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enjoy some stories, but not enough to move it from two stars to three. If you are going to build a massive dark tale collection around something, make it more tantalizing than harvest.
ITS ALWAYS DARKEST BEFORE THE HARVEST!
Each year, as summer quickly fades to memory, and the sky begins to grow dark, and the leaves change color and fall, the faint, fetid scent of death—of slowly rotting things—begins to drift in, hanging on the chill air like a ghostly pall. Making us wonder, what the coming harvest will produce. Well...the harvest is here. And it is dead.
Think corn fields, scarecrows, harvest time, crops then add in creepy stuff, scary stuff, horrible stuff, graphic stuff, death, decay, rot, rebirth and retribution. I think that gives you the general picture?
Overall I only found a few of the stories in this collection even remotely scary, and that was a little disappointing, some of the stories I finished and was saying "is that it?" as the story had very little impact, others stood out as being a cut above and did get the chill factor happening for me. I just wanted to be scared more, terrified more, disturbed more than what I was (weird person I know).
So, I will share with you my stand out stories from this collection, these are the ones I would rate 4-5 stars and really loved:
Retribution - Dana Wright
Hodmedod - Stuart Keane
What Lurks Within the Darkest Wealds - Matthew Pederson
Harberry Close - C.M. Saunders
And, these were my stories I liked, not quite the standard of the above but still good and enjoyable 3 star stories:
Red Fuel - Jonathan Templar
Ablation - M.L. Roos
House of Nettle and Thorn - Todd Keisling
Nails - Jeff Strand
The Flower Dies - Kyle Yadlosky
As for the rest, could take or leave really. It's a large collection of stories so I am sure there is something in here for everybody. I did find reading similar themes in many of the stories got a bit repetitive at times, seen one harvest or corn field, seen them all kind of thing, if you know what I mean.
Overall, again, struggling to rate it overall I will give it 3 stars, it was good but did not have the terror and scare factor (for the most part) that I was really wanting from it.
The stories . . . where do I start? I found this collection in the first place because I was seeking stories by Dana Wright. Dana, as her fans know, is a gifted writer. I greatly enjoyed "The Asylum", a short novel which is currently available at Amazon. So I started with Dana's "Retribution". The beauty, the intensity, the gripping horror of the story held me spellbound. "Retribution" is a heart wrenching emotional and paranormal experience and features a father who makes the incestuous dad of Forrest Gump's young girlfriend seem like a choir boy in comparison.
After "Retribution" I skipped around, choosing the titles that sounded most promising. The next 19 stories I selected were extremely good. "Raincatchers" by Greg Gifune is a harrowing tale about a pair of transient serial killers. Even though the girl who joined them in their predatory wanderings was no saint, I found her fate to be sad and poignant. She was more lonely and misguided than evil. Both "Learned Children" by Ronald Malfi and "Bringing in the Sheaves" by Richard Thomas feature scary, unpleasant children with ominous secrets and deep manias - you never knew what hideousness would be sprung on you next. "Villianwood" by Benjamin Kane Ethridge is one of my favorites - the pathetic story of a single mother saddled with a deformed young son whom she is both devoted to and repelled by, and the Villianwood tree that engulfs their home, trapping them inside with the strange elf-like creatures who have taken up residence in the attic, is a one-of-a-kind imaginative tour-de-force. Another ultra-imaginative weird tale is "House of Nettles and Thorns" by Todd Keisling, about two college room mates who are lured to a sorority party by a beautiful coed, only to find themselves enmeshed in a strange and deadly ritual being conducting by creatures whose only ties to humanity are their appearance and ability to speak English.
Two more favorites are "Peter Peter" by Christine Sutton, about a hideous revenant who rises from the grave at night during the harvest season - the anniversary month that the farm hand Peter was wrongfully lynched for the disappearance of a young girl - and extracts a bloody revenge on the posterity of his tormentors; and "The Old Cider Press" by Gregor Cole,which features a scarecrow-like orchard spirit who can only be appeased by human sacrifice - and the villagers who are intent on making sure the victims are visitors from out of town.
"Husks" by Angeline Trevena is an evocative story about a young couple visiting the husband's family farm only to find the parents missing and the creepy forces behind their disappearance closing in on them as well. "Hodemod" by Stuart Keane features a beautiful young newlywed with anger management issues who is not about to take her husbands infidelity - and the disease that came with it - sitting down. This story is written in a particularly intense, gripping fashion.
"Autumn Lamb" by E.G. Smith tells of a type of sickly, emasculating immortality that turns out to be worse by far than persevering through life in our mortal coil; "The Man with the X-ray Eyes" by Richard Chizmar relates the story of a man dedicated to eradicating the alien creatures among us that only he can perceive - alien creatures that seem a lot like normal pretty girlfriends and harmless neighbors to this reader. "Uncle Sharleviox' Epidermis" by Gregory Norris tells the tale of a dead scientist whose unnatural living skin coats the walls of his family mansion - and the purpose it was put there, which threatens the prospects of his unsuspecting nephew.
"Into the Trees" by Tim Lebbon tells the poignant story of the criminal Toby, who returns dying of a stab wound to the stomach to the hollow tree that served years ago as the trysting place with the girl he loved before he was abducted by a criminal mob: a nostalgic return to the site of the only happiness he found in the course of a brutal life. "Katy and the Green Boy" by Lori Safranek relates the sad encounter of a five year old girl with the ghost of a young boy who was tragically killed in a harvesting accident years before. "The Last Harvest" by Jaime Johnesee takes place on the planet Mars, where the evil elders of a colony of earthlings exploit the colonists and establish an annual ritual where virgin girls are sacrificed to a sanguinary Martian god. But the seeds of revolution are in the air . . .
How many other wonderful, intriguing stories lie waiting for me in this collection? I will find out soon. To editor Mark Parker, if this book is a sign of the quality we can anticipate in future anthologies, my bookshelves will be full.