Wicked Weird: An Anthology By The New England Horror Writers
Reviewed By Ben Walker
- Paperback: 260 pages
- Publisher: NEHW Press (6 Aug. 2019)
Wicked Weird collects 21 all-new stories from New England writers, and from its cover, you may be expecting mostly pulpy eldritch terror. Instead, there’s a decent variety of stories on offer here, where you’ll find military horror, a tale of psychic detectives, a weird western, the inevitable encounter with Old Ones and more besides. There’s even a story from the King in Yellow mythos, but we’ll get to that shortly.
As new as these stories are, for the most part, they’re very familiar feeling, from the names of places and people to their dynamics, and even the settings you find yourself in. It’s a solid read, one where nothing ever feels that surprising, kind of like picking out a new pair of shoes. Something tells you they’ll fit, and they do, so you settle in and enjoy the feel, without too much discomfort. That’s fine for shoes, but for an anthology, I would have expected more than the occasional stone to dig in under my heel.
My main issue here was that quite a few of the tales seemed overlong. The set-ups are mostly fine, and there are disturbing moments to be had along the way, but none of the first few stories bared their fangs early enough, nor sank them in that far. By the time I got halfway through the book, I was definitely entertained, but never really gripped. The aforementioned King in Yellow story comes in near the middle of the book, and despite a neat set-up, it mostly made me want to re-read Cassilda’s Song.
Stick around until after the midway mark though, and the teeth get sharper. Jason Parent’s Starry Night offers some gunky backwoods creature fun, as man’s best friend becomes decidedly unfriendly. Sanguisuga by Kasi Moulton turns a chance encounter into a gradually escalating nightmare, and The Promised Death of Zebediah Dewey by John Goodrich takes us into the early 1900s for a story of religion, magic and misery which has one of my favourite endings in the whole book.
The real stand-out though is Jeffrey Thomas’ Your Emergency Response Guide which is, you’ve guessed it, an emergency response guide. Only instead of giving practical advice on a real emergency, this takes a Night Vale meets Scarfolk approach, dosing out black humour alongside genuinely creepy imagery, before going full tilt into cross-dimensional terror. There’s also a healthy dose of paranoia right out of 50’s sci-fi. It’s a real treat to read something that plays with any kind of format and pulls it off well, and the end had me tenser than a tightrope walker’s backside.
This is pretty much an even split between truly entertaining and just plain solid genre fare, so to my mind, it’s worth picking up. Maybe not to give it a forever spot on your bookshelf, but it’s definitely worth marking up your favourites on the old e-reader, so you can enjoy a spot of wicked weirdness every now and then.
There’s a side of the world those deemed “normal” don’t see, save for glimpses in flashing moments of fear and confusion. These places exist just around the corner of our vision, beyond the ocean fog of memory and nightmare, where monstrous children cry for love and secrets are hidden in remote caves; where nature reclaims its own and a sweet taste in your mouth portends evil beyond imagining. Within these pages are twenty-one secrets hidden behind a veil only the most ancient of beings have dared to pass through, brought to you by some of the most talented and imaginative authors to come out of New England.
Ben got a taste for terror after sneaking downstairs to watch The Thing from behind the sofa at age 9. He’s a big fan of extreme & bizarre horror and well as more psychological frights, and most things in between. When he’s not reading, he’s writing, and when he’s not writing he’s on twitter @BensNotWriting or reviewing books on his YouTube channel, BLURB.