"Dark Screams: Volume One" Book Review
Written by Michel Sabourin
Published by Hydra
Edited by Brian James Freeman and Richard Chizmar
2014, 88 pages, Fiction
eBook released on December 9th, 2014
Anthologies are a great way to be introduced to an author you might not have been exposed to previously, through bite-sized samples. Dark Screams: Volume One features works by some impressive authors, including Kelley Armstrong, Bill Pronzini, Simon Clark, Ramsey Campbell and the granddaddy of them all, genre titan Stephen King.
Now, most people are probably going to pick this up simply because King's name is attached (I would normally be one of them), but those people are in for a treat with the other stories in this collection too if they continue to read past King's entry, "Weeds". If you've ever seen Creepshow or its graphic novel adaptation, then you may be familiar with the story here. "Weeds" is the inspiration behind the segment "The Lonesome Death of Jordy Verrill" in those versions. But the story in "Weeds", while basically the same in plot, pace and conclusion, is somehow vastly different, filled with a brand of subtle reflection missing from the campier filmed/drawn adaptations. The story centers on the mishaps of a simpleton who stumbles onto a fallen comet and dreams of the riches (as much as $25!!!) that might befall him thanks to the extraordinary luck of it landing on his property. In the comic, and in the film, the character comes off as more buffoonish and less tragically idiotic. It's a nuance that adds a lot to the story and your sympathies towards him. I recommend this collection for that alone, but do yourself a favor and keep reading on past it. There's some fantastic work to be read.
The second story, from author Kelley Armstrong, is the tale about the price we pay for our actions and our affiliations. When Kara's childhood friend Ingrid comes back into her life, Kara begins to realize sometimes the prices we pay are too high. I won't give you much more beyond that admittedly vague plot description, as I fear it will spoil something for you, and you shouldn't be spoiled. It's a gripping tale and one worthy of your attention. Skillfully told and engaging.
Perhaps the most disturbing issue in the anthology, "Magic Eyes" by Bill Pronzini is the tale in this collection that has stuck with me the most. It's a view of paranoia and psychosis through the spectrum of the afflicted. Darkly crafted and compelling, it is also heartbreaking and vicious. Aside from King's (for which I am admittedly biased), Pronzini's addition is my favorite of the lot.
The other two selections, Simon Clark's "Murder in Chains" and Ramsey Campbell's "The Watched", are both solid entries, but lesser to the others. "Murder in Chains" is a sort of locked room mystery with a macabre twist and "The Watched" is a twisted tale of the harm that can come from the devil you don't know. Both are entertaining reads, they just didn't capture my imagination as handily as the other three.
Overall, this is a great compilation of the tragic and the horrific that any genre will fan will enjoy. I highly recommend picking it up.