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Worst Laid Plans: an Anthology of Vacation Horror Kindle Edition
- ASIN : B08BTFVLQZ
- Publisher : Grindhouse Press (July 15, 2020)
- Publication date : July 15, 2020
- Language : English
- File size : 2472 KB
- Text-to-Speech : Enabled
- Screen Reader : Supported
- Enhanced typesetting : Enabled
- X-Ray : Not Enabled
- Word Wise : Enabled
- Print length : 184 pages
- Lending : Enabled
- Best Sellers Rank: #94,264 in Kindle Store (See Top 100 in Kindle Store)
- Customer Reviews:
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"You've Been Saved" by S.E. Howard starts the collection on a strong note. Chris and his friend, Ethan are taking a road trip to California for a job interview for Chris. While stopped for lunch, Chris is passed a note by a beautiful girl traveling with an elderly couple. The note appears to be written in blood and reads simply, "Help." Chris insists on following the old couple's RV, and there are gruesome surprises in store.
"Summers With Annie" by Greg Sisco is a melancholy tale about a mysterious film and the impact it has on a man over the course of his life. This one is bittersweet and was one of my favorites in the collection.
"Expertise" by Asher Ellis is a fun creature feature about a predatory red barracuda with a taste for humans. This one is brief but entertaining and features a neat, although not altogether unsurprising, twist.
"Unkindly Girls" by Hailey Piper was disturbing and although the subject matter wasn't necessarily my cup of tea, this was one of the best written stories in the collection. I have both of Piper's novellas on my to-read shelf and eagerly anticipate reading more of her work.
"Deep in the Heart" by Waylon Jordan is a gooey monster tale that reminds me of a more gruesome version of something I would have read as a kid, like in one of those Bruce Coville collections, or a comic book.
Kenzie Jennings's "Peelings" concerns Beth, a put-upon mother and her ungrateful family at Disney World. After getting a strange sunburn, Beth discovers that Disney World really is the happiest place on earth, if not for the reasons most think.
"The Difference Between Crocodiles and Alligators" by Malcolm Mills is a surreal tale of reptilian fetishists, and I can't say I'm not confused by the turn it took, but it was very well written, and I'd be interested in reading more of Mills work.
"The Cucuy of Cancun" by V. Castro was another of my favorites, about a monstrous woman feeding off the tourists at resort. The Cucuy narrates the tale, and I loved her narration. I would love to read more about this creature, who is ultimately more likable than her victims. I've been wanting to read Castro's Hairspray and Switchblades for a while now, and this story convinced me to move it to the top of my to-buy list.
"Taylor Family Vacation '93" is another melancholic tale, with an interesting, if devastating twist, even if it was one I ultimately saw coming.
Scott Cole's "The Penanggalan" is a brief tale of tourists in Malaysia and one man's obsession with the titular creature. This story was almost too brief, as I could have used more buildup to the climax, but I enjoyed it.
"Sex with Dolphins" by Chad Stroup has a pretty exploitative sounding title, and the story lives up to it...to a certain extent. However, it also manages to be a sweet tale of true love, loss, and redemption.
"Caught a Glimpse" is by Patrick Lacey, another author whom I've been itching to read. It concerns a man on vacation alone in Martha's Vineyard and the strange woman he meets while there. This one had a couple of really good creepy moments, and I just wish it had been longer, as I could have spent more time in this story.
"In the Water" by Mark Wheaton was the last of my three favorites. Wheaton's done some screenwriting (the underrated Friday the 13th remake and the early Kristen Stewart vehicle, The Messengers), and this one reads like it could easily be an episode of the X-Files. Gruesome and suspenseful, I'd love to read more by Wheaton.
The collection concludes with "Good Times in the Bad Lands" by Laura Keating, which starts out as a realistic tale of one family's car trip, before veering abruptly into surreal nightmare land territory.
Worst Laid Plans is an incredibly solid collection, and I hope Grindhouse Press and/or editor, Samantha Kolesnik puts out more. Bonus points go to this one for the introduction by Sadie Hartman, Goodread's own Mother Horror. There's something here for every horror fan, and I definitely recommend checking it out.
Review originally published on Goodreads.
Thankfully, I can vicariously live through far superior concepts of vacation horror than what my parents dreamed up all those years ago for me with Worst Laid Plans, an anthology put together by Samantha Kolesnik, author of True Crime.
For the most part, this anthology is a winner, but it also didn't quite meet my expectations to the fullest. Having read True Crime earlier this year, a book that gave me all kinds of turbulent emotions and put me through the proverbial wringer, I was expecting Kolesnik's first anthology to have quite a lot more bite to it. I was surprised at just how tame many of these stories were. While a few missed the mark entirely for me (SOP in anthology land), many of the authors I was already familiar with and expected to deliver most certainly delivered, and I got to check out the hellacious itineraries from some new-to-me tour guides into hell. They dreamed up some wonderfully awful vacations!
I hadn't read S.E. Howard previously, but her "You've Been Saved" is a fantastic opener. I probably shouldn't have to tell you not to trust old folks in an RV with a HONK IF YOU'VE BEEN SAVED bumper sticker, but Howard does a great job illustrating exactly why this is.
The stories from Hailey Piper, Asher Ellis, and Waylon Jordan make for a fun trio, giving us a thematic trilogy centered on the depths of depravity. Ellis kicks us into the deep end of the ocean with "Expertise," while Piper brings us to shore with a beach-based coming of age horror in "Unkindly Girls." Jordan's "Deep in the Heart" leads us into some underground caverns that will leave you rethinking the concept of a tourist trap. I really dug the arrangement of these stories in particular, and Kolesnik smartly lets some of the other stories play off each other with their shared elements and thematic or emotional resonance. The arrangement of an anthology is a fine art, and too often overlooked, but the stories here have a nice ebb and flow to them, and they work together very well.
Kenzie Jenning's "Peelings" went into some unexpected directions, so hats off to her! She also created an exceedingly toxic husband and painted a portrait of a fairly dysfunctional family that rings true. V. Castro's "The Cucuy of Cancun" drew me in right from the start with its grisly imaginings of our central figure, the Hispanic boogeyman Cucuy, who looks at the tourists around her and wants to "nuzzle in their heart chambers and soak in their blood. I want to fill this grubby, over-chlorinated pool with their limbs. Their severed heads will float like abandoned inflatable toys. Some of them will have their flesh made into strips of jerky while I slurp on their chilled brain matter like a piña colada. In the morning, I will moisturize my tan skin with their melted down fat because it prevents me from burning beneath the hot Mexican sun." HELL YEAH! I love it! This is a terrific little splatterpunk piece all around, and one of my favorites of the anthology.
Speaking of mythical creatures, I've been enthralled by the penanggalan ever since I first encountered it in a short story about it in the Seize the Night anthology a few years ago, so I was quite pleased to see Scott Cole tackle this vampiric figure in “The Penanggalan.” I also really dug Chad Stroup’s “Sex with Dolphins,” the content of which was a far cry from what I was expecting based on that title! I definitely need to find more of Chad’s work. Patrick Lacey, another personal favorite of mine, serves up a cool bit of horror involving the girl vacationing next door in “Caught a Glimpse.” I really dug the concept here, and Lacey layers in a few very well done chills.
Worst Laid Plans is, overall, a solid exploration of horrifying vacations that, arriving in the midst of a global pandemic that's curtailed every sensible reader's far-flung travel plans, couldn't have come at a better time. Yeah, we can't head down to Kokomo, but that's OK. Samantha Kolesnik knows where we really want to go to get away from it all, and you'll still get your fix of bodies lying in the sand, with a tropical drink in hand.
Top reviews from other countries
Worst Laid Plans, fortunately, has no duds. And while I loved some of these stories of vacation horror more than others, my response was purely a matter of personal taste - and no reflection at all on the skill or imaginative capabilities of any of the writers. Every story is well-executed and interesting - my favourites will very likely not be yours.
Those caveats in place, let’s take the stories one by one:
You’ve Been Saved - SE Howard
A great opener, and for me one of the strongest stories in the collection, You’ve Been Saved begins as a road trip buddy-narrative interrupted by an archetypal Girl In Danger, and ends up in an entirely different and altogether more bizarre place that reminded me, unexpectedly, of nothing so much as a hybrid of Silence Of The Lambs and 1990’s bug-themed creature-feature Meet The Applegates. What with this and Doctor Sleep, I can’t help but think you’d be a fool these days to trust a pensioner in an RV.
Summers With Annie - Greg Sisco
Another very strong contribution. Maybe because of the isolated-but-quirky seaside setting, there was something a little Neil Gaiman-ish for me about the atmosphere of this one - while the story itself was just a little bit Eerie, Indiana. Great stuff.
Expertise - Asher Ellis
Though not one of my favourites, this was hugely atmospheric, and did a great job of building up tension around the central “divers meet flesh-eating barracuda” premise. I didn’t see the twist coming (which is surely the hallmark of a good twist), and there’s a fun Tales Of The Unexpected quality to the morality tale aspect of the story. Will definitely be seeking out Curse Of The Pigman after this.
Unkindly Girls - Hailey Piper
I love Hailey and basically everything she does, so it didn’t come as a massive surprise that I enjoyed this as much I did. It’s a fantastic piece of storytelling, spectacularly creepy, and it builds to an exceptionally well-crafted payoff. For me, it’s one of Hailey’s best, and competition is stiff.
Deep In The Heart - Waylon Jordan
A slightly Stephen King-ish entry (quite possibly because of the cave setting, which reminded me of The Outsider), this was short and spiky, and I really enjoyed it. I especially appreciated the queer male gaze of the story - not something you find in the genre as a matter of course.
Peelings - Kenzie Jennings
A little bit magic realist and leaving a lot of questions unanswered, this was a beautifully-written and at times slightly gut-wrenching account of an emotionally abusive marriage - one which frames the protagonist’s husband as by far the bigger villain than the putative (fairytale) monster. If you like Angela Carter, I suspect you’ll really like this.
The Difference Between Crocodiles & Alligators - Malcolm Mills
A great premise (furry-convention pseudo-crocodilian may or may not be actual prehistoric monster) that became, for me, a little confusing as the story went on. I suspect I’ll be revisiting this one later, to see if I can dig out more answers!
The Cucuy of Cancun - V. Castro
Utterly amazing - possibly, along with Unkindly Girls, my favourite of the stories here. I’m a sucker for a monster’s-eye-view, and for postcolonial revisiting of traditional (and often slightly or more than slightly racist) narrative tropes, so this ticked a lot of boxes for me. My first exposure to the very talented V. Castro, and enough to drive me to dive wholesale into her back catalogue.
Taylor Family Vacation ‘93 - Jeremy Herbert
Another one that didn’t quite hit the mark for me, this is nevertheless a really intriguing premise (maybe-haunted camcorder, maybe-missing child, possible descent into madness for protagonist) that warrants multiple readings. As with Crocodiles/Alligators - I’ll be revisiting it!
The Penanggalan - Scott Cole
Loved this one. A lovely departure from the standard Western creature-canon, and a fascinating glimpse of a genuinely unsettling monster I’d never heard of previously. A great jumping-off point for further exploration of Southeast Asian folklore, and a brilliant introduction to Scott Cole’s work.
Sex With Dolphins - Chad Stroup
I’m never going to say no to a story that reminds me of a Buffy episode, and without giving too much away about this one - it definitely had a few things in common with BtVS season 2’s Go Fish. Would love to read more of Chad Stroup (and the wider undersea universe he alludes to here) on the basis of this story alone.
Caught A Glimpse - Patrick Lacey
Weird and wonderful, this one is perhaps more bizarro fic than straight horror, but I really enjoyed it. Could easily be expanded into a larger, more complex story offering a little more insight into some of the things that go (deliberately) unexplored here.
In The Water - Mark Wheaton
Until the very last page, this was one of my favourite stories in the collection - but it ended that bit too abruptly, for me at least. It’s an incredible premise, and the parallel narratives and before/after storytelling structure work absolutely brilliantly. Could very easily have been a novella, I reckon - and a very, very good one.
Good Times In The Bad Lands - Laura Keating
Another bizarro-horror contribution, this was a breathlessly surreal conclusion to the collection, pitched somewhere between Mad Max and Skeleton Key’s Mrs Todd’s Shortcut. Hugely enjoyable - and left me hungry for more Badlands-set stories in a similar vein.
Overall: fantastic collection, thoroughly recommended, and a great way to get acquainted with some authors you may not have come across previously.