My advance reading copy of Shivers VII didn’t include an introduction, and the table of contents gave no indication there would be one added to the finished and published edition. I’ve gotten used to anthologies leading off with some sort of mission statement or manifesto (sometimes, these missives are better than the stories that follow), but I guess hitting the seventh entry in a series indicates you know what you’re doing, and readers should know what to expect.
After plowing through the 26 stories in Shivers VII, I’d say agree that no introduction is necessary. Like the six volumes before it, this is an anthology of rare quality, a collection of contemporary fiction that provides an excellent snapshot of where the genre stands today, and a roadmap to where it’s going.
However, it’s important to remember where the genre came from even as it continues to move forward, which is why it seems appropriate that the two stories that bookend Shivers VII are older, rarely-seen works by a couple of horror icons: Clive Barker and Stephen King.
Barker kicks things off with “The Departed,” originally known as “Hermione and the Moon.” It’s a terrific slice of atmosphere and tension staged, appropriately enough, on Halloween night. King’s closeout contribution is “Weeds,” the short story that served as the source material for the Creepshow segment “The Lonesome Death of Jordy Verril” – you know, the one King appears in as a hick farmer? “Meteor shit!”? Yeah, that one. “Weeds” isn’t quite as campy as the filmed version, but it’s definitely reminiscent of King’s Night Shift-era short story work. It’s a simple, one-note premise, and it’s heavily influenced by the horror comics King consumed as a child, and it’s a total blast.
Sandwiched between these two masters is the usual Shivers blend of old and new faces tackling classic horror tropes and bending the genre into strange new shapes.
There’s a rare and welcome appearance by Norman Partridge with a story about a lake, a dead girl, and a father driven insane with grief. Stories like this have been told around a thousand campfires, but you’ve got to hand it to Partridge – he finds a way to put a fresh spin on it in the end.
Al Sarrantonio pops in to take us to his creepy little town, Orangefield, where a group of children sets out in search of a local legend on Halloween night. If you’re at all familiar with Orangefield, you know that their local legends are particularly nasty; if you’re not, this is a great way to whet your appetite. You’ll be amazed at the way Sarrantonio effortlessly evokes the tone and spirit of Halloween in just a few short pages.
Don D’Ammassa is a name I’m unfamiliar with, but after reading “Echoes” I intend to change that. He’s contributed an intense tale about a man whose quiet façade covers mountains of suppressed rage. As we all know, such rage can’t stay quelled forever, and when his starts to leak out around the edges, it’s fascinating and brutal and terrifying.
Young guns holding their own with the masters of the genre – that’s what I’ve come to expect from Shivers. Not to mention it’s one of the best bargains around. Twenty bucks for more than 400 pages of state-of-the-art horror fiction is nothing to sneeze at. Neither are names like the ones above, or like Tim Waggoner, Scott Nicholson, Bev Vincent, Rick Hautala and Graham Masterton.
You shouldn’t need an introduction to sell you on that. To be honest, you shouldn’t need this review, either. But here it is. Move on down to the next line, click that link, and snap this bad boy up. You can thank me later.