The term "horror library" conjures certain expectations. If you go to a library, you can assume you'll find more than one specific kind of book. Likewise, a "horror library" is going to be home to more than one kind of horror - you'll have your "Quiet Horror" section, your "Splatterpunk" section, your "Haunted House" section, your "Demonic Possession" section, and so on and so forth.
I believe that Cutting Block Press was very intentional in naming their anthology series Horror Library, and editors R.J. Cavender and Boyd E. Harris continue in this, the series' fifth edition, to take an all-inclusive approach in collecting its contents. While readers who are only attracted to certain kinds of horror may find such far-reaching collections a hit-and-miss affair, those who are open to varying approaches to the genre will find plenty worth reading here.
Some of the terrible things you'll stumble across here: a graveyard that harbors a horrible family secret; a bathtub in which drowning is the least of a small child's worries; a frighteningly effective sex toy; a tale of all-encompassing grief, and vultures; and fresh takes on old standards like demon-summoning rock music, ghosts, haunted houses, and more.
Often in collections like this there will be one or two stories that really jump ahead of the pack in terms of impact, but that wasn't the case this time around. There's a consistent level of quality throughout the 30 stories presented here, a somewhat surprising accomplishment given the number of relative newcomers who appear alongside genre stalwarts like Ray Garton, Bentley Little and Jeff Strand.
"Themed" collections featuring various takes on common plot points (the apocalypse, vampires, etc.) have virtually taken over the market these days, which makes the Horror Library series all the more important as far as I'm concerned. It's the sort of sampling that can give you satisfying versions of the kind of horror you enjoy, while at the same time introducing you to stuff you might never have investigated otherwise. Horror Library Volume 5 is an investment of time and money that yields nothing but positive returns.
[Full Disclosure: The author of this review published a short story, “Toll,” in Horror Library Volume 3.]
Blu Gilliand is a freelance writer of fiction and nonfiction. He covers horror fiction at his blog, October Country, and contributes interviews to the Horror World website. Follow him on Twitter at @BluGilliand.