ChiZine Publications has been a favorite of mine so I was happy to get a review copy of “Fearful Symmetries” edited by Ellen Datlow. While anthologies are normally a mixed bag, and anthologies without themes even more so, I knew that ChiZine would not put out a book with anything less than quality fiction so I happily dove right in.
While I am a fan of short stories, I hate writing reviews for short story collections or anthologies. It is very difficult to truly rate the book as the stories do not always work on the same level and are not always of the same quality. Part of that is simple numbers and some of that is personal preference. You are never going to put a number of short stories by different authors and elicit the same response from all readers. These twenty stories run the gamut from the supernatural with a very light touch of horror to horror that is in your face. This makes it even more difficult to quantify the book as I am forced to literally compare apples to oranges here.
The anthology kicks off with a bang with Gemma File’s “A Wish from a Bone” when a TV crew that goes to a haunted tomb to shoot an episode of their show finds out that some curses are real. “Will the Real Psycho in This Story Please Stand Up?” by Pat Cadigan is an entertaining and interesting story that is almost a version of what Stephen King’s “Carrie” could have been like if things had turned out differently. Speaking of Stephen King, “The Spindly Man” by Stephen Graham Jones finds a book club that is meeting to discuss a King story caught in the middle of its own brand of horror. “The Window” by Brian Evenson and “Mount Chary Galore” by Jeffrey Ford are more classic tales of terror based on ghosts and witches respectively. “Suffer Little Children” by Robert Shearman is a very creepy tale of possession (?) and “The Worms Crawl In” by Laird Barron is a disturbing (and somewhat disgusting) look into the mind of a madman. “Wendigo Nights” by Siobhan Carroll is sure to leave the reader scratching his head and the final story of the anthology, “Shay Corsham Worsted” by Garth Nix, is a good tale about what can happen when bureaucracy gets in the way of saving the world. These, of course, are just a sampling of the joys and terrors that lie within the cover of this book.
If I had to choose my favorites, I would have to go with “The Spindly Man” or “Suffer Little Children” but that is a very difficult choice to make. There is so much variety in the type of story in this book that it is almost impossible to say that one story is better than the next. Again, it is really a case of picking apples and oranges as no story is similar to another. “Fearful Symmetries” is an anthology that collects a very diverse sampling of the horror genre and packs it into a neat little package. I cannot really tell you what to expect in this book other than to say that these stories are sure to entertain and even make you think. Intelligent horror with a subtle (or not so subtle) edge fills these pages and finding an anthology of this length with quality fiction throughout is a rare treat indeed.
I would like to thank NetGalley and ChiZine Publications for this review copy. “Fearful Symmetries” is available now.