Reviewed in the United States on April 25, 2019
In this ninth omnibus of the Canyons of the Damned series, it collects issues from Canyons twenty-nine, thirty and thirty-one. That means you get thirteen thrilling stories from eleven different authors and all of them tell charming, chilling and disturbing stories that will maintain your interest and keep your eyeballs glued to the pages. Two out of the three highlights a specific theme like the Christmas holiday season and the spirit of love on Valentine’s Da. The third one just tells stories that are riveting, exciting and dark.
Let’s explore how the authors explore the holidays in their own unique way. Open these presents and read onwards with:
Will Swardstrom’s “Nice List” – Tina is a nine-year-old girl sneaking downstairs to see what’s under the tree on Christmas Eve. When she finds something unusual, she’s given a mission that, if she succeeds, will change Christmas for the rest of her life! The situation is humorous, filled with wonderful dialogue and the magic of the holidays. I found this story to be very charming, like a certain man with a little round belly that shook when he laughed like a bowl full of jelly.
Robert Jeschonek’s “Dreaming of a Carboniferous Christmas” – Traveling 310 million years into the past, a group of colonists reshaping humanity’s future is trying to survive! But when the concept of Christmas is brought into the prehistoric past, how will everyone respond? Why they’re trying to escape the 21st century combined the hazards of this time period form a delightful, dangerous and reflective tale with humor and heart.
Daniel Arthur Smith’s “The Christmas Gift” – In the New Cannes colony, Jacques is pensive after waiting three hundred years for his wife to arrive in a millennium ship and come out of cryogenic storage. Having lived a good portion of his life with his consciousness housed in a synthetic husk, Jacques has prepared the ultimate gift for her, but what can it be? This story bursts with the imagination of the authors “Spectral Shift” universe while also setting a reflective mood, the grandeur of humanity spreading across the stars and a stirring conclusion that touched my heart.
I’ve read and treasured stores from all three of these authors before and they all utilize their wonderful storytelling style to channel the Christmas spirit. To me, they bring their tales and place them in their sled full of toys, taking the reader on a grand journey into a child’s unforgettably special morning and across time and space. Strap on your Santa hat and enjoy these compelling holiday tales. You won’t find holiday stories like this anywhere else but in the Canyons of the Damned, where exceptional and unique tales like these are told.
Next, we get a host of new stories dealing with time-traveling threats, lost children, deadly stalkers, otherworldly hauntings, and mythical creatures. Each one is riveting and will stimulate the dark corners of your imagination. Check out these stories, starting with:
Jeremy Essex’s “Something Bad” – Maureen is a workaholic staying late at the office by herself when she sees something outside her window, somehow recognizing that it’s something bad. But what is it and why does she feel so uneasy about it? The whole story gave me the chills and once it revealed its secrets, I was disturbed and surprised by how it all came together.
M. Regan’s “On a Front Porch on a November Afternoon” – A woman lost her iPhone and backtracked to try to find it. As night falls and she still cannot find it, she runs into a young boy playing hide and seek. So, why does this situation feel so sinister? How the two stories intersect gave me goosebumps and had me turning pages in suspense to find out what is really going on here. It also has an ending that completely creeped me out.
Michael Ezell’s “The End of the World and a Super 88” – Martin is a soldier whose unit gets an emergency call about a portal opening. But when fifty armored knights on horseback come out of it and massacre civilians, all hell breaks loose! This is only the beginning of this delightful and dark time travel adventure filled with bloodshed and battles like you’ve never seen. It’s crazily wacky but in a scary and serious way. The sheer lunacy of its premise is a work of pure imagination that is only overshadowed by the deft use of its engaging premise and the unexpected twists this tale takes.
Lara Frater’s “Winning in Real Estate” – Sandy is a shady real estate investor trying to build luxury condominiums and turn a profit. But when his foreman reports the devil is disrupting the construction, he tries to the site to handle the problem himself. But how will the devil respond? Sandy’s attempted efforts lead to a chilling and scary confrontation with an unanticipated ending that simultaneously made me laugh and my jaw drop.
Daniel Arthur Smith’s “The Lost Tapes – Shane Starr” – Agents Muldoon and Meyer meet with celebrity Shane Starr, a documentary filmmaker, and survivor of a doomed Himalayan expedition. Exploring how he got so injured, Shane tells a tale about how something was stalking their camp. But how did he survive? An engrossing tale of chasing what once was thought extinct and the perils of overconfidence in a battle of man versus beast.
Finally, celebrate Valentine’s Day in the Canyons and feel all the love in the air! But this isn’t ordinary love, it’s love in twisted forms, in a way only Canyons can tell it! Open your heart-shaped box of chocolates and find out what stories are inside, starting with:
Hunter C. Eden’s “Fortune Cookies” – Shirley has a complaint about Great Wall Foods and the fortunes her son gets from inside their fortune cookies. The story starts with Shirley leaving a voicemail and it then transforms from a story about a complaining parent into something more sinister and completely unexpected. I marveled at the twist it took, how it got there and the flashes of humor hiding inside this gruesome tale.
D.K. Cassidy’s “That Time of Year” – Delilah loves Valentine’s Day and replaces her mattress every year at this time. On the prowl for a date on this special day, she finds one that satisfies her. But how will this date end? I was wowed by where the story went, Delilah’s origins and how the finale was darkly exquisite.
David Alan Jones’ “The Pairing Witch” – Princess Neorah is going to be married to someone she’s never met and Della is the witch who is going to perform the pairing spell to prepare their matrimony. After riding in her carriage to the prince’s castle, Della eventually runs into a startling obstacle. I completely loved how the story played out, how magic is utilized here, the characterization of the prince and how Della attempts to overcome this out-of-left-field complication.
Holly Heisey’s “Similar” – Using flashbacks to tell the love story of Matt and Brent, we learn about how a strange living black mass manifests in their living room along with a blackbird (!). What the mass is and why the blackbird is there blends perfectly with the love story and how it exposes the cracks in their relationship. It’s a beautiful but sad expression of love and how imagination is creatively utilized in this innovative and touching tale.
Daniel Arthur Smith’s “#Eddie_and_June” – June is the good girl teenager who hits it off with bad boy Eddie in school. After realizing they have much in common, she starts to think Eddie is her soul mate. As they go on a series of increasingly challenging misadventures and wind up on the run from the police, they post their pictures to Instagram and become celebrities. But how will their story end? Their love story is endearing and poignant, imbuing them with a joy of life that was infectious. It’s a journey I became more invested in with each page and when it reached its unexpectedly stunning ending, I was upset and moved at the same time.
Each one varied with different ideas being explored, yet all of them grabbing you and demanding that you don’t put down the book until the tale is told. It has two authors who are new to me and nine authors that I’ve read before in the Canyons series. But all of them continue to set a high bar for high-quality storytelling that continues to enrapture me.
“Tales from the Canyons of the Damned” continues to be my go-to series that tells original stories and delightfully delivers on a strong storytelling promise to only share the best tales. And this omnibus follows through on that continuing tradition. It accomplishes this by showcasing authors who are new to me and other authors whom I’ve read before and lets them all tell exceptional and unique tales.