Blood Bound Books
2011, 235 pages, 28 stories
Just when you thought it was safe to crawl back into bed … we’ve got a new set of terrors! If Night Terrors made you pray for dawn, Volume II will send you into total madness. Step inside the secret chambers of the Vatican and experience the dark side of the papal elections. Meet people only a mother could love, listen to the dead speak, and even more disturbing, hear them cry. Discover the darkness that lives inside the hearts of men, and hide from other worldly tormentors … If you manage to wake up after these night terrors … you’ll wake up dead!
I think it is important to learn something when reading. Even the lamest books need to teach me something, or they don’t seem worth it.
Night Terrors II, the latest anthology from Blood Bound Books, had a lot to teach me. Not least of which is that nothing in life is sacred. Not marriage or child-bearing or friendship or even death.
The very short yet rather profound Habemus Papam gives an insider’s look into sacrifice in the Papal elections that helps maintain the balance between good and evil. Reminiscent of the stories found in the Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark trilogy (especially with the old couple laughing maniacally at the end), The Prophet was also short and darkly humorous.
Ever wondered where serial killers and their like come from, or what kind of emotional (and even physical) pain and torture they must have gone through in their childhoods to turn them into monsters? A Mother’s Love seeks to answer those questions in its own horrifying way. The Dark Room also takes a look at the love of mothers, as well as asks the important question of do we ever really know who it is we’ve fallen in love with? It has a Rosemary’s Baby feel to it with less of the supernatural elements but no less of a horrifying twist at the end.
The haunting premise of All Cry asks you to consider just who you would choose in a life or death situation, your child or your spouse. You may not like the answer. Children also take an important spot center stage in the brief zombie tale, Untouchable.
Ever wonder what torture p*rn would sound like written out in the form of a short story? The Wager does an excellent job of setting that kind of scene. One for the Road gives us a glimpse of a good old fashioned killer on the loose plot, while also showing why exactly it is never a good idea to stop at a rest area, alone, in the middle of the night.
A Cat Named Mittens felt a bit like Cujo in the beginning, before morphing into a particularly gory creature feature. Child and Guardian explains exactly why I still can’t get rid of my stuffed animal collection, even though I’m 30 years old now and long passed the point where I sleep in a pile of them every night. Children are once again front and center in Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep, where a mentally disturbed girl goes above and beyond walking in her sleep.
Connection had a great traditional haunting feel with a modern twist and an abusive boyfriend who wouldn’t let go even in death, while The Balancing Act was a beautiful and dark tale that asked what exactly love does to us and how violence balances out in the grand scheme of things. And At Winter’s End asks if, at the end of life when no one remains who loves you, is it time to just let go?
Fame asks a lot of people, and celebrities are going to new lengths every day to give their audiences what they demand. Somebody’s Daughter showcases these demands to horrifying extremes. A nerd that has enough of being made fun of by the popular kids also goes to extremes when he calls on some supernatural help in In Shadows They Hide.
Do villains start out evil, or do they start out with the best of intentions? Origin Story seeks to answer this question. Speaking of villains, the mash up of Jack the Ripper, Dracula, and Sherlock Holmes in Until I Come Again had me very amused. As did the idea of a portal to hell being located in the Middle of Nowhere, Kansas as written in Old Nick’s Game Town.
There was one story that I was truly and immediately captured by and found myself wishing could have been an entire novel. Revivified was a very well written story revolving around nightmare warning signs, technology as a last hope, and a possible (most likely) alien invasion. I could have read 300 pages and probably never been bored (hint hint author).
Night Terrors II did include a few stories that I didn’t find myself as impressed by as the others. Forbidden Fruit was incredibly short and even after reading it multiple times I didn’t understand what happened in it. Darkly Dreaming in Black Waters was poorly edited, with words used incorrectly and sentences that ran on too long and over used descriptives. It also had some sentences that were short and choppy but worked a lot better for the tone of the tale. It was something like Event Horizon meets Cthulu and I might have liked it if it had been edited right.
I found myself getting bored while reading All For You Sara Sue. The idea that extreme loneliness can cause mental illness is sad, but the way it was written didn’t strike me as scary and an abrupt change in voice toward the end was just confusing. Hi Ted was also confusing for me. It had a weird way of going back and forth from email dialogues to narrative text that didn’t really work.
Another super short story, Worms in the Walls of My Mind was grotesque and kind of strange, but I didn’t really get what it was trying to tell me. I had the same problem with Letting Out the Heat (where nightmares mixed with an escaped psycho killer lead all kinds of places not good) and Tap Tap (where a guilty conscience and a historical find do not mix well). And The Boy in the Well just kind of made me sad and mad at the same time.
Overall I enjoyed this anthology a lot. It had only a few missteps that I found. And even those issues I had were more from an editorial standpoint than anything else. The last anthology I read from Blood Bound Books left me underwhelmed, but from the first story of this one I was impressed. This group of writers knows what they are doing and I look forward to checking out more of their work in the future.
Great review Melissa. I especially enjoy indy collections as you can almost feel their sense of hunger in making a lasting impression. Too many authors fall into the trapping of penning lack lustre fiction later on in their career. One exception of course would be a collection put together by Richard Matheson. One of his stories called Button, Button inspired the film The Box. From what I hear the film is a disappointment yet Matheson’s works are postitvely mesmorizing. It’s not much wonder as to why Stephen King considers him to be one of his most influential writers