Friday, August 7, 2009

Book Review: Vile Things - Extreme Deviations of Horror edited by Cheryl Mullenax

Horror anthologies are the perfect bite-sized treats to discover new authors as well as appreciate established ones. Though it’s always nice to see a story by a “master of horror” I much rather like discovering new talent within a good horror anthology. Much to my delight, there was plenty of “fresh blood” to be found within the pages of the horror anthology Vile Things – Extreme Deviations of Horror.

Unlike some horror anthologies, there is no clear theme of zombies or vampires in Vile Things – just solid short stories from the likes of Ramsey Campbell, Graham Masterton, C.J. Henderson and many other horror authors, including some new names I’m now glad to be acquainted with. All of the stories are not for the faint of heart, as many times I found myself squirming and cringing at the disturbing and disgusting tales of horror held between the anthology’s pages. The title of Vile Things definitely says it all! In this fast-paced collection of 15 stories, I thought all were horrific, but a few stood out more than the rest.

My favorite short story was Maggots by Tim Curran. Set during the Napoleonic Wars, both on the killing fields as well as the main character’s hometown of Paris, Maggots is a grotesque tale of cannibalism and possession. Except that instead of a demon taking possession of the main character’s body, the host’s body is invaded and taken over by maggots that force him to eat the putrefied remains of humans. There is a lot of gore within this particular story, all made all the more disturbing in the detailed descriptions the author gives of the main character feasting on the bloated and rotting remains of corpses, all the while all too fully aware of the atrocities he is committing.

Another one of my favorites was Z.F. Kilgore’s tale, The Devil Lives in Jersey. I love Jersey Devil stories and this one definitely doesn’t disappoint. An ex-police detective moves to the Pine Barrens after inheriting a house from his deceased grandparents hoping to give himself and his son a fresh start. Soon, though, the town’s dark secrets involving a witch burning, mysterious disappearances and grisly murders come to the surface, and the ex-detective discovers his family is inexplicably linked to the town’s bloody past…and now it seems that something is killing again. This short story was extremely well-written, with heaps of disturbing imagery (characters eating baby corpses and a witch having sex with something otherworldly, among other graphic scenes) and felt like it had so much to offer that it would be better suited as its own book. I hear that Kilgore, a retired police detective himself, has more short stories planned around the main character, and I eagerly await them!

Other favorites included the cheeky Tenant’s Rights by Sean Logan, in which an off-kilter, nerdy tenant gets revenge on his playboy roommate/landlord, but with disastrous results. I loved seeing the arrogant landlord get his comeuppance, but it was also satisfying to watch the creepy roommate get his at the end of the story! I also enjoyed Coquettrice, by Angel Leigh McCoy, a disturbing look at a satanic cult hatching their very own cockatrice…and watching the main character change from innocent to deviant was pretty jarring as well! What You Wish For by Garry Bushell was an extremely satisfying tale as well, and much like Tenant’s Rights, we get to watch a vile character meet her bloody end.

I’ve only mentioned a few outstanding stories, but with few exceptions all the tales within Vile Things are marvelously macabre! They will make you feel nauseous (Fungoid by Randy Chandler), give you the creeps (The Worm by John Bruni) or just plain scare you (Again by Ramsey Campbell). The anthology’s stories contain incest, rape, deformities, abnormalities, the disabled, infestations, demons, monsters and plenty of graphic gore, blood and other bodily fluids that will have you wishing you read it on an empty stomach! The book definitely lives up to its title of Vile Things – Extreme Deviations of Horror so prepare to be disturbed and make sure you have a barf bag handy before reading!

Buy it on Amazon!

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