Urban Occult Paperback – February 14, 2013
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Colin avoids gore for gore's sake in his own writing and the tales he's picked for Urban Occult match up with his preference for atmospheric and psychological horror. Gary McMahon's "Just Another Job" is a perfect example, and his story opens the collection beautifully, drawing on occult trope to paint a frightening first scene.
The following tale, "Spider Daughter Spider," by Jennifer Williams, was one of two stories to really put me off my pins. Williams wrote a haunting tale of psychological horror, with just enough visceral horror to make me put the anthology down for a week to refresh mind with lighter reading. That's said by way of compliment. The story is just damn good. And really freaky.
From Williams' story, we get a parade of the strange and haunting. Tales of youth run amok or out on a dare, love lost only to return with a vengeance, and freakish worlds tucked away beneath the veneer of city life. The penultimate tale, "A Kind of Love," by A.A. Garrison, is the only one to leave me a bit flat. I wanted something more to happen, more development and a stronger sense of closure to the various plot threads at play. The final tale, Jason Andrew's "A Simple Job," is perfect counterpoint to the collection opener, and one of the best in the anthology. Hands down, this was a great set of tales and proof again of the quality we can expect from Anachron Press.
I'm also a writer, and took great joy from many of the tales in Urban Occult. I write on the weird side of the aisle, scribbling stories with a lot of strange characters in them, strange happenings and the like. So this was a GREAT collection to get my brain working on new story ideas. Seeing what other authors have done successfully opened my head to some possibilities that I would not have considered otherwise. These stories were great entertainment, although more than one got too dark for my tastes.
Most of all, these stories were inspiring, and I think that's the best thing that can be said about the written word.
Each story contains a unique darkness and a gritty realism that I found compelling. From vampires to ghosts to haunted houses to occult rituals, there's something for everyone to enjoy.
The highlights for me included Mark West's THE WITCH HOUSE, Ren Warom's THE GHOSTS OF MY CITY WALK, Gary McMahon's JUST ANOTHER JOB, and Jason Andrew's A SIMPLE JOB.
There is a ton of talent on display here, all put together nicely by editor and author Colin Barnes.
If you buy one anthology this year, make it URBAN OCCULT.
This book runs the gamut of what can fit in this genre, and I found myself enjoying each and every story on its own merit. Very pleased with this and will have to write better if I'm going to be included in such an illustrious group.
This is worth every penny of its cost (a mere 2.99) and I highly recommend you get yourself out there and occulted!!
Top international reviews
Just Another Job opens the book, and it's a typically dark tale from Gary McMahon; I'm sure you all know how bloody good McMahon is at short stories, right? There's some truly creepy imagery here (it reminded me of the Silent Hill games, for some reason) and an unrelenting atmosphere from the get go.
Spider Daughter Spider by Jennifer Williams. So how do you follow McMahon? Well, with another excellent story with some more truly, truly creepy imagery. Good god, Jennifer Williams, that final scene of yours will stick with me awhile, I can tell you.
Ren Warom's The Ghosts Of My City Walk. A story of lives wasted and an abandoned tower block, this was probably the bleakest story in the whole damn book - no easy achievement. It starts of building up the atmosphere... and then moves into a breathless final third. I really liked this one.
The Remover Of Obstacles by James Brogden. A bit of dark comedy to break up your horror anthology reading experience? Certainly, Sir. But I must warn you we do serve our comedy very dark here... Why, by the end, some people aren't laughing at all.
The Witch House - God-damn you, Mark West. On first reading, this story annoyed the writer in me because I couldn't see how it worked. It's a relatively simple story, archetypal maybe, and you just know it's going to end badly (kids breaking into a rumoured witch's house - like, duh), so why is it still so scary? After reading it a second time, I still don't know how it works, I just know that is does. God-damn you, Mark.
Finally, I'd like to mention The Strange Case Of Mrs West & The Dead by Sarah Anne Langton - a funny story about an exorcism of a most unconventional kind, and it works almost solely because of the author's skill in first person narration, it's that good. She also did the excellent cover art, I hear. Hats off, madam, hats off - to you and all the fabulous writers in Urban Occult.