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Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Fading Light: An Anthology Of The Monstrous edited by Tim Marquitz (Reviewed by Mihir Wanchoo)


Order the Anthology HERE
Read FBC's Review of Armageddon Bound 
Read FBC's Review of Resurrection 
Read FBC’s Review of At The Gates 
Read FBC's Review of Echoes Of The Past 
Read FBC's Interview with Tim Marquitz 

EDITOR INFORMATION: Tim Marquitz is the author of the Demon Squad series, and the Sepulchral Earth serial stories. He is also an editor, a heavy metal aficionado, a Mixed Martial Arts fan, and is also a member of the Live Action Role Playing organization. When he’s not busy writing dark stories, which catch his imagination he also manages to go about his day job. Tim lives in El Paso, Texas with his wonderful family. 

OVERVIEW/ANALYSIS: This anthology was something I was looking forward to because it played with the apocalyptic themes along with horror genre, both of which fascinate me entirely. The blurb can be read here and I'll be speaking about each story as it will be in line with the previous anthology FBC reviews and simply helps in elucidating what I liked and disliked about each story (apologies in advance for its length). 

Parasitic Embrace by Adam Millard - It’s a tale that begins a volcanic eruption in Spain that causes chaos on a global scale. Amanda is worried about her mother when the cloud reached the British Isles and they discover that there’s something within that is much more deadly. This was a simple short story whose premise will be very familiar to most horror readers. It is a decent story that does not surprise much and ends rather suddenly. I thought it was an okay story and in line with the theme of the book. 

The Equivalence Principle by Nick Cato - This was another strange story about a guy named Steve Burke who has a strange belief about the earth’s gravitational force. This story has a dual narrative with the identity of the other being left up to the reader to decide. This story was a bit weird but kudos to the author for twisting his imagination and bringing about end of humanity in a way that’s almost never thought of. 

A Withering of Sorts by Stephen McQuiggan - The story begins with a travelling family that stops at a bar looking for a hotel. The father and mother however have no idea where they are and the barkeep along with his customers are only too happy to divulge why strangers are not welcome in their town especially children. This was the first story that I really enjoyed and one, which deviates from the theme to a certain extent. 

Goldilocks Zone by Gary W. Olson - Amita Prasad is enjoying the buzz of a drunken evening when she realizes that the stars have disappeared. Slowly and surely things start disappearing or re-forming (if that’s a better word). Everyone transforms into something else. This story was a very weird one and I couldn’t gel with it at all. It was perhaps too bizarre for my tastes and its reception will depend on each reader’s preferences. 

They Wait Below by Tom Olbert - This story was first of the several excellent ones of the collection. It begins with Corby, an ecological inspector narrating the past events occurring at an oil-rig. The hazards he had to face and the terrors he saw have lead him to doubt what is truly happening. This story was a zinger very much in line with the book theme and has shades of John Carpenter’s The Thing, this tale ends on a nice twist and is the first standout jewel of this collection. 

Blessed Be the Shadowchildren by Malon Edwards - The story carries on the excellence of its predecessor. It’s a story within a story, with the first thread about Levi, the narrator and his friend Lali trying to find something in a land wherein the sun is dying. The second thread deals with the reason for the sun’s death and the hubris of the god who caused it. A twisted story and very well written by Malon Edwards, this story was another one that took the book theme and played it out to a different tune. 

The Beastly Ninthby Carl Barker - This was the first historical story in this collection and deals with the battle between the French and English. Napoleon has returned to France after escaping from his island prison and the person chosen to stop him, is the Duke of Wellington Lord Arthur Wellesley. This story was just an all out hit with me, drawing upon history and mixing it with the supernatural, the author really surprised me with the end twist as well. This is a story, which I hope the author decides to write more about and give us a longer story. 

Late Night Customer by David Dalglish - David Dalglish is usually known for his dark fantasy tales and it’s no surprise that he has a hankering for horror. The story is set in a diner wherein the protagonist waitress Darcy Evans meets a hassled traveller Brad who’s running from something that catches up with him in the diner. A fast paced and dark story with an ending similar to the first Terminator film but one that is way way more pessimistic. 

Rurik’s Frozen Bones by Jake Elliot - This is the second of the historical tales and this is set in Scandinavia in the early 9th century AD. The story is narrated by Rurik, who after his most recent sea experience, refuses to go back. He recalls the past to Oslo the Boarstout. This story had a good thriller feel and ends on an uncertain note. Not among my favorites but still a very good effort. 

Wrath by Lee Mather - Wrath is a story that deals directly with the apocalypse. Steven is a recovering alcoholic that just wants to reunite with his son who has been with his brother’s family so far. Playing with themes of family and biblical curses, this story was another surprise and one that ended on a rather twisted note. A decent effort and a story which will be either liked on ignored depending on the reader’s tastes. 

Friends of a Forgotten Man by Gord Rollo - This story for me was one of the creepiest ones I have ever read in my life. It features a man imprisoned in a subterranean basement, who is perhaps losing his sanity entirely and thinks of the leeches and insects around him as his friends. Things however are weirder than they seem as the story proves. This was another deviation from the anthology’s theme but the story was just so powerful in its horror that I didn’t mind at all. Just a word of caution for all those who aren’t overtly fond of leeches or creepy-crawlies this story is not for you. 

Altus by Georgina Kamsika - Susan Mason is an oceanographer, who has been given a chance to go where no human has gone before. The Altus is a free-diving submersible that has been specially prepared to go into the Marianas Trench. What doctor Mason finds down below is the crux of the story. This story was a bit similar to the MEG series by Steve Alten. A decent effort but with a predictable ending didn’t do well for this story. 

Angela’s Garden by Dorian Dawes - Angela’s Garden is a pleasant surprise of a story. It is another deviation from the book’s theme and reminded me a bit of Stephen King’s short stories and his book The Green Mile. Angela Bradshaw is a older lady abandoned by her family and she has some extra powers. She’s trying to avert a disaster that can take place. This is one of the best stories of this collection as it provides us with a remarkable character, who is an older lady and yet shows spunk. This story came close to being my favorite one among this entire collection simply based on the strength of its main character. 

The Long Death of Day by Timothy Baker - This story is about John and his beloved Selena who are rather distraught at the approaching darkness and have to figure out what’s wrong with their relationship. This story was more of a downer for me as it focused more on the characters and they weren’t that interesting IMO. The story sticks to the overall theme of the anthology though. 

Out of the Black by William Meikle - This was another of the very good stories of this collection. Three hundred and fifty years after the sun dimmed, life on earth has irreversibly changed. The unnamed narrator is sent out to find out the required ore and soon stumbles upon a subterranean center. To his horror what he finds, also follows him thereby echoing Nietzsche’s famous saying about an abyss. This was another story, which opened up in an exciting manner but fizzled out in the end. 

Degenerates by DL Seymour - Degenerates was a surprising story. Set in 1968 in the small town of Dunwich, Diana Collins is the teacher who moves into the town, as she’s impressed with the mayor’s plan for racial integration. She however starts noticing a curious pattern of disappearance among the children that she teaches and soon add things up. The crux of this story is not hard to anticipate but its final twist will surely leave many surprised. Another good story and an excellent indicator about the pedigree of this anthology. 

Dust by Wayne Ligon - Dust is a story that straddles the fine line between SF and fantasy and does it best to appease fans of both genres. It’s about an unnamed narrator and his grandmother, both of whom are on the Oregon coastline and are trying to figure out what might be truly happening. An odd story that reminded me of the mythology showcased in the Hellboy universe but distinct in its own way. Another good effort with a somber ending.  

Der Teufel Sie Wissen by TSP Sweeney - The title of the story translates to “The devil you know” and is another historical story. This one is set in Nazi Germany and features a group of youths trying to gang up on their quarry, only to realize that they have no idea about what is truly going on. This was another of the fantastic short stories and one, which I believe the author should think of expanding into a longer novel. With an ending that is not only superb but also promises of further tribulations. This story left me wanting to know more of the world within and war to come… 

Born of Darkness by Stacey Turner - Another contender for the favorites title, this story strongly follows the main theme of the anthology. The story focuses on the family of Jeb & Cassie and his mother Sarah. They are surviving on their own when they when a young girl comes to stay with them. What happens next is what makes this story special. I completely enjoyed this story and this almost seems like a chapter out of a book as the way it ends, the reader WILL want to know what happens next. Possibly my second favorite story because of the characterization and the mythological aspect of the story, this one is a gem! 

Lottery by Gene O’Neill - Lottery is a rather shorter story, sharing its name and premise with the famous short story by Shirley Jackson. The author has inserted his own twist over here and this story deals with more of the paranormal. However it ends abruptly and no explanation is given in regards to the events. This was one of the weaker stories of the collection because of its ending and the incompleteness it fostered. 

Where Coyotes Fear to Tread by Gef Fox - This story is definitely my favorite among this collection. It focuses on two people, Lester and his ex-girlfriend, Carla who are forced to unite and save their town Knoxville from something that’s out of their comprehension. Again with a terrific mythology utilized and funny characterization, this story simply shines. This also felt part of a greater story and I sincerely hope that the author considers writing the next part to this tale so I and other readers can find out what happens next. Having a very original premise and with some terrific writing, this story is truly the best of this collection. 

The Theophany of Nyx by Edward M. Erdelac - The Theophany of Nyx was a highly anticipated story for me as it was written by Ed Erdelac whose previous short story (that I read) was a spectacular one featuring zombies, samurai in a Japanese prison. This danger in this story is primordial in origin and begins with the disappearance of the first lunar colony ever built. The story deals with the notion of what happens when another species tries to fight all the carbon based forms for its survival. A very academic tale (if that’s the term) but an effective one, Ed Erdelac showcases his weird imagination and gives us another intriguing story. 

Double Walker by Henry P. Gravelle - Dr. Maria Dobbs’s newest patient Benedict is accused of the murder of his parents but he denies it and says his shadow did it. This story is focused on what could have happened as the protagonist tries to ferret out the truth. This story was an interesting one however the execution and ending didn’t really endear itself to me. 

Light Save Us by Ryan Lawler - Ted makes sure the generator keeps running as otherwise the compound’s boundary will be over run by the creatures outside. In a recent attempt to get the machine from stopping, Ted will face homophobia, his lover Gray and much more. This story was an interesting one with shades of the Village to it but the author does his best to trip the readers by focusing the story solely from Ted’s POV. Another very good story  with a very good end twist. This one should appeal to lots of readers. 

Dark Tide by Mark Lawrence - Dark Tide is the story of something which has been trapped in the earth’s surface but has recently got out due to human experimentation. Focused on a family as they attempt to survive what they do not understand. Dark Tide focuses on the bonds of family and what happens when they get stretched. An excellent ending to this monster anthology and it ends on a bang as the story’s climax leaves the reader with hope that anything is possible! 

CONCLUSION: As you can see with the overtly lengthy review, this anthology definitely has something for all horror, post-apocalyptic story aficionados. Tim Marquitz has skillfully garnered a veritable host of stories to outwit and outthink the most jaded readers. I thought there were some great stories in this mix namely the ones by Gef Fox, Dorian Dawes, Stacey Turner, Malon Edwards, Carl Barker, TSP Sweeney and Gord Rollo. These ones stood out for me, not that the others were bad, I'm sure different readers will like different ones. Give Fading Light a shot if you want to read something different, you can be assured that you will not regret it!

NOTE: There is a companion piece to this anthology and I'll be reviewing that next week on Bastard Books.

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