Nightscape Press, ebook, £2.36
Reviewed by Stewart Horn
It’s subtitled An Anthology of Vampire SF, on the Cutting Edge, which is a big clue to the theme. They’re all science fiction stories, with vampires. And it’s for charity, all proceeds going to the Cystic Fibrosis Trust, as explained in a very friendly introduction by the editor.
I approached it with caution, having been disappointed by tightly themed anthologies before, but a look at the author list was reassuring: William F. Nolan, Mike Resnick, Jilly Paddock, Laird Barron and Tim Waggoner all make an appearance. So I settled down and started reading.
Turns out it’s great: a generally high standard and a few absolute gems. It’s also a whopper: over 400 pages, 29 stories and not a duffer among them.
My favourites include:
‘The Souls of Stars’, by Amelia Mangan. In the finest vampire tradition, a beautiful, dark and sensual tale. It’s also a study of loneliness and redemption, and manages to anthropomorphise the 2nd law of thermodynamics.
‘Accomodation’, by Michael R. Collings. A dark one, and subtle right up to the end when we realise what it’s actually about and the real horror of it hits us.
‘Mountains of Ice’, by Jilly Paddock. Set on New Year’s Eve 2099, this is an intriguing apparently supernatural story with a hero we want to find out more about, and told in darkly sensual prose.
‘A River of Blood, Carried Into the abyss’, by John Palisano. A beautifully written psychedelic nightmare.
‘I, Vampire’, by David N. Smith and Violet Addison. Vampirism as a metaphor for disease is a common trope, but here it’s compared to a psychological disorder and makes for a much more interesting read, raising questions about our attitude to the mentally ill.
’17’, by Jonathan Templar. A satirical attack on the glamorisation of both death and youth in contemporary culture, and a nasty horror tale too.
I always have a problem with themed anthologies in that I start every story wondering when the (in this case) vampire is going to appear, so the big reveal is rarely a surprise. But it’s unfair to criticise the pieces on that basis. Every story here is worth reading, though inevitably some were more to my taste than others.
This is a book to keep beside your bed and dip into, rather than gorge on in one sitting – you’ll get more from the individual stories that way.