Reviewed by Mario Guslandi
A horror anthology including “Tales of Social Insecurity and Economic Unease” seems perfectly in keeping with the hard times that people in Europe and in other parts of the world are currently experiencing every day. Proving once again that true horror originates from real life rather than from monsters and spookies, the volume collects seventeen stories penned by well respected authors such as Gary Mac Mahon, Thana Niveau, Andrew Hook, Alison Littlewood ,just to mention a few.
The general tone of the book is, admittedly, a little gloomy. Words such as austerity, unemployement, budget problems,spending review and so on recur in the various stories, depicting a grim present and an uncertain future as the framework of dark events, personal losses and broken dreams. Most of the characters are helpless and hopeless individuals struggling to put bread on the table, keep the family united and maintain personal relationships.
But, in the words of one of the editors, the lamented Joel Lane, ” Dark Times lead to powerful writing- just think of what the Depression and the war brought to American horror fiction”.
So here we are with a bunch of good, although a bit depressing tales, some of which, inevitably, tend to address similar issues, such as, for instance, the crisis of NHS ( Joel Lane’s own “A Cry for Help” , Thana Niveau’s “No History of Violence” and David Williamson’s “The Procedure”)
Among the various contributions, I’d like to pinpoint “The Battering Stone” by Simon Bestwick, a solid piece blending SF and crime with a declining economy in the background and “The Sun Trap” by Stephen Hampton, an entertaining, thought provoking tale where a retiree sees his well deserved financial security shaken by family matters.
My favourite story in the book, however, is the excellent “Ptichka” by the relative newcomer Laura Mauro, where the drama of a pregnant migrant who can’t get assistance from the NHS acquires extremely dark, horrific shades.