Monday, July 8, 2013

An Honest Review of Blood Lite III: Aftertaste

You may not be aware of this but Amazon does not allow authors to post reviews of anthologies to which they have contributed. I always made it a practice to review everything I contributed to. Then, one day, Amazon removed all my reviews.

Among my proudest accomplishments was having Kevin J. Anderson purchase one of my stories for Blood Lite III: Aftertaste. This was my first professional sale and I felt very excited to be in such great company.

But, as a reader, and a fan of horror, did I enjoy the stories in the anthology? Yes and no.

About 40% of the stories are meant to be humorous (keep in mind everyone's sense of humor is a little bit different). About 40% of the stories are meant to be lite / light horror / supernatural suspense. And about 20% end up in various other categories.

Personal highlights for me were:
-Put On a Happy Face by Christopher Golden. I've read a novel and a novella by Mr. Golden and didn't particularly care for either. This story, however, is very good. Not the least bit funny, though it does involve clowns. And it's not some dumb "clown is really a serial killer" story. This tale involves a legendary text, and the secrets of laughter.

-Mint in Box by Mike Baron. This story included the biggest laugh out loud moment in the entire book ("One to a customer.") And yet, if the reader can get past the premise, it packs an emotional punch. Can't really say why, but I was reminded of Clive Barker as I read this story. Creepy, macabre and funny.

-Dating After the Apocalypse by Stephen Dorato. I read this story twice because I liked it so much. The date with Carrie was particularly fascinating. The mysterious maladies the characters suffer kept me turning the pages. And it turns out that... no, I better not spoil it.

-Making the Cut by Mike Resnick and Lezli Robyn. A cute story with a great cast of quirky characters. These two team up to create the perfect humorous lite horror tale.

-Short Term by Daniel Pyle. The other story I read twice and still my favorite of the entire anthology. This would have made a phenomenal Alfred Hitchcock Presents episode.

-Distressed Travelers by Nina Kiriki Hoffman. She always comes up with interesting concepts in her short fiction and this story is no exception. Not a "funny" story, but I found myself grinning with anticipation as the bad guy gets what he deserves.

-Two for Translyvania by Brad Hodson. I've read some pretty dreadful retreads of horror classics. Thankfully, this is not one of them. This author does a very nice job telling the back story of two legendary literary characters. Dracula meets Dirty Rotten Scoundrels.

Honorable mentions to Joel Sutherland, Kelley Armstrong, John Alfred Taylor, Norman Prentiss, Don D'Ammassa, and Lisa Morton. I enjoyed their stories too.

There were a few I didn't care for. Some of the authors tried a little TOO hard to be funny or used gimmicks (maybe I'm guilty of that!). A few others were fine, but as I mentioned before, everyone has a different sense of humor. I think Leslie Nielsen is funny, and Ben Stiller is not, for instance. It stands to reason that no reader will love every story included.

Ironically, some of the biggest names turned in the most disappointing stories. Heather Graham's Mannequin, for instance: not funny, not horror, not suspenseful. Why is she famous?

The Great Zombie Invasion of 1979 by J. G. Faherty wasn't a bad story. I would have liked it in a different, more serious anthology. Drunken hillbillies murder a group of survivors of a commercial airplane crash because they are bloody, and stagger like zombies. Not funny! Gut wrenching and sad.

As I read Bayou Brawl by L.A. Banks, I kept thinking "please let this be a parody...PLEASE let this be a PARODY!" Unfortunately, I don't think it is. If you are in the Twilight, True Blood crowd, this story is for you.

Finally, Jim Butcher's story was okay. It's not funny. It's not horror. And given a nice set-up, it doesn't even play out with much suspense. But the guy sure has vocal fans. I Was a Teenage Bigfoot ends up on my 'thumbs down' list mostly as a result of said fans. Call me spiteful, but I got pretty sick of reading reviews on Amazon and Goodreads that said: "I bought this anthology for the Jim Butcher story. I skipped the others." or "I bought this for the Dresden story. All the other authors sucked."  I've never experienced such a close-minded, hostile group of fans.

Overall, I give Blood Lite III: Aftertaste 3.5 of 5 stars. The good stories certainly outweigh the bad.

And if there's a fourth volume in the series, I humbly submit the subtitle: IV.

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