Acclaimed authors collaborate on a collection of stories of the macabre.
This gathering of supernatural tales has a unique hook: The stories are collaborations between established writers working together for the first time. The results are a mixed bag, both in terms of quality and tone; moody, atmospheric meditations on loss follow old-school gothic bodice-rippers, with some contemporary brutal torture porn thrown in for good measure. Charlaine Harris, of True Blood fame, is one of the bigger names here. Her story with Rachel Caine is a middling, generic yarn with nods to female empowerment. Kevin J. Anderson and Sherrilyn Kenyon contribute a somewhat maudlin account of a homeless man/magical troll. In general, the stories that hew closest to genre tropes like haunted castles and deals with the devil come off as forgettable and inessential, but there are a few gems, including Stuart MacBride and Allan Guthrie’s lurid account of a most unusual cat-breeding operation; Gregory Frost and Jonathan Maberry’s chilling, revisionist take on fairies; and, best of all, Rhodi Hawk and F. Paul Wilson’s delightful, inventive odd-couple adventure featuring a beautiful 19th-century sociopathic mortician and an irascible Irish zombie. This story, titled “Renascence,” brilliantly justifies the book's strategy of blending disparate talents to see what happens. The result is unpredictable, funny, gripping and weirdly endearing. One might initially shudder at the notion of a steampunk/zombie/will-they-won’t-they/buddy comedy/adventure, but a “Renascence” franchise would be most welcome.
Some of the spooky stories hit bum notes, but when on its game, this collection really sings.