This book is a beauty. I take it everywhere I go in case I have a few minutes to sneak in just one more page, which has led to my meeting a variety of folks. They stop me, often with necks craned to one side because they're too impatient to wait for the answer, and ask, "What is that you're reading?" I gladly stop and show them the cover and the definitions of the title words and explain that while it's technically a horror anthology, it's also so much more than that description allows.
I tell them that Michael Bailey seems only able to put together intriguing, thought-provoking, high-quality literary anthologies that hover just above genre descriptions. They walk away as impressed with the heavy-hitters listed on the TOC as they were by the cover art.
During my first read through, I was excited to see a story early on by Lori Michelle. I had purchased BLEED a few months ago and knew her to be a capable editor and effective writer (I also send healing thoughts to her family regularly since reading her story). "Shades of Naught" flattened me. She seemed to take an underdeveloped, wisp of a thought/fear that I had in the back of my head and develop it into a well thought out and fascinating story. Beautifully done.
Christian A. Larsen's "Cataldo's Copy" was another unsettling, off-kilter, and graphic work in the same vein as his "724" and LOSING TOUCH - both of which I have come to love. It's the type of quiet, creeping horror that he does masterfully. And, hopefully this won't ruin his reputation, but I found it to be one of the sweetest, most life-affirming stories that I've read in a while.
Then came "The Neighborhood Has a Barbecue" by Max Booth III...like Lori Michelle, I had come to know Max Booth III as a capable editor first with his SO IT GOES tribute to Kurt Vonnegut. Now I find him turning the human v. machine paradigm on its head and myself enjoying the building anticipation that led to an unpredictable ending.
When I last left off with Pat R. Steiner, he had me disturbed, saddened and horrified. In other words, I had read his "The Shoe Tree" in CHIRAL MAD. The same qualities popped up in his "Kilroy Wasn't There" but were encased in a very different style, showing off his versatility.
All of these writers (Michelle, Larsen, Booth, Steiner, Malik, Cataneo, Johnson, Shoebridge, Massie, Braunbeck, etc.) have introduced me to different aspects of their personalities, hearts and brains. It's been an amazing journey. My only complaint: I sorely missed a selection from the editor himself, Michael Bailey. His "Underwater Ferris Wheel" is among my favorite short stories of all time. I did, however, enjoy how well his binary-based intro set the book's stage, and how he cleverly tied the work together with an extremely fitting quote from Isaac Asimov. And now to end on a quote from another great writer and thinker: 10010011010101000110100001100101001000000110110101101111011100100110010100100000011110010110111101110101001000000110000101110000011100000111001001101111011000010110001101101000001000000110100101101110011001100110100101101110011010010111010001111001001011000010000001110100011010000110010100100000011001000110010101100101011100000110010101110010001000000111100101101111011101010010000001110000011001010110111001100101011101000111001001100001011101000110010100100000011101000110010101110010011100100110111101110010100101000010000000001101000010100010011000100011001110000011001000110001001100110011101100100000010001110111010101110011011101000110000101110110011001010010000001000110011011000110000101110101011000100110010101110010011101000000110100001010 Thanks for helping me approach infinity. I was, indeed,terrified.