DarkEcho Horror
deccoclock by Rick Berry
Book Review

Damned: An Anthology of the Lost
Edited by David G. Barnett
400 copies, signed & numbered /$50
Necro Publications ( / 450 pages

Book Cover Horror's house has many mansions and when you feel like spending some time in its goriest, most gruesome, and most intentionally shocking cell, just mosey down the corridor leading to "hardcore horror." Dave Barnett of Necro Publications will probably greet you at the entrance. Necro specializes in hardcore and is, without question, its leading publisher. Although the publisher has been around for a decade or more, Necro's never done an anthology. (There are many reasons NOT to do small press anthologies -- probably the most important is that they are rarely profitable. Barnett was probably wise to avoid doing one for that reason alone.) Now that Barnett has taken the plunge, though, you need look no further for a representative compendium of 'core. Not all the dozen stories are top-notch, but the anthology as a whole is varied with most stories only tangentially connected to the theme of "personal visions of Hell." If you are a hardcore aficionado/aficionada, it is required reading. It's the softer-core stories, however, that stand out. Brian Hodge fans will rejoice at "When the Bough Doesn't Break" a new "Sisters of Trinity" story that is drawn from "The Dripping of Sundered Wineskins" (that appeared in LOVE IN VEIN 2, which, in turned referenced "The Alchemy of the throat" in LOVE IN VEIN). Other exceptional stories include Gerard Houarner's "No We Love No One," one of the weirdest "invasion" and/or Wizard of Oz-inspired stories you will ever read; Mehitobel Wilson's "Close," a creepy sexual story about a hotel employee whose kink is hiding under adulterous beds; and Gary Braunbeck's "That and the Rain" about a man who can read "mnemonic resonances" and steals an occasional memory. Ed Lee, who personifies hardcore, turns in an interesting first-person narrative of a writer's encounters with higher profundity, but, ultimately, backs off and makes it something of a nervous joke. Tom Piccirilli's "The Thief of Golgotha" has a great premise, but has a somewhat weak ending. Charlee Jacob's "Casuistry" has enough ideas to make several stories, but with all jammed into one tale nothing quite jells. (And you may enhance your vocabulary with the title.) John Everson's "Green Green Grass" is hellish enough -- a former rock star's ultimate condemnation involves the many women he abused -- and Everson provides an image of Rolling Rock beer bottles that may alter your drinking patterns forever, but the story itself drinks rather too deeply of the expected. Jack Ketchum's short tale is not one of his best, but even his worst is better than many writers' "bests." Jeffrey Thomas, who can produce excellent work -- as evidenced by his Punktown stories and novel MONSTROCITY -- or not-so-excellent work -- as with the lackluster epistolary novel LETTERS FROM HADES -- turns in a story, "Siren," from the latter category. The two longest entries bookend the volume and are the most disappointing. Patrick Lestewka's leadoff 80-page novella "The Beast" is more a laundry list of splatter than a story. Doc Solammen's idiosyncratic gonzo style in "Nexus of Crisis" might have been effective if confined to about half its overwhelmingly self-indulgent 130 pages. The Erik Wilson illustrations are unimaginative representational line drawings and the volume could have done without them. The headers and footers for each story's title page are, however, nicely designed. Chances are that true 'core-heads will have more appreciation for Wilson, Thomas, Lestewka, and Solammen than I can muster so DAMNED still stands as the best of show in the sick puppy category. (They'll also know "sick puppy" is a compliment.)

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Copyright © 2004 Paula Guran. All Rights Reserved.