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18 March 2013

Edited by PDR Lindsay & CC Bye. Available in print or download.

Reviewed by Glenda Johnson.

And yes, they’re right about this. It’s not that different from some horror anthologies that I’ve read, nor did it disturb me to a huge degree. But yes, some of it was still a bit different and slightly disturbing. The trouble with much recent horror that I’ve (unwillingly) read, is that those who write it go over the top. They bring in monsters, lakes of gore, dismembered bodies, and graphic sex. I like my horror low-key, understated, and more about the human condition. In The Speed of Dark I got two things. One was excellent presentation with very good editing, and the other was well-written work that in most cases wasn’t overly graphic, but which was interesting, involving and rarely over the top. Much of it was quietly creepy and therefore very effective. And the editors were intelligent, where an author presented two suitable stories, they didn’t insist on taking only one, and then, finding they needed more work, filling out the anthology with poorer-quality tales. Instead where they were offered two good stories, they took both, so that in a number of cases an author had two stories appear. And I noticed that when that happened those authors’ work was often the work that I really liked. So I’m not going to comment on every story, but that said, I didn’t find any stories that I felt were inadequate. Some I didn’t like that much as a personal preference, but I thought that all of them were well-written and of real quality. I’ve seen a previous award-winning anthology from this stable, and that one too fitted everything I’ve said here. This outfit could be one to watch.

The first story set the tone for this anthology beautifully. What About Mum by E.J.Ruek is horror, not because of anything in-your-face, but from the gradual realization of what this is about as you read it. It ends with a newspaper clipping that ties up the story consistently and neatly, and makes sense of some of the final loose ends. It’s a story you may come across in the newspapers regularly, but the author makes you see it for yourself. Jesse’s Hair by John B. Rosenman is again delicately intrusive. It begins in such a way that you sympathise with the protagonist, understand her pain, and wish people would be a bit kinder. And then you find out what the years of abuse have created. Which is brutally realistic because this type of low-level bullying can produce effects out of all proportion.

Retrovirus by Clayton Clifford Bye was clever. It took an aspect of our computerized society and moved it into a new space and a new form of the ‘post holocaust’ sub-genre. Micky Peluso’s Death of the Spider is both horrific and sad, while Lyn McConchie’s Little Girl Lost is savage in a way that makes the reader like it. I was prepared to be horrified at the topic until I was almost at the end and realized what was happening, then I smiled, I do like evil to get its comeuppance. Unbreakable fetters of Admantine by Jim Secor is an interestingly surrealistic tale, it winds and confuses but ultimately satisfies. While Across the Tracks by Tony Richards has some of the same factors although with a very different background and protagonist but with an ending that is equally as effective. Clayton Bye’s title story, The Speed of Dark is plain creepy, a little sickening when you see where this is going, and very well handled as a theme. TakingCare of Mother by Mary Firmin is unpleasant, it has something to say about society’s attitudes towards those marked in our minds as either ‘less fortunate’ or ‘the dregs of society,’ and just how wrong we can be in some of our assumptions. It may also be a warning about being patronizing.

Lyn McConchie’s Sowing On the Mountain is all too realistic in some ways, and delicately drawn fantasy in others. And yet, the fantasy element is sketched in so lightly the reader is uncertain as to whether it really existed anywhere but in the protagonist’s head, an aspect of the story that enhances it considerably. And the final story, Plastic People, by Lisa Lane chronicles a descent into the darker places of the mind and is exactly the right note on which to conclude. All in all the editors have done a fine job on this anthology which only confirms my impression of the previous one the publisher had out. Take a look at the site, Buy this anthology, and maybe copies of the previous one as well. I think it would be money well spent.

Addendum from Lyn: the anthology has also been reviewed on the Horror World site by Mario Guslandi who said this about my story “In the very horrific and vivid  “Little Girl Lost” by Lyn McConchie a pedophile gets a terrible punishment for alluring (sic) and raping a little girl who actually is not quite what she appears to be. “




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