From half the mind of Dark Screams … er … from Brian James Freeman, co-editor of the Dark Screams series, comes Halloween Carnival, Volume One. This looks a lot like the Dark Screams series, but with a slightly more targeted focus or theme – Halloween.
The anthology starts out with Robert McCammon’s “Strange Candy.” I feel like I’ve read this one before, but I’m not 100% sure. Chris Parker eats some sparkly candy shaped like a human hand and he’s on a little bit of a trip – visited by spirits who pass on messages from loved ones.
“The Rage of Achilles or When Mockingbirds Sing” by Kevin Lucia is a powerful story, well told. A Father is meditating in a confessional on Halloween night – the one night he doesn’t usually listen to confessions, when he hears a tale of an autistic boy that will affect him – and the reader – quite profoundly.
“Demon Air” by John Little has the witching hour of Halloween occur in an airplane, mid-flight. This story didn’t fit the book as well as I would have liked. The Halloween theme felt like something the author was trying too hard to work into a pre-existing story.
I quite enjoyed Lisa Morton’s story, “La Hacienda de los Muertos.” Here an old cowboy actor, who started in the silent films and never quite made it big, though he did have a long successful career, is booked by his agent to work in a Mexican horror film and the old actor becomes quite involved with the local legend of La Llorona. This story just felt so real to me and I felt like I was reading a biography of the old actor rather than a short dark fantasy story.
“#MakeHalloweenScaryAgain” by Mark Allan Gunnells is the longest of the stories included in the book, filling up half the pages of the slim volume – meaning this story is as long as the other four put together. Dustin Davis is a writer who is disappointed by the commercialization and apathy people have developed toward Halloween and he begins a campaign on social media to #MakeHalloweenScaryAgain. But the campaign backfires when someone does decide to make Halloween scary by killing people and using Davis’ hashtag slogan as a calling card. I enjoyed this novelette quite a bit and I’d be delighted to read someone more of Mark Allan Gunnells.
Looking for a good book? Halloween Carnival, Volume One probably has limited appeal, but for anyone interested in short, dark fiction, this is a delightful read.
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Halloween Carnival, Volume One
editor: Brian James Freeman
publisher: Random House Publishing Group – Hydra
ebook, 165 pages