Horror, Volume One, is a publication of Grey Matter Press, a small publisher of all genres of horror. The anthology has no theme — something of a rarity these days, when most anthologies are restricted to a particular type of monster (zombie, werewolf, vampire; you know the drill). Few of the writers who contributed stories to this anthology are known to me, though there are a few big names. It’s a solid collection of stories, edited by Anthony Rivera and Sharon Lawson to fine effect.

The anthology opens with one of the strongest stories. “Mister Pockets” by Jonathan Maberry is set is his PINE DEEP universe, several years after the events of the trilogy that launched Maberry’s career (Ghost Road Blues, Dead Man’s Song and Bad Moon Rising; it’s a good trilogy, and I recommend it). Lefty Horrigan is so named because his father wants him to be a baseball player, and he somehow thinks that naming his kid “Lefty” will do the trick. But Lefty hates baseball, and he hates his stupid name. He’s twelve and fat, but isn’t bullied about it; in farm county, which is where Pine Deep is, being fat is no barrier to doing a hard day’s work on a tractor or in a milking shed. One thing Lefty has is a big heart. One day he gives a candy bar to the hobo called Mr. Pockets, who reacts rather oddly to the gift. It frightens Lefty, though he’s not really sure why. But Lefty has just made the smartest move of his short life, as he finds in an afternoon that he will never forget.

The tale that will probably stay with me the longest is “The Weight of Paradise” by Jeff Hemenway. Sophie is a brilliant scientist who has discovered a cure for — well, for death, really. It seems like the treatment she’s come up with will treat anything, will make disease irrelevant. There’s a lot of testing to be done yet, but Sophie can’t wait, because her lover, Alfie, is dying of leukemia. Rather than wait, because waiting will simply mean that Alfie dies before her new drug is available, Sophie injects Alfie. And it works. It’s not that he’s cured, exactly, but his metabolism has slowed down so dramatically that the disease is no longer killing him, and never will. In fact, he’ll never die. And neither will she, because she’s given herself a hefty shot, too. It’s only six months later that the drawback to the drug becomes apparent, an unbearable agony, pain akin to withdrawal but much worse. The only way one to stop it is to make a new convert, and then inject their blood immediately after the conversion into oneself. The consequences are obvious if one does a little arithmetic. But it gets worse. What does an absence of death really mean? Think about being in an accident and breaking everything but being unable to die. Hemenway has thought about it, at length, and the result is a chilling story that makes me surprisingly glad that immortality is not yet an option.

There are plenty of good stories here to keep you awake at night. In “Second Opinion,” Ray Garton tells a story of writer’s block that outdoes anything I’ve ever read on the theme. The first sentence gives you an idea of the horrors that await: “Do you know what it’s like to cut up your best friend with a hacksaw?” “Scrap” by David A. Riley is a long story about a haunted subdivision in an English town. Jonathan Balog’s adolescent hero bargains with a troll for some help with a bully in “The Troll,” but finds that the price for revenge is higher than the troll described. Charles Austin Muir tells a dark tale about “Thanatos Park,” an abandoned housing project that is now home to a fungus one would rather not breathe. And while those are the highlights, there really isn’t a clunker in this anthology; each story will turn your blood to ice.


  • Terry Weyna

    TERRY WEYNA, on our staff since December 2010, would rather be reading than doing almost anything else. She reads all day long as an insurance coverage attorney, and in all her spare time as a reviewer, critic and writer. Terry lives in Northern California with her husband, professor emeritus and writer Fred White, two rambunctious cats, and an enormous library.