Tuesday, March 01, 2011

Dark Delicacies II and a Host of Nightmares : A Book Review

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Authors: Barbara Hambly, Joe R. Lansdale, John Harrison, Robert Masello, Peter Atkins, Tananarive Due, Max Brooks, Gary Brandner, Ray Garton, John Farris, Harry Shannon, L.A. Banks, Steve Niles, Joey O'Bryan, Greg Kihn, James Sallis, Glen Hirshberg, and Caitlin R. Kiernan.

Yes, the book reviews continue with sequels. Dark Delicacies II was originally released in 2007, followed by Dark Delicacies III in 2009. Dark Delicacies II is a horror anthology, with a total of eighteen stories, from various authors (listed above). Del Howison is the editor of this novel and he is also the owner of a horror curiousity store in Burbank, California. Full of tales of demonic dogs, zombie wars, cursed violins and much, much more, Dark Delicacies II is a bloody good time, with only a few stumbling missteps.

This review will focus on a few of the macabre highlights, before, briefly, mentioning some of the more avoidable tales, in this series. Starting linearly, "Dog" by Joe R. Lansdale was the first tale to hook this reader, with long drooling fangs. A behemoth of an animal chases down a newmly made millionaire, as Jim does his best to escape via broken bike. The pacing in this story is excellent, while the mystery of this man versus beast encounter is never explained.

The story titled "Amusement" by Tananarive Due was believable, yet excitingly twisted. This story follows Paul and his high-maintenance beau, Nicola. Nicola is like a sliver twisting into other characters' sides and into their flaws. Fascinated with a eunuch, Nicola manipulates herself closer to Paul's friend, Malcolm. The end shows character Paul's complacency towards Nicola's sick desires, as this tale ends in semi-tragic fashion.

Max Brooks continues to make his presence known in horror anthologies, with his short tale - "Great Wall: A Story from the Zombie War," his latest contribution. The setting is China. Here, wave after wave of undead scale the ramparts of an aging wall. The few remaining survivors of a zombie apocalypse hide in tanks, or in the cover of darkness. Humanity barely prevails and this short was meant to be a part of Brooks' other novel World War Z. Thankfully, you will find it here, instead.

Finally, "The Ammonite Violin" is a tale of two sisters. They are separated by murder, as an unnamed man called the Collector suffocates several female victims. The surviving sister, Ellen, is invited to the Collector's house for a recital on a human bone violin and this short story is centrally of finding passion in the pursuit of perfection in art. This attainment does not come without loss, however. A grim revelation through music allows Ellen insight into the disappearance of her sister, who is never named. This is a spectacular read, with other novels, unfortunately not up to this high level of writing.

Other honourable mentions go to the multi-layered "A Host of Shadows" by Harry Shannons, the anti-hero tale "The Y Incision" by Steve Niles, with Caitlin R. Kiernan's emotional tale "The Ammonite Violin" ending this anthology with a very tense flourish.

In brief, "Stacy and Her Idiot," "Queen of the Groupies," "Season Premiere," and "I am Coming to Live in Your Mouth" did not appeal to this reader. Strangely, most of these tales came near the end of the novel and readers might be discouraged by these tales before reading Kiernan's "The Ammonite Violin." However, other readers will interpret these short tellings differently, than this reader. Overall, Dark Delicacies II offers many more interesting curiousities than these few misdirections.

One great element of anthologies is that readers can immerse themselves into the fantasy worlds of several authors at once. Many of these authors described here are new to this horror fiction enthusiast and many of the writers will be new to other readers, as well. Darkly engrossing and full of thrills, from various genres, Dark Delicacies II is a solid, exciting read, for those looking for a diverse selection of horror short stories!

Overall: 6.75 out of 10 (some strong writing, but some weak stories too).

Another review of this title is available at The Word Zombie:

Dark Delicacies II Reviewed at The Word Zombie

Dark Delicacies II and III are available through Amazon:

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