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Reading a lot of Halloween-themed anthologies, you expect the unexpected, but several gems in this took me by surprise. Just reading the beginning about the inspiration behind the cover illustration let me know that kindred spirits had sent this my way. I hope they do more!
There are some genuine standouts in this collection that will stay with you--even haunt you. The rest are fun short reads. I loved how I could devour one or two in just half an hour. There isn't a bad story in the bunch, but nothing especially scary, either. This would make a great family read through the spooky season even for the 8 and ups.
Fast read, fun stories. Quality writing. Perfect Halloween treat for yourself or as a gift (yes, I give Halloween gifts.) Honestly, a great read is a great gift any time of the year. I highly recommend this collection. Excellent job, Gaby Triana, selecting and curating the collection.
I think any book that has a Jeff Strand story in it is worth reading. This book definitely needed his story. Most of the stories were so dark and emotionally heavy. His stories may be dark,but they also make me giggle.
Reviewed in the United States 🇺🇸 on September 23, 2022
Literally Dead: Tales of Halloween Haunting (Alienhead Press, edited by Gaby Triana with John Palisano) is a sometimes fun, often spooky and most of the time unsettling (in the best of ways) jaunt through the veil of the dark season. This collection explores many themes associated with Halloween in creative, thoughtful and intricate ways. My own literary preferences tend to run more toward the dark, mysterious and creepy rather than shock and gore and this volume is full to the brim with just that type of story.
I love the idea of Mary Shelley writing a story to scare her friends, or of the Chowder Society in Peter Straub’s Ghost Story where the group takes turns trying to scare the pants off of one another. This collection has that feel to it where the reader gets to take a short journey into darkness with some of the best writers in the genre today.
I’ve read this collection a number of times. It turns out that it took three times through to be able to select a few favorites for this review. They are all just that good. Plot twists are one of my favorite devices and I was awed by the way that Sara Tantlinger pulled off the twist in her story “How to Unmake a Ghost”. It might not be a twist as much as it is a reflection, or a new, unexpected, angle on something familiar. Sara’s style is brilliant and I was captivated, three times it seems, by her tale. Step Seven pretty much smacked me in the face. I’m old enough to have experienced the deaths of most people I knew when I was younger. I wish I’d thought of things this way… very good read.
“Halloween at the Babylon” by Lisa Morton is another story in the collection that I very much enjoyed. I’ve lived in dark, old spaces and have suspected, at times, that I wasn’t always alone there. This story captures that feeling of dread and then multiplies it. Excellent tale!
There is a story in the book that I had a bit of trouble with as there’s a scene where… never mind you’ll have to read Tim Waggoner’s “No One Sings in the City of the Dead” for yourself. This story absolutely gutted me when I read it for a wide variety of reasons. The theme that stuck with me, albeit with a graveyard aesthetic, is human folly. It’s an artful endeavor to weave themes of love, loss, hope and abject terror into a very short story but this one does it seamlessly. I both love and hate this story but I suspect the author wouldn’t be disappointed by that reaction - beautifully done!
The last story I’ll individually call out is Jeremy Megargee’s “Always October”. This tale did, in fact, have a rather unpleasant (for the main character) twist at the end that very much surprised me. I’ve always suspected that death, like life, could be something multifaceted and this tale addresses that idea very well. I love the way it’s written as it takes a few times through to catch all of the nuance. I’ll be looking for more work from this author.
I was awarded an advance reader’s copy of this collection and it’s been very much my pleasure to read it. All of the stories in the collection are first rate. I have a few books of stories that I turn to in mid September to start setting the mood for the season. I’ll be ordering a physical copy of this book to add to rotation as I expect that I’ll revisit it many times. If I could add anything to a future collection I’d love to read a short, favorite Halloween memory by each author prior to their story.
Reviewed in the United States 🇺🇸 on October 15, 2022
These are great ghost stories, all well written, original tales, with two exceptions. There were two stories that were disturbing and inappropriately violent, especially as those two involved children- I skipped over those two. One of those stories was intended to be humorous. Ew. The other stories were excellent.