Edited by Mark Deniz and Sharyn Lilley 

Eneit Press (2007)


Reviewed by Alexandra Pierce (this review was first published in September 2007)

The first section of this anthology is subtitled “Winter: The Cold Fingers Approach”, and all of the stories here certainly involve winter or the cold in some way. In some, it’s insidious – barely noticeable; in others, it is a serious factor. I quite like this as a theme; cold certainly features in some of my bad dreams.

“Front”, by Miles Deacon, is one of those stories in which winter and coldness play a starring role. It’s set on the Front – any front, I think – in the trenches. John, an ordinary soldier, doesn’t freeze to death this night. He’s lucky … maybe. This story is very much in the vein of standard WWI stories, if perhaps a little more deliberately horrific than some.

It took me a while to get into “Cooling the Crows”, by Kaaron Warren – even to understand exactly what was going on. Who the crows were, in particular. It did eventually become clear, but I have to say that this was not one of my favourite stories. It was quite clever, towards the end, but by then I didn’t care much.

Sharyn Lilley’s “Winter Solstice” is horrific – quite, quite horrible. I knew there was a reason why I’m not in the police force.

One of my most favourite words is ‘defenestrate’. Michael Bailey’s story by that name is funny, in a car-crash sort of way: Cassie and Kyle are having the mother of all domestic fights (not involving domestic abuse, though, fortunately). Things are going out the window by the minute. Cold is not quite so obvious in this tale.

After Winter comes “Spring: Warmer Days Bring You No Respite”. Not a happy thought, really, for my most favourite season.

D Richard Pearce’s “Living in Sepia” starts off fairly mundanely, with children going to school. It rapidly dissolves into a nightmare. Not a particularly unique nightmare, though, I have to say.

You often hear about weird things on the internet. An older co-worker once told me about fax-spamming, but it just doesn’t seem the same as good old email spam. Anyway, “Twenty Questions” (Jennifer Brozek) is about exactly that. Fairly predictable, I must say, but still – nicely written, enough to give me (admittedly a scaredy cat) a bit of a chill.

My personal favourite is the solstice, but the equinox is also pretty cool. I do not get “Vernal Equinox”, by Sharyn Lilley. Perhaps I’m trying to get too much out of the story, but the ending simply didn’t make much sense to me.

LJ Hayward’s “The Curtain” is not a story to read if you have to spend too much time around hospitals.

Summer is generally regarded as a happy season when everyone gets to complain about how hot it is, forgetting that just six months earlier they were pining not for the fjords, but for warmth. When you’re warned that “The Light Will Not Save You”, however, you know that this summer isn’t going to be that great.

RJ Barker contributes “The Dry Heat, the Dust, the Martinis and the Insects”. Anyone who has spent time in the heat – real heat – knows that it really can play on your mind. Here, Edwards is already a little unhinged before he ever turns up at the Oasis Fastness Hotel … and things go downhill from there. I thought the last line was unnecessary, though, and spoiled an otherwise fairly creepy story.

“Kogane-Dono”, by Donald Jacob Uitvlugt, must have been written by a gardening enthusiast. Or someone who has had to live with one. I like my garden, but it’s certainly not the most important thing in the world. For Beth, though, these are serious issues she needs to consider. Creepy.

The summer solstice always makes me a little sad – the beginning of the end, as it were. Sharyn Lilley’s story of that name is creepy and, I have to admit, a bit confusing to me. Until I realised that it connected to her other stories, at which point it started to make a lot more sense…

“Monstrous Bright Tomorrows”, by Robert Hood, brought back memories, for me, of days when I was a kid, when the cicadas were so loud that thinking really was difficult sometimes. The cicadas in this particular story are a lot creepier than those of my childhood.

The word ‘creepy’ is turning up a lot in this review, isn’t it?

The final section of this anthology is Autumn – when “The Dead Leaves Eddy Around Your Feet”, apparently. Which is true, and generally a nice thought – who doesn’t like stepping on crunchy leaves? – but in this context becomes, well, creepy.

With “This Train Terminates Here”, Pete Kempshall makes me wary of two things: going behind someone’s back, and catching public transport late at night. Not exactly original, but the story is suspenseful enough to keep you reading most of the way. I thought the conclusion was a bit disappointing, though.

Amanda Pillar’s “The Letter” was weird, and a bit gross, and – in the end – a bit disappointing. I was hoping for something far more imaginative than it turned out to be.

To complete the set, Sharyn Lilley contributes “Autumnal Equinox”. And it was an appropriately creepy end to the quartet, too.

Stephanie Campisi’s “The Rising Sound of Death on the Water Tank” features one sick bastard, one scared narrator, and lots of animals. It’s not a story I particularly enjoyed, but it was fairly well written.

Finally, to cap the entire anthology off, we have Mark S Deniz’s own “Corvus”. It’s about that old superstition, that the ravens of the Tower of London keep the whole kingdom in one piece. It is a dramatic and apocalyptic story – a fitting way to conclude the anthology.

This is not the sort of anthology I would usually read, because I’m not a big fan of horror. However, there were some stories that even I enjoyed, and others I didn’t enjoy but did appreciate. A bigger fan of horror will no doubt find even more joy in this anthology than me.