Another month, another anthology.
Dying To Live: Stories of the Undead (Diabolic Publications) is exactly what it says on the box – stories of the undead. The brief when I first saw it was simple – ‘Twilight’ is too pussy, let’s have real vampires.
And thus this book came out.
And, my God, is it a good one! At 357 pages and 20 stories, it is a whole lot of reading, but you won’t be able to put the thing down. Now in the past I’ve had some gripes about books with such a definite premise resulting in all the stories coming across the same and harming the surprises. Not here. Yes, we know they all involve the undead (though zombies are – thank God – virtually nowhere to be seen!), but no stories really try to hide that fact. Instead things happen that are just downright creepy and eerie.
Okay, let’s start with some negatives (as is my wont). Some formatting errors, some homophone errors, one or two missing words and a very small number of punctuation errors, but no spelling mistakes. For a small press publication (hell, after reading another book from a large multi-national publishing firm who obviously left spell check switched off, this could be said for any publication) this is a really low number of mistakes. So not such a negative then, as such. Also, there was no mention anywhere in the book of the name of the editor, which I found odd.
I should point out that I had a minor disagreement with them concerning use of my photograph, mainly because of my persistent and psychotic stalker, but they let that slide by.
Now for the positives – out of 20 stories only 1 didn’t appeal, 1 other was okay, 2 were all right and the rest were actually fantastic. 1 bad story out of 20 – 95% is one hell of a high strike rate.
Also I have to say I have not read so many stories told in the present tense that actually work. Normally they come across as contrived or pretentious, but not here.
So, let’s look at my favourite 5 stories in the collection (in order they appear in the book).
‘The Tunnel’ by Jane Domagala is a straight forward story, but where it shines is in its use of description. A masterclass of characterisation and descriptive writing. The ending was also not quite what I expected, which made it all the more frightening.
‘So Vein’ by Bruce Lockhart II and Suzie Lockhart was just a fantastic story about some-one getting what came to them that they deserved. Another fantastic main character and everything about her motivations rang true.
‘Birds Of A Feather’ by Jennifer L. Barnes is written with a different voice to the other stories, which made it unique from the outset. And that voice was perfect for a story where the Vampire was a bit of a dick, very few real names were used, and there was a hint of menace over everything. Probably my favourite story in the whole book.
‘Twilight Time’ by Steven Gepp… yes, it’s mine. Shortest story in the book, but I actually took the Twilight premise literally. Short, sharp and shiny and full of the gore that I am starting to realise is my current oeuvre. And, yes, I like this story.
‘Thanks For The Drink’ by Thomas Alan Sandage ends the book on a fine note. Just the right amount of melancholy, and some great description. And the whole scene where the vampire derides the person for wanting to be a vampire as well is just what this book is about – Vampires are not nice beings.
Buy it – you won’t be disappointed.