Edited by Brian James Freeman and Richard Chizmar
Stories by Peter Straub, Jack Ketchum, Darynda Jones, Jacquelyn Frank, and Brian Hodge
Available now from Hydra (Penguin Random House)
I have to give this anthology props for size. It fit perfectly into my thirty-minute lunch break. Sometimes these shorter works aren't quite long enough or are just a bit too long, which can be slightly unsatisfying. Unfortunately, everyone's reading speed differs so that aspect might not work quite as well for other people.
"The Collected Short Stories of Freddie Prothero" by Peter Straub
The biggest name in DARK SCREAMS: VOLUME THREE leads off the anthology. I mostly skimmed this story. I love pseudo academia, so I liked the introduction to the stories of Freddie, analyzing what certain terms might mean and such. But the barely literate or coherent style of the stories themselves just isn't my thing. I gave it a quick shot, but nothing drew me in so I didn't force it.
"Group of Thirty" by Jack Ketchum
"Group of Thirty" was my favorite story in the anthology. A local horror writer goes to speak to a writer's group, who start getting aggressive and interrogating him about the heinous acts he writes about. The story felt timely and I enjoyed the unexpected turn the climax took. The narrator's weariness not only set the tone but also worked well with the plot.
"Nancy" by Darynda Jones
This is the story that drew me to the anthology. I really enjoy Jones' grim reaper novels, which are laugh-out-loud funny paranormal romance/fantasy. I was quite curious about how she would approach horror. "Nancy" isn't edge-of-your-seat scary, but it does explore some of the worst aspects of human nature. It also has a refreshingly nice popular girl character, which isn't something I expect to find in a horror anthology.
"I Love You, Charlie Pearson" by Jacquelyn FrankFrank is another author not known for horror, so it is interesting that she wrote the most typical horror story in DARK SCREAMS: VOLUME THREE. Charlie Pearson, the narrator, is a twisted stalker, and the story contrasts human and supernatural monstrousness. It isn't a revelatory theme, but the final paragraph is creepy enough to carry it.
"The Lone and Level Strands Stretch Far Away" by Brian Hodge
The anthology closes with the uneven "The Lone and Level Strands Stretch Far Away." The descriptions of urban exploration, exploring abandoned buildings, are top notch, especially when the parkour group disturbs a building perhaps left best alone. Meanwhile, narrator Aiden's boredom with his wife Tara and growing attraction to new next door neighbor Marni (of course growing because of Tara's unfounded suspicions of an affair hounding him) is so boring and predictable. I wanted more horror and less lame-o relationship drama featuring an unsympathetic dude.
I mostly enjoyed the stories in DARK SCREAMS: VOLUME THREE, but don't go in expecting intense horror. These stories are rather gentle and tame. You'll be able to sleep with no problem after reading them.
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