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Tuesday, May 10, 2022

Dark Stars: New Tales of Darkest Horror edited by John F.D. Taff

Dark Stars: New Tales of Darkest Horror

edited by John F.D. Taff
Published by Tor Nightfire • May 10, 2022
ISBN 978-1250817327 • Hardcover • 368 Pages

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Book description:
Dark Stars, edited by John F.D. Taff, is a tribute to horror's longstanding short fiction legacy, featuring 12 terrifying original stories from today's most noteworthy authors.

Within these pages you'll find tales of dead men walking, an insidious secret summer fling, an island harboring unspeakable power, and a dark hallway that beckons. You'll encounter terrible monsters--both human and supernatural--and be forever changed. The stories in Dark Stars run the gamut from traditional to modern, from dark fantasy to neo-noir, from explorations of beloved horror tropes to the unknown--possibly unknowable--threats.

It's all in here because it's all out there, now, in horror.

Dark Stars features all-new stories from the following award-winning authors and up-and-coming voices: Chesya Burke, Ramsey Campbell, Gemma Files, Stephen Graham Jones, Alma Katsu, Caroline Kepnes, John Langan, Livia Llewellyn, Josh Malerman, Usman T. Malik, Priya Sharma, and John F.D. Taff.

Created as an homage to the 1980 classic horror anthology Dark Forces, edited by Kirby McCauley, Dark Stars also features an introduction by Josh Malerman and an afterword from original contributor Ramsey Campbell--a poignant finale to this bone-chilling collection. 

This delicious book of tasty horror morsels dropped this week from @tornightfire and it’s another fantastic addition to their growing library of releases. Josh Malerman says it best in his foreword, about how we are currently in the midst of a horror renaissance, and I couldn’t be happier. What I’m loving most about this new wave of horror is that so much of it reaches beyond the typical horror tropes and creatures, delving more into a psychological horror that plays with the reader's emotions and challenges what we have typically seen as horror. With an anthology like this, there are obviously some stories that resonated more strongly with me than others, but as a whole, this collection is a solid piece of creeptastic reading fun.

“The Attenionist” by Caroline Kepnes read more as a psychological piece than horror, but the impending sense of doom that pervades the story definitely left me feeling sufficiently creeped out.

In “A Life in Nightmares” by Ramsey Campbell, we witness the life of Maurice as it jumps from event to event through the lens of a fever dream made possibly real.

“Papa Eye” by Priya Sharma is not necessarily something I would consider as horror, but more of a folk tale about the burdens and joys of eternal life. I think.

“Volcano” by Alicia Llewelyn is a tale of cosmic horror that left me feeling a bit lost on where the story went, and while this is intentional, I always feel like I missed something obvious in these types of stories.

“All the Things He Called Memories” is classic Stephen Graham Jones and his genius in building an excellent tale, but this being my first COVID-related horror story, it may have hit a little too close to home.

“Trinity River Blues” by Chesya Burke is another story that I wouldn’t necessarily label as horror but more along the lines of urban fantasy about a woman who can see ghosts and is cursed by one. I think I would enjoy this one even more if it was fleshed out into a full length novel.

“The Familiar’s Assistant” by Alma Katsu - suicide by vampires. That is all.

“Swim in the Blood of a Curious Dream” by John FD Taff follows and creepy AF journey by a father and son after the mother’s death.

“The Sanguinstalist" by Gemma Files is another that doesn't necessarily feel like horror to me, but I would definitely be down for this to be adapted into a longer novel, or a series based in this world. Also, nothing is explained, which doesn't always work for me, but here it definitely does.

“Mrs. Addison’s Nest" by Josh Malerman reminded me of Stephen King in a way, as it deals with childhood friends facing their fears, which is something King does very well. Of course, Malerman handles this same idea perfectly, but in his own way, making something that feels familiar but is ultimately unique to him.

“Challawa" by Usman T. Mallik follows a Pakastani woman as she visits her small hometown with her husband, and things get... weird. Much like "Papa Eye", perhaps it's the folk horror that doesn't really resonate all that well with me.

“Enough for Hunger and Enough for Hate" by John Langan, where a woman confronts her brother's potential killer, is a great way to close out this collection. The suspense is great, and the tension that builds throughout is palpable.
Overall, a solid piece of reading. Tor Nightfire has continued to impress with with their releases so far, and with their first anthology, they did not disappoint!
A huge thanks to Tor Nightfire and NetGalley for supplying a digital eARC in exchange for a fair and honest review.
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