A-Z Of Horror: B is for BEASTS
Reviewed By J.A. Sullivan
The second release in Red Cape Publishing’s “A-Z of Horror” anthology series is all about Beasts. And these aren’t your run of the mill horror beasts you might expect. Each of the thirteen shorts in this collection present unique creatures which are sure to get under your skin.
In these pages, you’ll find snake-people, giant moths, hungry creatures of the woods, a deal on a cottage which is too good to be true, and even a kaiju monster! I’ve always loved monster stories – whether the beasts are legends or supersized versions of creatures we see every day – so I had high expectations for this book and am happy to say I did not leave disappointed. The variety of beasts presented kept this anthology fresh from start to finish, and there wasn’t even one story where I felt the creature of terror was a done to death idea.
Here’s a peek at what’s in store for you, just be warned, some of these beasts may peek back.
Set in 1961, “Mrs. Rumtifusel’s Fur Coat” by P. L. McMillan is a wonderfully rich story with a heck of a bite. Susan drags her boyfriend into a curiosity shop where she hopes to find the perfect accessory for her Halloween costume. She finally convinces the shop’s owner to rent out a fur coat, on the stipulation that Susan return it before the sun sets. I don’t want to spoil this story, so I’ll just say ignoring this condition might be the last thing Susan ever does.
Next, “Jack” by R. E. McAuliffe reminded me of the tale of “Bluebeard” if it were rewritten into a kind of body horror story. As a child, Chloe had a strange wriggling growth removed from her head. Instead of being inanimate tissue, the tumour grows into a full beastly entity, which Chloe’s mother names Jack. Throughout her life Chloe is burdened with caring for her ‘brother’ and when she wants to begin life as a married woman, she’s sure she can keep the two men in her life separated. But what kind of horror story would that be! While one of the outcomes of this story is predictable, there’s also a satisfying and shocking twist at the end. McAuliffe also digs deep into the characters, building sympathy for everyone, even Jack. This is story strikes that perfect balance between family drama and horror, creating a world I won’t soon forget.
Only three people are left alive in the small mining township of Hammond, where strange blue lights descend from the mountains each night in “Waiting for Daylight” by Craig Crawford. As the three barricade themselves in the bank, praying to survive until dawn, flashbacks tell the story of how the townsfolk had been murdered and mutilated by unseen creatures. Crawford does an excellent job of transporting the reader back to post-WWI days and instilling the feelings of isolation in small mining communities. It was one of those stories I didn’t want to end because the writing style was so enjoyable. Plus, the monsters in this tale were brutal and mind-blowingly horrific.
My favourite in the anthology was “Pholcidae” by Charles R. Bernard. Given that I’m an arachnophobe and that this is a story about giant bloodthirsty spiders, I wasn’t even sure I’d be able to finish reading it, but I’m so glad I stuck it out. Creepy crawlies aside, this is a well-crafted, dark fantasy story which follows the life of Amos, who can communicate with all animals. These talents are soon noticed by Rigel, a black magician who offers Amos a chance to make a lot of money by raising a few pholcidae, a breed of giant spider which Rigel claims Amos can tame. As the tale progresses, Amos’ sweet nature becomes corrupted and he abandons the people he loves. The ending is heartbreaking as well as terrifying, and as I was so entrenched in the story, it took me a while to recover and convince myself it wasn’t real.
Of course, as with most anthologies, there were a few stories that didn’t quite hit the mark for me. However, the bulk of the collection, especially Bernard’s story, made this an anthology I will revisit in the future. I highly recommend checking out “B is for Beasts” if you’re looking for a monstrously fantastic read.
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B is for BEASTS
B is for Beasts, the second book in an epic series of twenty-six horror anthologies. Within these pages you will find a collection of thirteen stories from some of the finest independent writers on the scene today. From oversized bugs to Kaiju, vicious woodland creatures to giant spiders, B is for Beasts contains a range of terrifying stories in which the humans are always the prey.
J. A. Sullivan is a horror writer and paranormal enthusiast, based in Brantford, ON, Canada. Attracted to everything non-horror folks consider strange, she’s spent years as a paranormal investigator, has an insatiable appetite for serial killer information, and would live inside a library if she could.
Her latest short story can be found in Don’t Open the Door: A Horror Anthology (out July 26, 2019), and other spooky tales can be found on her blog. She’s currently writing more short stories, a novel, and reading as many dark works as she can find.
You can follow J. A. on Twitter @ScaryJASullivan
Check out her blog https://writingscaredblog.wordpress.com
Find her on Instagram www.instagram.com/j.a_sullivan