Another anthology that I appear in and – damn! – if it isn’t a good one.
Now, first a word about anthologies. Most, especially in speculative fiction, have some sort of a theme. This theme can be all-encompassing, enabling people to write and fit almost anything in, or be very limited. One anthology I appeared in had a theme that meant every story happened in its own universe, and none could ever be connected. Then you have The Trigger Reflex which uses monster hunting as its theme, and while a narrow one, it works because of the way that theme can be utilised.
Bugs! (Pill Hill Press) is another one like that. The theme is, of course, bugs. Bugs of all sorts and sizes. My story ‘Spider Worship’ opens the book, and this is where I think credit has to be given. Gerald Costlow is, I believe, the editor (though his name does not appear in the book as such) and the subtle changes he made to my work improved it out of sight. A great editor, worthy of much praise here. And his story selection is top-notch as well (although I don’t think I would have started with my story).
There are 17 stories in here. I think there was only one or two I did not really get into. That is not to say they were bad stories, but that I didn’t get into them. Only one I didn’t understand. And, to be perfectly honest, mine is one of the least works here.
So the best of a good bunch:
‘Plain Noise’ by Jessy Marie Roberts is a great mystery story with the supernatural aspect underplayed, and the characterisations really strong, especially the sheriff. The ending may have been a little bit too HEA, but that is a minor criticism in a story that I could see making a really good movie.
‘For The Love Of Bugs’ by Christopher Eger is a short little tale that is gross and creepy and with a title that is completely apt. I really enjoyed it.
‘The Wicked Big Monstah Ovah Bawstin’ by David Bernard is a nice take on the gargantuan mythos – you were almost waiting for Godzilla to turn up and do battle – but the final denouement confused me. Maybe being a non-American I just didn’t get it, but the rest of the story was awesome.
‘The Limited Range Of Scarabaeus Sacer’ by Richard Jay Goldstein takes Kafka and turns him upside down. Overall, I think it is the atmosphere of the writing in this one – especially at the start – that is done so brilliantly.
‘Cycles’ by Mark Mills is a surreal horror-comedy that I had to read twice to make sure I understood. Almost verging on Douglas Adams (my favourite comedy author) territory, it is good to see something different put into an anthology like this. Congratulations to the editor for taking the chance, and for Mark Mills for being able to pull it off so well.
Finally, ‘Prophecy’ by Gerald Costlow is a stunning mix of archaeology and Egyptian mysticism, and a strong way to finish the book.
Six excellent stories. Like I said, the book as a whole is very, very good. I would really recommend this one to everyone who likes a good bit of creepy horror.