Recently, I was lucky enough to receive a review copy of Shivers VI edited by Richard Chizmar from Cemetery Dance Publications. Oh man, it is good. Damn good. I am so excited about others getting to read Shivers VI. This has got to be the most perfect anthology I have ever read! Bar none. Hands down. Amen. Each story is unique and well told. In fact, every tale is a journey that I wouldn't mind reading a whole novel of (and some that I really and truly wish were full length novels). It is too bad that only Peter Straub's piece, "A Special Place: The Heart of a Dark Matter," has a novel that is connected to its included story.
Prior to reading Shivers VI, the list of authors alone screamed greatness to me: Stephen King, Peter Straub, Kealan Patrick Burke, Brian Keene, and so many more. I hadn't even heard of a few of them before, but they are now etched in my memory permanently. Plus, this book contains "The Crate" by Stephen King, a short story that I had wanted to read for a very long time (it isn't in any of his short story collections)
Upon arrival, I realized that I had only previously read one of the included pieces, and I was very eager to read the other stories that this volume contained (most of which are brand new). I consumed the entire 400+ page book in three sittings. That isn't normal for me. Anthologies and story collections normally stay on my nightstand for weeks being read one piece at a time like a box of fine truffles. Sometimes, these books are put away after too many bad tastes are put into my mouth (hey, who put the chocolate covered moth ball in my truffles!), but Shivers VI tasted delicious the entire way through! So good in fact, I gorged. *burp*
There are horrific tales, sad tales, extreme tales, bewildering tales, amazing tales, mysterious tales, sexy tales, and more. Between these covers, you will find stories of witchcraft, demons, old people (scary!), mysterious happenings, a crate (of course), and much more. You will find concepts you are familiar with but will still enthrall you. Some of the stories took me on trips I never dreamed of before. Shivers VI sent me through a myriad of great emotions including uproarious laughter and full tears. Thankfully, it didn't ever make me angry.
Almost every ending is a winner in Shivers VI too! I only found two stories that I didn't fully enjoy the ending of, and yet I still really loved the journey that those stories provided. One story had me guessing the entire time and coming up with all sorts of concepts and paths it could explore, but being a short story it had to end. It is hard to please me with an ending on a short story, but I've been very pleasured by Shivers VI. Sure, not every story is going to thrill everyone. Talk about impossible. If you run across one you don't like, try to finish it and move on to the next. You never know, you might find your all-time favorite story in this book.
I felt such a rush of joy and excitement after each story that I had to tell my wife about almost every one of them right after I finished. Stephen King's "The Crate" is a great story that went beyond where I expected it to go. Yet, it wasn't my favorite story in the book. I found myself thinking about the concepts of many of the other stories, like David Silva's "Trouble Follows," for a much longer period of time. I really don't want to give any details about any of the stories out to you because I want you to read these as fresh as I did. I want you to have the same thrills, shocks, and fun that I had gobbling it down.
During my time reading, I found myself traveling from story to story in this wonderful book and even finding links between them. Richard Chizmar outdid himself on his choices of stories and the order that these are in. Either subconsciously or consciously, there seems to be a small link between each story connecting it to its predecessor. Whether it is a word, a feeling, a happening, a name… something, they just click. Not a sore thumb in the bunch. It really feels like it couldn't have been a coincidence or just fate how these fit together. I highly recommend reading the stories in order. I have been told that putting together an anthology is like putting together a puzzle. Richard Chizmar put this shiver-rific puzzle together masterfully, and I wouldn't be surprised to see Shivers VI on some award and favorites lists soon.
With that, I'll leave you with the table of contents:
"Serial" by Blake Crouch & Jack Kilborn
"The Crate" a novella by Stephen King
"The Last Beautiful Day" by Brian James Freeman
"Cobwebs" by Kealan Patrick Burke
"The Old Ways" by Norman Prentiss
"Waiting for Darkness" by Brian Keene
"Like Lick 'em Sticks, Like Tina Fey" by Glen Hirshberg
"Ghost Writer in My Eye" by Wayne Allen Sallee
"Palisado" by Alan Peter Ryan
"Stillness" by Richard Thomas
"In the Raw" by Brian Hodge
"I Found a Little Hole" by Nate Southard
"Fallow" by Scott Nicholson
"Last" by Al Sarrantonio
"Mole" by Jay Bonansinga
"The Shoes" by Melanie Tem
"Bits and Pieces" by Lisa Tuttle
"Trouble Follows" by David B. Silva
"Keeping It in the Family" by Robert Morrish
"It Is the Tale" by Bev Vincent
"A Special Place: The Heart of a Dark Matter" a novella by Peter Straub
Robert Brouhard is a freelance writer and Assistant Editor. His poetry has appeared in Death in Common: Poems from Unlikely Victims edited by Rich Ristow, and he has additional poetry and short stories scheduled to appear in other anthologies in the future. You can catch him writing reviews at Mark Sieber's Horror Drive-In, and he also tries to keep a blog about (mostly children's) books going called Book ‘em Bob.