"Dark Screams: Volume Ten" Book Review
Written by Steve Pattee
Published by Hydra
Edited by Brian James Freeman and Richard Chizmar
2018, 180 pages, Fiction
Released on March 13th, 2018
It’s been a minute since I reviewed a release from the "Dark Screams" series. I haven’t read nearly enough of the anthologies, all edited by Brian James Freeman and Richard Chizmar, as I’d like, but the ones I’ve read have been a good time, and Volume Ten is no exception. While there is no apparent theme to this anthology, I will say if I were to pick one, it would be “Screw your happy endings.” Just the way I like it.
The piece opens with the sci-fi story, “Bastion”, by Simon Clark. While I don’t read a ton of science fiction (let’s be honest, unless it’s called Ender’s Game or Ender’s Shadow, I don’t read any), this is my favorite story in a book filled with great tales. It centers on a kid named John, who wakes up in a strange bunker with no knowledge of how he got there or what is going on. Turns out, he’s unwillingly been enlisted in a war, where both the for whom and the why are mysteries. All he knows is he’s got questions, including why is he the only one who has a memory of his past? Ironically, “Bastion” is very reminiscent of Ender’s Shadow in a way (young kids picked to fight an adults’ war), with John taking the Bean character. There are more questions left unanswered than not, but the tale comes to a satisfying conclusion nonetheless, and I would read the hell out of a full-on novel of this.
Clive Barker’s “On Amen’s Shore” follows, and it’s about two gents looking to earn some money, and they find a rather interesting way of doing it. Normally I would be all over this sort of jaunt, as the center of the scares is sea monster based, but it is just a tad too fantasy-driven for my tastes, but I’m sure Barker fans will enjoy it. (Not that I’m not a fan of his work, I am, but he is hit and miss with me.)
While a fun read regardless, “The Woman in the Blue Dress” by Heather Herrman is frustratingly predictable from the start. Having a quiet dinner by herself isn’t going to happen for our main character, Natalie, as a strange woman invades her meal and to some degree, her life. It isn’t long until you figure out where the story is going, but Herman’s writing is solid enough for you to kick back and enjoy the ride. I just wish there was more to it.
“Seven Years” by Wrath James White is the most damning entry in the book. The story tells of a young man who, against the odds, climbs out of the hole of his troubled past. Unfortunately, life is never, ever that easy no matter how hard it seems, and the sucker punch of an ending will leave you hurting.
Brad thinks he has found the perfect woman in Gretchen in Mark Rains and Lisa Tuttle’s “Dark Water”, but if that were the case, this story would be in a different anthology. Instead of a perfect date night, Brad discovers that saying the woman he’s pining over has issues is an understatement; the woman has a subscription.
My second favorite story in the book is its closer, “The Trendy Bar Side of Life”, by Kristine Kathryn Rusch. The entry is free from the supernatural, but it’s one of the more horrific of the bunch with its real life horrors of rape. The center of the story, a bartender named D, sees a lot of familiarity in the bruised and battered customer that enters her establishment. After he collapses and is taken to the hospital, she discovers his wallet has been left behind and decides to find out who put the man in the condition he’s in. The story is painful to read at times, but necessary.
It’s should come as no surprise that editors Brian James Freeman and Richard Chizmar have delivered another winner in the "Dark Screams" series. It’s not just the variety of stories I’ve come to expect from these anthologies, but I love the fact they consistently introduce me to a new author whose work I will seek out as well something I haven’t seen from an author I’m familiar with. If you haven’t read any of the series yet, get started pronto; if you have, you know that picking up Dark Screams: Volume Ten is a no-brainer.