Review: Fresh Fear: Contemporary Horror edited by William Cook

Fresh.FearThere is no set theme for this anthology, but each story touches on the fears of the modern world. In the introduction, a selection from W.J. Renham’s The Art of Darkness: Meditations on the Effect of Horror Fiction,  we are reminded that, “Horror serves to reconnect us with our primal selves, provides temporary respite from the droning conditions of modern life.”

This isn’t a taste of the horror fiction of today–it’s a giant snarling bite. Some stories examine the experience of being bullied, losing a child, and the terror of becoming a drooling husk devoid of emotion. Primal fears of ghosts, demons and ancient evil unleashed upon humanity are also found here. Some of these tales are a closer look at the horrors we view on the 24-hour news feeds where serial killers, rapes and murders keep us both frightened and entertained. Some authors examine the quiet horrors of isolation, insanity, and the the complacency of those who look at evil but do nothing to stop it.

Be warned: none of the authors shy away from vivid imagery, gore, violence or misogyny. The one story that haunts me the most, “Camps” by Jack Dann, was a glimpse into the history of World War II. The images conjured in his words are as haunting as the photographs that survive the Nazi concentration camps. Another favorite was “Welcomeland” by Ramsey Campbell. His portrait of a dilapidated town and the equally ramshackle amusement park gave me chills. The lyrical, “Darkness Dancing in Your Eyes” by WH Pugmire was a glimpse of eternal loyalty, beauty, and pain.

I highly recommend Fresh Fear for lovers of gut-wrenching horror.

***

Scathe meic Beorh – God of the Wind:  An academic research trip to Mora, New Mexico brings a man face-to-face with the gods of the desert and teaches him more than he wants to know.

Ramsey Campbell – Welcomeland:  A man travels home to visit the amusement park he he helped finance. Meant to revitalize the economy, he finds the park failed and the town in shambles.  You can’t go home again, but if you do, can you ever leave?

“It wasn’t the desolation that troubled him so much as the impression that the town was yet struggling to change, to live.”

Lily Childs – Strange Tastes:  She’s the perfect caretaker. Loyal, neat, clean, and a fantastic gourmet cook. When her employers are arrested for tax fraud, she discovers they share her tastes in more than kitchen appliances.

Lincoln Crisler – Nouri and the Beetles:  In a time of war, the young men leave to fight. What does a girl have to do to get a husband?

Jack Dann – Camps:  People often speak of those suffering a terminal disease as being fighters. Stephen fights his war for survival on two fronts. The first is a war of pain and drugs. The second is a battle of memories long past and never forgotten.

Robert Dunbar – High Rise:  Brandon, his brother Tyrone, and their mother move to a better room in an ill-kept high rise.  When Tyrone meets one of the ghostly former tenants, Brandon must save his life before he wastes away.

Thomas Erb – Spencer Weaver Gets Rebooted:  A teen has only the internet, and his mother to help him get through his last year of High School, and get revenge on the bully who tormented him.

Brandon Ford – Scare Me:  As a reviewer, I can honestly say that this was my favorite story in the whole anthology.  It was fantastic! I swear it. Really. Not joking.  Looks nervous.

Carole Gill – Raised:  A boy’s despair over his mother’s madness leads him to a career in medicine. While dissecting corpses for his classes, he discovers he has a passion for studying the deceased. Will his mother’s curse follow him, or is there something else in the past that haunts him?

Lindsey Beth Goddard – The Tooth Collector:  When her daughter is killed in traffic, Jenny knows it wasn’t an accident. She seeks out the man responsible and demands her daughter be returned to her.

JF Gonzalez – Love Hurts:  A tale of the Black Dahlia, the Laguna State Mental Hospital, undying love, and the transforming ecstasy of pain.

Dane Hatchell – The ‘takers:  Mr Jaffe is being held in a medical testing facility, desperate to escape. The Rooks shoot him full of drugs to steal his soul.  The ‘takers shuffle him from place to place and whisper the words that strike terror in his heart, “It’s Wednesday, and it’s time for Bingo!”

E.A. Irwin – Justice through Twelve Steps:  Particularly disturbing tale of insanity, rape and murder that went too far for this reader.

Charlee Jacob – Locked inside the Buzzword Box:  Clanci Feamy is her father’s greatest experiment in terminal insanity. She’s thinking outside box, and she’s hungry.

“Heaven waited, so did Hell. The two were even the paradigm for the amalgamation of rapture and damnation. Both places were Terminal Wards.”

K Trap Jones – Demon Eyed Blind:  A demon-hunter pursues her prey with skill and precision until she backs him — and herself — into a corner. She’s down to two souls, one body, and the police banging on the locked door.

Tim Jones – Protein:  When the ice melts and the world is awash with water, the next world war will be fought over calories. You can survive if you have enough protein.

Vada Katherine -Block:  Block’s wife, Luna was murdered. Now he is investigating a series of murders that may be related.

“Block has lived too much, suffered the touch of madmen, tasted the ugly redolence of death and outlived the only human being that ever loved him.”

Roy C. Booth and Axel Kohagen – Just Another Ex:  A private investigator goes after a man suspected of cheating on his wife. Unfortunately, it’s not his wife who has hired the detective.

Shane McKenzie – So Much Pain, So Much Death:  Distraught parents are overjoyed to discover that their missing daughter has been found alive. The man responsible for her disappearance rots in a cell, but her father has suspicions that all is not as it seems.

Shaun Meeks – Perfection Through Silence:  Tom is tormented by a sound. All he wants is silence, to quiet the ticking that no one else can hear. His grandmother could help him, but she’s been dead for almost a year.

Adam Milliard – The Incongruous Mr Marwick:  Which is the greater evil, the perpetrator of torment, or the one who stands by and merely observes?

Christine Morgan – Nails of The Dead:  Plenty of people are preparing for the end of the world. Some intend to merely survive it, others work to build the vehicles that will usher it in.

Billie Sue Mosiman – Verboten:   Dorothy wants to be a singer in Nashville, but her sister vanished from the truck stop up the road. Her grandfather says strangers are verboten,  but it doesn’t stop her from looking.

D.F. Noble – Psych:  Working on the psych ward is a difficult job. Sometimes it helps to talk to a professional so your work doesn’t follow you home.

Chantal Noordeloos – The Door:  Jen’s sister Mila is having nightmares. Their stepfather is acting strangely and the basement door is locked. Is the danger on this side of the door or beyond it?

WH Pugmire – Darkness Dancing in Your Eyes:  Enoch Blade awakens in his master’s house, alone and despondent. He still seeks to serve the alchemist who taught him to dance when there is nothing left but grave stones and shadows in the mirror.

“Enoch found his way home, to the abode where he had assisted his master when that alchemist had lived, where he served his master still in some unholy way.”

William Todd Rose – The Grave Dancer:  People have attempted to film and photograph ghosts for as long as the technology has been available.  When Jamie and his friends view an 8mm film from his late grandfather’s collection, they decide to find out if the local ghost stories are real.

Anna Taborska – Out of the Light:  In the vast stacks of the Bodleian Libraries, a  student’s book request becomes a scholar’s worst nightmare.

I received this book for free in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review. This review originally appeared at The Bookie Monster

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