Halloween: Magic, Mystery, and the Macabre edited by Paula Guran | Anthology Review

I received this book for free from Publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Halloween: Magic, Mystery, and the Macabre edited by Paula Guran | Anthology ReviewHalloween on September 10th 2013
Pages: 380
Format: eARC
Source: Publisher
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The farther we've gotten from the magic and mystery of the past, the more we've come to love Halloween - the one time each year when the mundane is overturned in favor of the bizarre, the "other side" is closest, and everyone can become anyone (or anything) they wish... and sometimes what they don't. Introducing nineteen original stories from mistresses and masters of the dark celebrate the most fantastic, enchanting, spooky, and supernatural of holidays.

I’ll admit — I was really looking forward to Halloween: Magic, Mystery, and the Macabre edited by Paula Guran. However, I ended up feeling like this was an uneven anthology with few stories that blew my mind.

Thirteen by Stephen Graham Jones

Well, the first story in Halloween: Magic, Mystery, and the Macabre is super weird. It’s told from the point of view of an eighth grader who goes to a movie theater called The Big Chief with his friends. There’s an urban legend about the theater that if you hold your breath for two minutes, you bring whatever you see in the movie into our world. The narrator goes with this girl Grace to see a love movie and figures nothing bad can happen. He goes out to the lobby to get popcorn, come back and everything seems okay. Then, on Halloween, he ends up at the graveyard with his friends and Grace is dressed as little Bo Peep. There’s a man who shows up  with a shepard’s crook and Grace disappears. Essentially this story is weird and I did not love it or really get it.

The Mummy’s Heart by Norman Partridge

I wonder if the true theme to this anthology is weird stories that I just don’t get or like. The Mummy’s Heart by Norman Partridge is fifty pages long and might as well be a novella at that length. This long and rambling story begins in 1963 when the narrator and his older brother Rodger are out trick or treating. They come across Charlie Steiner, a twenty three year old man, who thinks he is an Egyptian Mummy. Charlie is in the middle of trying to sacrifice this young girl in a princess mask at Butcher’s Lake and so Rodger and the narrator try to save the girl. Charlie ends up killing Rodger and the little girl disappears. Flashforward to later and Charlie is dead — he died that night — and the narrator is now a police officer. He’s living in Charlie’s childhood home, renovating it for one of the cops he works with. There’s a biker gang that commits a crime by the lake and and there’s a shootout that results in a mysterious young woman being rescued. Could she be the little girl with the princess mask? That remains to be seen. Overall, this story felt overlong and ugh, boring. Also – a lot of logic holes. Why the hell would you love in the house of your brother’s murderer for one thing?

Unternehmen Werwolf by Carrie Vaughn

Finally! A story I enjoy in this anthology! Unternehmen Werewolf by Carrie Vaughn is set on October 31, 1944. It’s about this boy named Fritz. Fritz has been recruited, nay, forced to join a special unit of the SS. Tonight, he is on a special mission. You see, before he was running packages over the lines. Tonight though is his first time that he’s been ordered to kill. He has orders to kill a collaborator named Maria. The SS thinks that Fritz will be able to kill Maria because tonight is a full moon. You see, Fritz is a werewolf. This very short story examines the nature of good and evil – briefly and shows that perhaps humans are bigger monsters than actual mythical creatures like werewolves.

Lesser Fires by Steve Rasnic Tem & Melanie Tem

This short story is about a girl named Clara. Clara is dressed up as a fortune teller and she’s on her way to a party. Lighting her way are small bon fires. She falls. This girl who kind of looks like her attempts to help her up, much to the annoyance of Clara. It turns out the party is on Halloween and the girl trying to help Clara out is her ghost. Tradition states that if you meet your ghost you will die within the year. So, hm, this is definitely macabre. Aside from that, this is a quick story and not bad.

Long Way Home: A Pine Deep Story by Jonathan Maberry

I am psyched up because I liked Jonathan Maberry’s story so that’s two in this anthology so far that I have really enjoyed. Long Way Home takes place in Mayberry’s world of Pine Deep which I’ve never read before. This character, Donny, is on his way home from the war in Afghanistan. He had stopped by his storage locker but can’t find the key to get in. And so, Donny begins walking – passing old men from old farms on an otherwise desolate road. While Donny was gone, the town of Pine Deep – famous for its Halloween tourism – experienced a huge tragedy – called the Trouble. Essentially militia people had put psychotropic drugs in the water and collectively the town lost its mind. Many people died, including Donny’s best friend Jim. Which makes him running into Jim along the way kind of odd. YOU GUYS! There is a twist and I loved it and how this story ended. Basically, I just want to say well played Jonathan Maberry, well played.

Black Dog by Laird Barron

Black Dog by Laird Barron is a short story about a guy and a girl who go on a date. The guy has recently ended a marriage. He’s a writer and consumed with his writing. The girl is someone he meets at a martial arts class. Anyways, the guy sees an all black dog which portends doom. Also there’s a rumor about a serial killer in town. And so, the guy goes on a walk with the girl. And then some danger happens. And that’s pretty much the story. It is okay, but to be honest, after reading Black Dog I took a long hiatus from reading the stories in this book. It’s just not that memorable of a story.

The Halloween Men by Maria V. Snyder

Maria V. Snyder’s contribution to this anthology is one of the ones I was looking forward to the most. Snyder’s short story The Halloween Men is about this girl named Antonella who is a mask maker. Currently she is studying under her father, but she chafes against his rules. Antonella lives in a society where people wear their masks whenever they go about in public and only ever take them off in the privacy of their homes and also on Halloween. If they disobey the mask rules, they are punished by what’s called the Halloween Men. Antonella runs afoul of these enforcers. Overall, this story had solid world building, and I think I would have liked to see more in this world. Also, it takes such a creepy twist. It’s the perfect story for an anthology on the theme of Halloween.

Pumpkin Head Escapes by Lawrence C. Connolly

Pumpkin Head Escapes is about a man named Glenn who has returned to town. His ex has offered him a role in an immersive theater production called Pumpkin Head Escapes. Glenn has been asked to wear this state of the art costume and play Pumpkin Head. As he wears the costume of Pumpkin Head, it is like he transforms into Pumpkin Head, rampaging and full of rage. In all, this was a quick paced story and not too bad.

Whilst The Night Rejoices Profound and Still by Caitlin R. Kiernan

Caitlin R. Kiernan’s contribution to this anthology certainly fits the strange feeling of Halloween. Kiernan’s story Whilst The Night Rejoices Profound And Still is told in short parts. It’s about people living on Mars. It opens with a gourd seller. Then goes onto some teenagers praying to the Seven Goddesses in groups of three. Then closes with a parade and some lesbians who are about to fall asleep. The world building is kind of interesting, but honestly I did not get much out of this story except to think, hmmm, this story is strange.

For The Removal Of Unwanted Guests by A.C. Wise

I actually really enjoyed AC West’s For The Removal Of Unwanted Guests. This is a short story about a man named Michael who has just purchased a home. One day a witch shows up on his doorstep with a cat and takes up residence in his house. Michael does not want these guests, but goes along with it. One day, he finds a spell For The Removal Of Unwanted Guests and he sees a way to get his home back. Only, once he has gathered up the materials, he realizes he doesn’t want the witch or her cat to leave. In all, this story is immensely readable, it captures the mood of the season. I really enjoyed it.

Angelic by Jay Caselberg

This was an odd short story. Angelic by Jay Caselberg alternates between an old man named Martin and a young adult named Estella. Martin is waiting for the angels to come and he know that this is the night that there’s an offering to the angels. Estella is sort of the screw up of her family which takes tradition very, very seriously. She’s home for the night when she has this dream. Eh, I could take or leave this story.

Quadruple Whammy by Chelsea Quinn Yarbro

Quadruple Whammy by Chelsea Quinn Yarbo is about an emergency room on Halloween Night – there’s a full moon and also it is set on a Friday. The staff of the emergency room is up for some craziness. The shift brings dog bites, kids in costumes, and oh someone in a very elaborate costume which hasn’t been taken off yet. My attention did wax and wane during this story. I could take or leave this story.

We, The Fortunate Bereaved by Brian Hodge

Brian Hodge’s short story We, The Fortunate Bereaved is about this woman named Bailey whose husband and father of her child, Cody, recently died in the past year. Bailey has sort of moved on, she’s seeing this guy named Troy. However, Cody really misses his dad still. Cody is holding out hope that this Halloween, his dad will be the one to return. You see – every year one of the dead returns in the form of a scarecrow to the town of Dunhaven. Bailey has made her peace with the death of her husband, so she’s not too sure she wants him to come back. In all – I actually liked this story more than I initially thought I was going to. It’s compelling and the concept is really interesting. It is also quite well written.

All Hallows In The High Hills by Brenda Cooper

This story was kind of a weird one. All Hallows In The High Hills is about an elderly glassblower named Mel. Mel is a male who is going to sell his wares at the festival grounds that open around Halloween. Tonight the owner of the grounds, Jack, is taking him through a waterfall door where he sees this hippie from his past and there’s a bit of magic. I did not entirely gel with this story.

Trick or Treat by Nancy Kilpatrick

Malina was raised by a witch, her mother, and so she hasn’t really experienced a good Halloween. In Trick Or Treat Malina carves pumpkins for the first time. She also experiences a cruel neighborhood trick from the children when they smash the windows out of her car. She has the choices to be vindictive or to be forgiving, and so she makes candied apples for the kids. In all, Nancy Kilpatrick’s story is a fast read. It wasn’t awful but it did take me a while to get into.

From Dust by Laura Bickle

YOU GUYS! I love Laura Bickle’s YA Vampires And The Amish Books to a weird degree. So, of course I was so pumped to read her contribution to this anthology. Suffice to say, Bickle totally does not disappoint. From Dust is about a girl and her mother who have wealth, but they have to hide it. They live on a farm and their crops always do well – primarily because of how they treat the crows. One day, the girl’s mom falls ill. And so, unfortunately, she does something to offend the crows. I quite enjoyed this story. It’s creative and creepy and atmospheric. A plus for Laura Bickle’s contribution.

All Souls Day by Barbara Roden

All Souls Day by Barbara Roden is about a woman named Debra and a man named Richard. The two are acquaintances who meet up once a year and have a very easy going friendship. This year they are at a conference in Canada, when Debra and Richard decide to check out a haunted house by where her grandparents used to live. The two go to the haunted house and to her grandparents’ old home and then to the cemetery where some weird things start to happen. This was an eerie story — good for setting the mood for the holiday.

And When You Called Us We Came To You by John Shirley

This short story, And When You Called Us We Came To You by John Shirley certainly is a unique closer to the Halloween anthology. It opens with a girl named Chun who works in a Chinese factory making seasonal items like masks and Santas for Americans. The labor camp is the worst and so she prays to her ancestors for relief. And, boy do they answer. There’s a creepy bit set in America featuring a girl named Maura who is living the ennui lifestyle. Then it goes back to Chun. In all, this story is scary and not a bad ending story.

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April is in her 30s and created Good Books And Good Wine. She works for a non-profit. April always has a book on hand. In her free time she can be found binge watching The Office with her husband and toddler, spending way too much time on Pinterest or exploring her neighborhood.
About April (Books&Wine)

April is in her 30s and created Good Books And Good Wine. She works for a non-profit. April always has a book on hand. In her free time she can be found binge watching The Office with her husband and toddler, spending way too much time on Pinterest or exploring her neighborhood.