Orphans Of Bliss: Edited By Mark Matthews
Reviewed By Steve Stred
Mark Matthews returns with the third anthology of addiction based horror stories and much like the first two, Matthews has enlisted a stellar group of writers who you know will deliver phenomenal stories.
If you’ve not read either of the previous entries, no worries, these are not connected in that sense (although Kealan Patrick Burke’s stories in each one are set in the same world), so you can dive in and not have read the other two. Saying that, you really should as the work featured within is always haunting, heartbreaking and captivating.
With ‘Orphans of Bliss’ I found the level of storytelling to be lights out. Amazing from start to finish.
What I liked: Each author has very distinct ways of telling their stories and that works really well for the reader, as each piece feels fresh and nothing comes off as repetitive. I think one thing I really enjoyed was that there were only 10 stories. Lately, many anthologies are nearing three times that amount and it can make for an uneven reading experience.
Highlights for me were;
– ‘You Wait For It, Like It Waits For You’ by Kealan Patrick Burke. This one followed Sean, an addict who has done some horrific thing. His wife and kids have left him and he is in a recovery centre/hospital setting. But not all is how it seems and, as expected, Kealan gives us a haunting look at a mind that is struggling.
– ‘One Last Blast’ by S.A. Cosby. We get to follow Kenny Wayne, a small town dealer of Meth and a new hot product Ice Man for an evening. Cosby crafted a short but unsettling story, one that was a blast to see unfold.
– ‘What We Name Our Dead’ by Cassandra Khaw. This starts off with just a devastating line and gets worse from there. I don’t want to mention too much but wow did Khaw go dark.
– ‘Through the Looking Glass and Straight Into Hell’ by Christa Carmen. A really unique Sci-Fi mash-up, we get a VR set up to help with addicts and some interesting ramifications from there.
– ‘Holding On’ by Gabino Iglesias. Another futuristic- Sci-Fi blended story, we follow Guillermo as he tries to find his friend and significant other who is pregnant. This was filled with action, creatures and some pointed social commentary. Really well done.
What I didn’t like: While I did enjoy each story, some started off with really interesting premises and faded away, while a few were good but I just didn’t connect with them like the others. Anthologies are always like that and readers will find stories they love more than others.
Why you should buy this: Matthews has once again given us an anthology that looks at how addiction can hook into a person and hold tight, while also sharing how that addiction affects them and those closest. The stories are filled with darkness, despair but also these wiggling ideas that pull the reader along.
Definitely an anthology you’ll want to check out!
Orphans Of Bliss
Why do we crave that which is killing us?
Addiction is the perpetual epidemic, where swarms of human moths flutter to the flames of hell. Because that warm blanket of a heroin high, that joyful intoxication of a pint of vodka, that electric energy from a line of cocaine, over time leaves you with a cold loneliness and a bitter heart. Relationships destroyed, bodies deteriorate, loved ones lost, yet the craving continues for that which is killing us—living, as the title suggests, like an Orphan of Bliss.
Welcome to the third and final fix of addiction horror and the follow up to the Shirley Jackson Award Finalist, Lullabies For Suffering. A diverse table of contents brought together for an explosive grand finale–an unflinching look at the insidious nature of addiction, told with searing honesty but compassion for those who suffer.
Steve Stred is the Splatterpunk Nominated Author of ‘Sacrament’ and ‘Mastodon.’
Based in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada, Steve has released over a dozen novels and novellas as well as a number of collections. He has appeared alongside some of horror’s biggest names within some truly excellent anthologies.
He is a proud co-founder of the LOHF Writer’s Grant and an Active Member of the HWA.