"SNAFU: An Anthology of Military Horror" Book Review
Written by Steve Pattee
Published by Cohesion Press
Edited by Geoff Brown and Amanda J. Spedding
2014, 440 pages, Fiction
Released on July 8th, 2014
I've done more than a few anthology reviews for HorrorTalk, and if I'm not mistaken, I've started each review with the same speech: why I like anthologies, and what I look for first when picking out one to read (outside of what is sent to me for review). The first is simple; I like the variety of authors presented, and generally I will discover a writer I'd never read before. The format gives me just enough of a taste of an author to let me know if I want to continue reading them or not. When choosing an anthology, I look at the editor first to see if I'm familiar with them and then I see what authors are presented (and sometimes if the works are new or reprints because if it's a book full of reprints, I'll generally pass as I probably have them in some format already). What I don't think I've ever brought up is what type of anthology I look for, and to be honest, it's not something I've really thought about until SNAFU: An Anthology of Military Horror came across my plate.
I have to admit, I've never given military horror much thought until I read this fantastic book. Sure, I was familiar with the standard witches, ghosts, zombies (oh god, make that genre stop), and "best of" anthologies, but there is no memory (or at least recent memory) of seeing this particular sub-genre. Let me be the first to thank Cohesion Press to introducing me to it, and editors Geoff Brown and Amanda J. Spedding for doing some outstanding work with their selections.
The thing about anthologies is that with the majority of them you are going to get at least one great story in a tome this size, and sometimes more than one. But having read my share of them, it's rare that every single story holds its own and it's damn difficult to pick a standout as they all leave a mark, such is the case here. What's even more impressive in the stories in SNAFU: An Anthology of Military Horror is the sheer variety; the gamut runs from gory action to tragic haunting to giant bugs to zombies, all taking place in a military setting (obviously). And look, I'm not even really a fan of the military genre, but hot damn did I love this book from cover to cover. Even that zombie one I mentioned. I seriously hate that genre now, but that didn't stop me from enjoying Jeff Hewitt's "A Tide of Flesh" because he did what any good storyteller does; he made it about the people and not the flesh eaters. And really, how awesome is that title?
It's impossible for me to pick a favorite here, and I know that seems like a cop out, but I really just can't. I can, however, share with you some that resonated with me just a little bit more than the others, starting with Christine Morgan's "Little Johnny Jump-up".
Taking place during the Civil War, "Little Johnny Jump-up" is not scary, action-packed, or even bloody, but it is so, so tragic. The tale centers on a group of soldiers who notice a boy on a battlefield who "…has no earthly business being there," and the events that follow. Morgan's prose is both beautiful and damning, and I could almost taste the smoke of the battlefield she describes, hear the camp sounds, and feel the pain of the men. It's not the story itself that gets me (although part of it is), it's the way she tells it.
On the opposite side of the spectrum is Jonathan Maberry's "Bug Hunt", a fantastical tale of a man who gets separated from his team after the Black Hawk they were in gets shot down in the forest. After he collects himself, he must find his men and complete the mission – which I won't share because this is a short story after all, and you can get enough of the gist by the title alone. I will say this, though, these bugs aren't tiny. Billed as "A Joe Ledger Adventure", this action-packed and bloody tale had me wondering how in the hell I've missed these Joe Ledger books considering I'm a sucker for a series like F. Paul Wilson's Repairman Jack and Joseph Nassise's Jeremiah Hunt.
Curtis C. Chen's "Making Waves" is another fun monster story, this time dealing with…Elder Things. It should be enough that it has humongous and terrifying monsters of the sea, but throw in some magic, an alternate reality of World War 2 (I'm a sucker for alternate reality stories) and you have a grand old time. This is a tale that's begging for film version, preferably directed by Guillermo del Toro.
I could go on and on praising each and every story in this book, but I'm not going to. However, there is a plethora of great authors and great stories within these pages. While I won't (even though I desperately want to) tell you how good each one is, I will tell you who else can be found here:
- Blackwater - Neal F Litherland
- Little Johnny Jump-Up - Christine Morgan
- Covert Genesis - Brian W Taylor
- Bug Hunt - Jonathan Maberry
- Special Operations Interview PTO-14 - Wayland Smith
- Cold War Gothic - Weston Ochse
- Making Waves - Curtis C Chen
- The Fossil - Greig Beck
- A Tide of Flesh - Jeff Hewitt
- Death at 900 Meters - Tyson Mauermann
- Holding the Line - Eric S Brown
- Thela Hun Gingeet - WD Gagliani and David Benton
- The Shrine - David Amendola
- Ptearing All Before Us - Steve Ruthenbeck
- A Time of Blood - Kirsten Cross
- Blank White Page - James A Moore
This is Cohesion Press' first anthology, and if it's any indication of what this publisher has to offer, boy are we readers in for a treat. I also tip my hat to editors Geoff Brown and Amanda J. Spedding for doing such a stellar job of putting this together. It's impressive the shocking amount of variety that is still contained under the military umbrella. So stop reading this review. Instead you need to go read SNAFU: An Anthology of Military Horror for yourself. Now.