Sunday, March 31, 2013

Review: The Grin of The Dark by Ramsey Campbell

Ramsey Campbell is a name all horror readers should be familiar with. The Liverpool native has written at least thirty novels, and had hundreds of short stories to his name. I've long been a fan of Campbell's short fiction, but until now I have yet to delve into any of his longer works.

The Grin of the Dark is one of his more recent novels, being published in 2007. Now, looking at the cover alone it's easy to see how I came to choose this one. Clowns have long been a source of horror. Ask anyone who saw Stephen King's IT as a child. I had two clown puppets on a shelf in my room until the day I saw that mini-series.

It wasn't just the clown aspect that drew me to this book, but also the film element. The synopsis reminded me a bit of Theodore Roszack's Flicker, another novel which features a character obsessed with an old filmmaker and his work.

Here is the blurb right from the book's jacket:

Tubby Thackeray was once the biggest comedian in the world -- people literally laughed themselves to death at some of his performances. But almost nothing of his silent movies has survived, and now Thackeray is little more than a grace note in film history.

Disgraced film critic Simon is determined to restore Tubby's reputation and his own. A commercially successful biography of Tubby will convince Simon's girlfriend -- and her parents -- that Simon is worthy of her. 

Uncovering the truth about Tubby isn't easy. Newspapers of the time contain mysterious, truncated accounts of disturbing events at Tubby's performances and at screenings of his films. The few seconds of film Simon finds of Tubby in action are profoundly disquieting; Tubby seems more demon than comedian. Tubby's leering, laughing clown's face haunts Simon. Everywhere he turns, he sees the clown's sardonic grin; his faintly glowing white costume; or his long, oddly jointed limbs.

Tubby Thackeray is dead. But the evil that was Tubby Thackeray lives, and Simon's investigations have roused its hunger.

The novel was enjoyable, but also had its share of flaws. Simon's disconnect from reality seems genuine and gradual, and is mostly quite believable. His situation is uncomfortable from the very beginning. It's clear that his in-laws despise him, creating a lot of awkward tension. The general discomfort not only continues throughout the novel, it steadily grows. By the end, Simon's paranoia and anxiety is smothering.

The horror itself is more of a quiet horror. Simon constantly glimpses unsettling images from the corner of his eye, starts to question his sanity, and seems to be alone against an increasingly hostile world. Every encounter with another person, wherever he goes, seems strained and uncomfortable. Every official or librarian he deals with seems to be an antagonist from the first moment he meets them, and every task turns into a hassle or fiasco. 

Simon himself is also one of the book's flaws. He is not a very likable character. His bitterness and general attitude make him a hard protagonist to sympathize with at times. The novel's length could also be trimmed by a third and would only be more effective for it. There were times I felt like the story was dragging and becoming repetitive. While Campbell succeeds in creating an anxious moods, it's too protracted. 

Despite these criticisms, the book's ending is a worthy payoff. Some of the ambiguity of the horrors was also right up my alley and it was also fun seeing nods to other known works of horror. (Azathoth is actually mentioned once, and Ligotti fans will be pleased to see the town name of Mirocaw referenced). While overall, The Grin of the Dark did not grasp me the way Mr. Campbell's short fiction has, it was still a worthwhile horror read. For more casual horror readers, I can definitely see frustration at drawing out vague horrors for nearly 400 pages, and even as someone who reads horror regularly I can't help but feel that the story would pack more of a punch if it was a bit more condensed.

Friday, March 29, 2013

Giveaway: Shadows Edge edited by Simon Strantzas

Earlier this month I reviewed Shadows Edge, an anthology exploring the concept of "thin places", edited by author Simon Strantzas. I had tons of good things to say about the anthology. Later that same day, I posted an interview that Strantzas was kind enough to grant me, where he illuminated the ideas and concept behind the anthology.

Now, thanks to Gary Fry at Gray Friar Press, I have a paperback copy of Shadows Edge to give away to one lucky reader.

How to enter is simple. Send an e-mail to contest@[NO SPAM] making sure to remove the [NO SPAM] filter. Use the subject SHADOW and be sure to Include your name and snail mail address in the e-mail. I will do a drawing next Friday, and contact the winner by e-mail, posting the book out immediately. I also encourage readers to like the Facebook page so they can stay tuned for more giveaways!

Good Luck!!!!

Monday, March 25, 2013

Review: Beneath The Surface by Simon Strantzas

Simon Strantzas has become one of the leading writers of weird horror, and along with Richard Gavin, Ian Rogers, and a few others he is proof that Canada has much to offer in this genre.

Beneath The Surface is Simon's first collection, and the fourteen stories found within each stand strong as an example of his dark talent. Several of Simon's influences can be seen throughout the stories, and include such famous names as Lovecraft, Ligotti, Aickman, and Cronenberg. His love for the numinous is also quite plain to see, and it is no surprise that the author of this book went on to edit an anthology about thin places.

Many of the stories feature loners and outsiders as protagonists, often caught in a bleak world. A Shadow In God's Eye opens the collection. The protagonist feels empty, and in searching for spiritual satisfaction comes in contact with a shady religious group. There's many good things to say about this one, and Simon paints a picture of a bitter man who experiences a few horrific moments. It Runs Beneath the Surface also features a withdrawn main character. The man has a career in social work, which has drained him and left him a cynical husk of a man. His anxieties about the city's filth start to manifest when a new client comes to the office. Both of these tales were instant favorites.

The Constant Encroaching of a Tumultuous Sea is a surreal story that is reminiscent of a nightmare, which is what it was based on according to the author's afterword. A Thing of Love features a reclusive writer who is still grieving over his dead mother. Hints dropped about an incestuous relationship gives the story an uncomfortable feel from early on. When the writer receives a mysterious package, things only get creepier.

Off the Hook, another instant favorite, revisits the theme of a filthy city. The city is plagued by constant rain and foul odor due to a garbage strike. A grumpy librarian finds a strange notebook, and starts to hear a ringing in his ears that just won't go away. Combined with a few other surreal scenes, the story has a terrifying climax. More to Learn is a short tale concerned with a man rebelling against the creature within him.

Another favorite, Behind Glass, combines Lovecraftiana with Ligotti corporate workplace horror, making for an unsettling story set in a creepy office building in a creepy part of town. Following is In The Air, a beautifully dark tale of a grieving widow looking for closure.

You Are Here takes place in a fictional, abandoned version of Toronto's PATH. This version of the underground "shopping mall" is very atmospheric. It reminded me of the story of Orpheus, in that the main character enters the underworld on a quest. This man's quest to fix himself only leads to terror in what amounts to be a highly effective horror story. The Autumnal City is about a man in a city where everything continues in the same manner. The man seeks freedom, and has glimpses of a mysterious woman that he thinks can lead him to being free.

The Wound So Deep is a revenge story featuring much body horror. Another favorite, this one follows a man who is picked on by coworkers, and at their insistence embarrasses himself by asking out the female member of the group. He is hurt so deep that his hurt begins to manifest itself in a physical, vicious way. Thoughtless continues with the body horror. A girl who finds herself incapable of feeling agrees to try a radical, mostly untested new drug. After her injection her arm begins to change and she enters a state of delirium. I loved the ambiguity of the story. Was the woman really experiencing true events and seeing past the veil into the true world or was she just having a delusional episode?

Leather, Dark and Cold involves a book that opens the door to so much more. An impressionable student helps a man he admires steal the book, but is horrified by the events that occur. Years later, the man comes back into his life. Drowned Deep Inside of Me is an interesting weird tale and a good choice to close the book. The city is gripped by an unnatural darkness, and a troubled man waits through it with his neighbor and her daughter. Not everything is explained explicitly, but from hints and events it becomes clear by the end that the narrator has a deep darkness within him as well.

Strantzas is one of the modern masters of the weird horror tale. His first collection explores urban horrors, and the horrors within us all with just the right amount of Ligotti bleakness and cosmicism to satisfy any horror reader. Like the best horror, everything is not always explained and ambiguity is sometimes used quite often. An essential volume to any weird horror collection.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Review: The Darkly Splendid Realm by Richard Gavin

At Fear's Altar was one of my favorite reads of the past few months (also ranking high in my list of favorite single-author short story collections). I own Gavin's other three collections, but have only read a few stories from them (I am a reader that is quite guilty of picking up short story collections and anthologies only to read a story or two here or there, and before blogging it was rare that I would read a collection/anthology from start to finish). Fellow reviewers seem of the opinion that At Fear's Altar is Gavin's best work, and since I loved that book so much I was a little nervous that Gavin's previous collection, The Darkly Splendid Realm, would fall a bit short. Luckily, this was not the case, and I enjoyed this collection almost as much as I did At Fear's Altar.

The Darkly Splendid Realm is Gavin's third collection, and in the author's afterword he refers to it as his "earthiest". Many of the tales within have recurrent themes; dreams play an important role in several stories and most all of them deal with other worlds encroaching on our own.

The collection opens with Prowling Through Throated Chambers, and follows a man who's attraction to dark places brings him to an abandoned amusement park and a true house of horrors. The setting alone should resonate with horror fans of all sorts, but the horrors Gavin explores are bleak and reminiscent of classic weird tales. Where the Scarab Dwells takes a guilty, corporate worker into a dark tenement, where his ancestry and guilt merge leading to a redemption of sorts.

Phantom Passages is a morality tale of sorts, and takes a look at a character who's greed spells his doom. So much is hinted at throughout the story, building up to a terrifying conclusion. Primeval Wood marks the longest piece in the book, and is a great example of the "earthiness" I mentioned earlier. A city man who was recently abandoned by his girlfriend, goes on retreat to a small, rural cottage. Finding more than he bargained for, the man loses time and undergoes a dark transformation. Final Night in Nevertown is an eerie, dreamlike story where a town is disappearing in mist. The imagery is surreal and makes for quite a moody piece.

Gavin takes readers far back into history with Children of the Mound. A group of Roman soldier-missionaries visit the far reaches of their kingdom in order to learn the fate of an earlier group sent to build a church and convert the "savages". One of the best blends of historical fantasy and weird horror I have ever read, the story starts off reminiscent of a typical horror plot (group arrives to find no sign of anyone) and quickly descends into weird nightmare territory. The Language of the Nameless Region is a story where dreams take center stage. The story features an accomplished dreamer (a la Lovecraft's Randolph Carter) who comes across a woman straight out of his dreams. He turns into the obsessed, creepy suitor, giving her strange gifts of dreamstuff. The story is well written, and more melancholic than horrific, but creepy enough.

The Astral Mask is one of my favorite stories of the collection. What began as Gavin's attempt to explore UFO/extraterrestrial horrors, has become much, much more. The main character finds himself questioning reality. Stories that blur the lines between sanity and insanity and feature a character struggling to tell what is real and what is not always hold an interest for me, and the horrific nature of this character's episode made for quite a chilling story. Dreaming While Adrift on the River of Despair is another story that drips melancholy and puts aside horror. It's a beautifully told story of loneliness, and is proof that Gavin can pen more than just horror stories.

Getting the Strap explores a disturbing relationship between a boy and his grandmother, and Waterburns blends sorrow and horror for a story about a woman who's fate was sealed when she was only five years old.

The Bitter Taste of Dread-Moths is another favorite from the collection, and is another story that explores only the tip of the iceberg. A woman's essays about fear capture the attention of an eccentric man, and the ensuing correspondence strikes a deep chord within the woman and brings back a horrifying memory from her childhood. A great story where mad science meets the essence of horror. Gavin closes out his collection with Following the Silent Hedges, an experimental story told in the unconventional second-person narrative. Gavin makes this unorthodox style work in an exploration of the veil between worlds, and the thin places where we can cross over.

While not quite as brilliant as At Fear's Altar, The Darkly Splendid Realm still stands strong as a collection where it is hard to find faults. The stories within explore thin places, the power of dreams and fear, and how dealings with all of the aforementioned can lead to transformation.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Review: Children of No One by Nicole Cushing

Children of No One is a novella from DarkFuse by Nicole Cushing. Despite only being available electronically (limited hardcovers are sold to members of a special DarkFuse book club) I couldn't resist this one, despite my tendencies to avoid e-books at all costs. And I am sure glad I picked this one up. Here's the blurb:

Sadism, nihilism, poverty, wealth, screams, whimpers, sanity and madness collide in Nowhere, Indiana
For Thomas Krieg, Nowhere is a miles-long, pitch-black underground maze in which he’s imprisoned dozens of boys for the past ten years—all in the name of art.
For two brothers, Nowhere is the only place they clearly remember living. A world unto itself, in which they must stay alert to stay alive. A world from which the only escape is death.
But for an English occultist known only as Mr. No One, Nowhere is much more…and much less: the perfect place in which to perform a ritual to unleash the grandest of eldritch deities, the God of Nothingness, the Great Dark Mouth.

Between the blurb and the amazing cover (and I know never to judge a book by it's cover...but seriously, what an awesome cover) I was really intrigued. 

The novella opens with two quotes. The first from Borges, which is an appropriate opener as labyrinths were a common theme in many of the Argentinian author's works. The second quote comes from Thomas Ligotti, and really helps to set up the nark, nihilistic themes that are on display in this novella.

The one complaint readers seem to have is that the book doesn't spend much time with the boys trapped in the labyrinth. Instead, the novel focuses on the adults, and is mostly told through the viewpoint of Mr. MacPherson, a rich fan of Krieg's controversial artwork. The boys themselves are present not as protagonists, but instead serve as examples of the product produced by Krieg's sadistic art experiment. 

Cushing succeeds in taking unsympathetic characters, and making them interesting to read about. MacPherson's perverse interests make him rather detestable, while Krieg's sadism and pompous attitude make for a downright despicable character. Mr. No One, although trying to unleash a dark, consuming, uncaring deity on the world, is perhaps the most likeable character in the book. Although he is a nihilist to the core, and wants the world to succumb to nothingness, he at times shows distaste towards Krieg's treatment of the boys in the labyrinth.

The story boils down to sadism versus nihilism, with MacPherson caught in the middle of the two strong-willed men. Cushing ratchets the tension perfectly, and blends horrors both real and cosmic for one of the more disturbing reads of the past year. Children of No One will stay on your mind long after reading, and at the price there is no reason not to pick this one up. I, for one, would love to see more longer work from this author. Highly recommended.

Friday, March 8, 2013

Giveaway Winner! Luminescent Mi-Go Artifact

And the winner of the first giveaway is Tyler Reedy! Hope you enjoy the sculpt!

Review: Milton's Children by Jason V. Brock

Milton's Children is a novella recently published by Bad Moon Books. Jason V. Brock writes a fast-paced, short novella which includes many nods to literature and pop culture. 

The story is about a group of scientists on their way home from a routine Antarctic trip. On the way back they discover a set of uncharted islands, and with hopes of making a significant discovery decide to stop and investigate. What begins as the scientific discovery of a lifetime quickly descends into pure, visceral terror.

Brock crafts a fun, pulpy tale and sets a quick-fire pace. The story is to the point, and instead of lingering moves on rather quickly. There are times when I felt that the story seemed more bare-bones, and could benefit from being further fleshed out, but on the other hand the fast pacing of the narrative made for a nice, quick read that  felt unburdened by tedious scenes of drawn out dialogue. With this in mind, it's definitely more of a shallow read, and some of the characters come across as cookie-cutter stereotypes. While seemingly lacking in depth, the nods throughout the book hint at some deeper themes, although the story itself still comes across as rather simplistic. The nods range from character names (liberal Adam Carter, an amalgam of Milton's Adam and Lovecraft's Randolph Carter butts heads with the right-wing Faust, obviously named after Goethe's protagonist) to film references (King Kong), as well as other literary references (Lovecraft's At The Mountains of Madness is brought up a couple of times). 

Overall, Milton's Children is a quick, fun read. Fans of the pulps and stories that can entertain without being too deep will have a good time with this one. 

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Giveaway: Luminescent Mi-Go Artifact by Jason McKittrick

A giveaway is something I have wanted to do for awhile here at The Arkham Digest, and thanks to sculptor Jason McKittrick I have this wicked piece to give away to one lucky reader.

Jason McKittrick runs Cryptocurium Custom Creations, and specializes in limited edition Lovecraftian sculpts. He has several available on his website, and most of them go fast. Recently The Collection From Yuggoth was made available in a mere 72 hour sale. Availability has ended, but thanks to Mr. McKittrick I have one of these out-of-print pieces available.

The Luminescent Mi-Go Artifact should be familiar to readers of Lovecraft. It's a great piece to spruce up a library or office. The description on the site is as follows:

An odd relief sculpture carved from a luminescent stone found on the Mi-Go home planet. Depicts an idealized Mi-Go among as of yet indecipherable alien hieroglyphs. Artifacts emits a green glow when in darkness.”

Hand cast in solid phosphorescent resin and individually signed and numbered by artist Jason McKittrick


Measures 4.25″ x 5.75″

Entering to win is easy. Just complete all 3 following steps:

1. Like The Arkham Digest Facebook page here or by clicking the link to the right.
3. Comment below stating your favorite Lovecraft story and why it's your favorite.

Please, don't try multiple entries, and don't comment without liking the Facebook pages, we will check! If you already like both pages on Facebook just comment below. I will do a random drawing this coming Friday, and then get in touch with the winner to verify and make sure I have your address.

Thanks everyone, and good luck!!!!!

Saturday, March 2, 2013

Interview: Simon Strantzas

Earlier today I posted a review for Shadows Edge, an anthology of thin places edited by weird horror author Simon Strantzas. The book was excellent, and Mr. Strantzas was kind enough to do an interview with me, where he discusses his fascination with these thin places.

JS: First things first, I'd like to thank you for taking the time to answer a few questions.

SS: It's my pleasure, Justin. I very much enjoy The Arkham Digest and am pleased you enjoyed this book.

JS: Shadows Edge is an anthology that's built around the concept of thin places. For unfamiliar readers, how would you best describe what constitutes a “thin place”?

SS: Thin places are best described as the intersection between worlds. If you can imagine there exists realities that coexist with our own, these are spots where the barriers between have worn so thin that one bleeds into the other. We often, merely by living, stumble into places where we feel everything is a bit ... off -- when our gut tells us that even though everything looks normal, there is something more going on. We usually discount such sensations, but what if we are wrong to do so?

JS: Where did your fascination with these “cracks in reality” begin? What is it that attracts you to  this type of fiction?

SS: I suppose I've always felt there was more to reality than meets the eye. Since I was a child I've seen the world not as it appears, but as a mask for something more. I've not always understood this, of course, and could certainly never have expressed it in words, but whether from a keen sense or an over-active imagination I've always felt there were machinations occurring that were hidden from all but a select few. I imagine you may be right that it is my primary reason for being attracted to this sort of fiction, and explains my general disinterest in commonplace horror tropes like serial killers and vampires. I enjoy fiction that places certain intellectual demands on me, that make me question everything, that confirm my suspicions about reality's inherent falsity.

JS: What are some examples of what you would dub essential reading for anyone interested in further exploring the idea of thin places?

SS: Some tales that have affected me over the years in this way include Arthur Machen's "The White People", Algernon Blackwood's "The Willows", L.A. Lewis's "The Tower of Moab", and Thomas Ligotti’s “Vastarian.” There has been a steady stream of horror fiction from the beginning that has explored this sense of frisson, and if I can humbly suggest it, any of the authors contained in SHADOWS EDGE would be a great place to start.

JS: Stories about thin places mean stories that are going to have quite an emphasis put on the setting. Was this one of the main things you looked for in the stories?

SS: The nice thing about filling your book with great authors is not having to worry about looking for much of anything. They already understand the importance not only of atmosphere, but of balancing it with everything else. So, no, I didn't actively look for atmosphere. What I looked for is that sense of otherworldliness edging the proceedings. If I sensed that frisson, I knew the author was on to something that would fit well into the lineup.

JS: Everyone can name at least one place that gave them weird vibes, or made them feel uncomfortable. Real life thin places. What are some of these “thin places” that you yourself have encountered?

SS: I don't think I could pin it down to one specific place, because for me it's always been more about moments. I suppose, if I had to describe my notion, it's that these are not fixed places, but rather ever-shifting. They can be anywhere and everywhere. We have lived so long this way that unless these places are particularly evident we simply block them out when we encounter them. But what if we didn't? What if we kept our eyes open for them, always vigilant, always searching? Would we then discover that the borders between worlds were thinner than we thought? That stepping from here to there was as simple as turning left instead of right?

JS: I must say, Shadows Edge is quite an impressive anthology, made even more so by the fact that it marks your first time editing. With the knowledge gleaned from your first outing what are some words of advice you could give to aspiring editors/anthologists?

SS: The biggest lesson I learned is that the book you set out to make is not the book you will make. Even authors you count on to zig will often zag, and your concept and vision will need to remain plastic to some degree if it will ever get off the ground.

Other than that, my advice for future editors is the same as my advice for anything. Figure out what you want to say, and don't be afraid to stand up for it, even if its uncomfortable. At the end of the day, you are the captain of the ship, and only you can sail it home.

JS: Building on the last question, can readers expect to see any more Strantzas-edited anthologies in the future?

SS: Only time will tell. I do have a few more ideas up my sleeve; the only question is whether I am able to devote the time.

JS: Once again I must thank you Mr. Strantzas. 

SS: And, once again, thank you for having me.

My review of Shadows Edge can be found HERE.

Shadows Edge can be ordered HERE.

Review: Shadows Edge edited by Simon Strantzas

Simon Strantzas is a name that weird horror fans should be familiar with. To date he has had three excellent collections published: Beneath the Surface, Cold to the Touch, and Nightingale Songs. Shadows Edge marks Strantzas's first foray into the realm of anthology editing. According to the afterword, the idea for this book has long been fermenting in the dark depths of the Canadian author's mind. This month marks the end of the long wait, and Strantzas's dream project will be shipping within a few weeks.

Shadows Edge is an anthology dedicated to exploring the concept of thin places. These are spots where the barrier between our world and another world is thin enough to allow a parting of the veil. The place that just doesn't feel right, the place where a shadow is not just a shadow and things may or may not be hiding in the corner. Breaks in reality. These are the types of places that Strantzas is interested in. He has assembled fifteen authors, many of which should be known to regular readers of weird horror, for the purpose of taking readers on a tour of these shadowy, in-between places. I admit I was rather taken by the theme of the anthology, and was quite looking forward to digging into this one. With this in mind, it's safe to say that Strantzas and crew delivered the goods quite admirably.

The anthology opens with Prologue: The Nineteenth Step written by Strantzas himself. This short piece of fiction keeps the horror vague, and serves to set the stage nicely. A couple move into an old house with the intent to flip it for a nice return, but it isn't long before they notice something odd about the staircase. What is initially a curious observation quickly becomes a source of real terror. The ability to take something as mundane as a staircase and turn it into something so ominous is something only a master can pull off, and it's a shame Strantzas's wonderful opener has to be so short.

Joel Lane's Echoland follows a young musician named Diane and her growing obsession with a land glimpsed  during a childhood bout with fever. She joins with two other men who have also glimpsed the mysterious place (all during close calls with death), and together the three of them decide to do whatever they can to reach the city. The story follows their growing obsession with reaching the city and their descent into a drug-filled, sedentary lifestyle. It's a moody tale, and by the end it becomes clear that sometimes finding what we seek is not always a cause for celebration.

Michael Cisco writes The Penury, a strange tale of two childhood friends and their reunion. Cisco's writing is strong, and the story is not as straightforward as some of the others in the book, but is quite rewarding with rereads. Cisco is definitely not a writer for everyone, but his masterful way with words makes for an enjoyable read.

Tinder Row is a fine example of Richard Gavin's style of weird horror. Gavin has an easy style of writing and a wicked imagination which are both on full display here. Reid returns to his hometown only to come across a woman from his past, now a derelict. Taking pity on her, Reid coaxes her to lunch, but feels trepidation when she requests to be dropped off at Tinder Row, a dead-end street by the town's viaduct. The street has become as derelict as the woman, and Reid sticks around long enough to see if there's any validity to the local legends surrounding the place. The horror strikes true, and Gavin sets the stage well with the decrepit section of town. Definitely a favorite.

Daniel Mills is an author who has been featured on The Arkham Digest before, and for good reason. Typical of Mills's tales, The Falling Dark takes place in the past, and centers on a lonely man who has a bit of an obsession with a neighbor girl. It's quite a superb tale, with moments that are quite intense, and more going on under the surface of things.

The Old Church is a story that should appeal to anyone who finds it uncomfortable to attend church services. Gary McMahon takes readers to a church service which at first glance seems pretty normal. As the main character begins to pay attention to his surroundings things start to become altogether more sinister. McMahon is a powerhouse of British horror, and this story is one of the more frightening stories in the anthology. McMahon ratchets the suspense expertly. One of my favorite stories here.

D.P. Watt is the first author in the anthology of whom I am not familiar. After reading ...he was water before he was fire... I am now determined to become more familiar with his work. The story concerns a city man who decides to go camping, which is rather uncharacteristic of him. He becomes enchanted with a certain cove, and it isn't long before the place's magic has a hold on him. Watt's story is masterfully narrated, and shows a rather dark imagination. Another favorite.

False North by Ian Rogers is another story about a man going out into the wild. Some people prefer to go for a drive to clear their head, while some prefer the go for a run. The narrator prefers to go hiking, by pulling over his car and just going off into the woods. False North chronicles what happens when he hikes where he shouldn't. The narrator stumbles across an empty cabin holding nothing but a compass that doesn't seem to work properly. The story is short, chilling, and has an air of mystery throughout.

Lisa L. Hannett is the second author in the book of whom I am not familiar. Morning Passages was definitely an eye-catching story to mark my introduction to her work. The story is confusing, and I'm honestly not sure I can say what exactly happened, but it is written with great skill, and is very disturbing. Hannet definitely made my skin crawl and I look forward to rereading this one and finding more of her work.

R.B. Russell pens what may be my least favorite story in the book. At The End of the World takes place at a carriage house located on a shingle beach. A man's estranged brother returns to England and moves into the small dwelling, where he relates his story during a heavy coastal storm. The story itself is not bad, but compared to the others failed to really make an impact on me.

Within One Ruined Realm is a story by W.H. Pugmire, the prose-poet of the Lovecraft Mythos. As usual, Pugmire writes a dreamy short story that's dripping with gloom. This time around Pugmire brings readers to a certain street in Paris (and a perfect example of a thin place) that any Lovecraft fan should be familiar with. Short, and beautiful.

Livia Llewellyn has the distinction of being the author of my favorite story in the collection. Stabilimentum is a story that seems eerily familiar. Maybe it's the shudders that come whenever I see a spider invading my living space, or Llewellyn's uncomfortable play on apartment living, but this story gave me the chills from the first to the last page. Llewellyn builds the tension from the first moment Thalia notices a spider in her bathroom. As the horror builds it also becomes more and more surreal, and by the time the story reaches it's final moments it has become something else entirely. Excellent.

Some Other You by Michael Kelly features a protagonist suffering from extreme paranoia and depression. Things come to a head when he sees his ex-girlfriend walking with a man who in every way resembles himself. Kelly does a great job of building the paranoia and giving readers a glimpse into the gray, tense world of the protagonist.

Steve Rasnic Tem writes a story that seems touching when compared to the horrors of all the others. Lost in the Garden of Earthly Delights features an interesting narrator who seems unsure of himself. This narrator relates a few strange events that have lately occurred in his life, one of which involves black mold in the shape of his father constantly reappearing in his shower and the other involving his encounter with a homeless man at the shelter he volunteers at. It's an interesting story, and Tem's talent as an author is on full display although the story lacks the horrific punch that many of the others have.

The True Edge of the World takes readers to a misty Scottish island. Peter Bell writes an impressive story of a couple who takes their vacation in a land of ancient mystery, where folklore and myth are based in truth. This was another story which really stood out to me as a great example of a place where the border between our world and another is stretched to the thinnest. Bell utilizes Gaelic folklore to craft his dark tale, and the setting is perfect.

The anthology closes strongly with John Langan's Bor Urus. Langan's story toys with the thin places concept not by looking at the where of thin places, but by looking at the how. The narrator becomes fixated with the idea that the chaos of thunderstorms is when the wall between worlds is breached, and this is when it's possible to glimpse or even cross over into this other place. The narrator has a few experiences and as he grows so does his fixation. After one near encounter he becomes a different man, until a hurricane hits and he finally gets the validation he has always been seeking. It's a powerful story, and another favorite.

These sixteen stories make for a powerful journey into the shadowy corners, the in-between places. Strantzas wisely chose the fifteen authors present in the book to be a part of the anthology, and every one of them brings a worthwhile story to the table. Some of the horrors are more vague than others, but they are horrific nonetheless. A true horror fan should have long ago felt the attraction to the thin places of the world, and therefore can't do without Shadows Edge on their bookshelf. I couldn't recommend this one enough.

Shadows Edge can be ordered from Gray Friar Press: HERE