Continue below to read my review of the book and to check out the rest of the stops on the 'After Sundown' Blog Tour brought to you by Random Things Tours, Flame Tree Press, and Mark Morris!
'After Sundown,' edited by Mark Morris, is a new horror anthology out on Flame Tree Press.
Specifically in the horror field, I've always been a big fan of anthologies. Over the years, I've discovered some of my favorite horror writers this way because they have a limited time to hook me and deliver and I've found if they can do that in this format, it's almost a sure thing in novels later on.
Of the 20 original horror stories included, 16 of them were commissioned from some of the top names in the horror genre. The cool thing about this anthology, which will hopefully be an annual non-themed horror anthology release, is 4 of those 20 were selected from 100's of stories sent to Flame Tree during a 2-week open submissions window.
What a great way to discover new talent and see how well they might be received!
Some of the short stories, as to be expected, are just slightly unpleasant 'what if' scenarios relating to post-apocalyptic situations, experimentation, or even sort of surreal pandemic settings. All of the stories are at least good.. but there are a few that I feel are exceptional.
I have to start with 'Wherever You Look' by Ramsey Campbell because he's just still such a master in the field. I can't even remember how old I was when I first discovered his work.. probably 15 or so.. and it was definitely in one of those old anthologies I was about to learn to love.
Campbell obviously loves to play with things that skirt the periphery of our minds. Those tricks our brains play on us when we sometimes think we get a glimpse of something out of the corner of our vision, only to turn and see nothing.. or things that are ever present, that we somehow manage to overlook until it's too late.
This story is no different in that regard and it's absolutely one I will carry forward with me. Even now the concept lingers at the back of my mind. I know the experience would be terrifying and love the slow, subtle approach he uses to torment both the character and the reader.
'Mine Seven' by Elana Gomel is a special story, as it takes place near the Arctic Circle and explores concepts of Chukchi folklore, an indigenous people who live within the Russian Federation. Leveraging shamanic themes and a more existential horror style, though the mythos itself is far different.. it carries an almost Lovecraftian feel in the tale's atmosphere. I loved this, as I don't feel we see nearly enough diversity in the industry as a rule, and in the US at least.. we so lack exposure to the eastern storytelling styles that readers often don't even know how to process the differences.
'That's the Spirit' by Sarah Lotz is another really disarming story. It's incredibly well delivered with such a delicate touch of foreshadowing it's actually difficult to see. While I thought I knew what was up, I was completely wrong. She took a classic theme and still managed to surprise me with its use.
'It Doesn't Feel Right' by Michael Marshall Smith is a fantastically creepy read. Smith writes with such an easy humor in the initial pages that I almost forgot that I was reading horror and so with the first glimpse of something really off.. I was so alarmed by it he had me thinking of some of my favorite classic horror films. I won't name them here, because I'd hate to ruin the experience for anyone.. but it was definitely chilling.
Though I'm hard pressed to pick just only one more, 'Alice's Rebellion' by John Langan must be it. I love stories born of Wonderland and it intrigues me that as dark as the original tale is, new perspectives are often even darker. This story is lovingly rendered in a style suitable to follow Lewis Carroll's, though it's less whimsical, it's just as wild. Yet, at the same time, one can't help but see the presentation of our modern world often in very literal, specific ways, throughout. It's a favorite, for certain.
If you like horror and anthologies at all.. do yourself a favor and pick this book up. It's actually probably the best collection I've read all year.. and there are plenty of gems inside. Plus, I'd love to see it get the support it needs to become that annual release they're hoping for.
Mark Morris (editor) has written and edited almost forty novels, novellas, short story collections and anthologies. His script work includes audio dramas for Doctor Who, Jago & Litefoot and the Hammer Chillers series.
His recent work includes the official movie tie-in novelizations of The Great Wall and (co-written with Christopher Golden) The Predator, the Obsidian Heart trilogy (The Wolves of London, The Society of Blood and The Wraiths of War), the anthologies New Fears (winner of the British Fantasy Award for Best Anthology)and New Fears 2 as editor, a new audio adaptation of the classic 1971 horror movie Blood on Satan’s Claw, for which he won the New York Festival Radio Award for Best Drama Special, and a new audio adaptation of the M.R. James ghost story A View From a Hill, for which he won his second New York Festival Radio Award, for Best Digital Drama Program, and which has also been nominated for an ARIA (Audio & Radio Industry Award).