Until recently, I feel like I’ve somehow been living blind to the fact that horror anthologies exist. I’m not sure how I overlooked so many, but thankfully there are several on my shelves now, with more to come. I love these books– the mix of voices allows a chance to discover new authors, but also showcases what some of my favorites are capable of when it comes to short fiction.
While many horror anthologies focus on a central theme, WELCOME TO THE SHOW is unique in that all of the stories are based on the same venue. I loved the mix of stories in this book, each with ties to the location, but with a style and a tale of their own. While I enjoyed them all, there were several standouts, which I’ve narrowed down to my Top 5. I’m listing them here in the order that I read them, with some brief thoughts on each:
-Pilgrimage by Bryan Smith: This is the first piece of writing I’ve read from Bryan, and it certainly won’t be last. I loved the overall vibe of this story, as well as the dialogue and character interactions. The last few pages brought on a twist that I was not originally expecting and left me haunted at the end.
-Dark Stage by Matt Hayward: A haunting story about a man who finds an unexpected sort of healing through a stranger’s music. If you’ve read Matt’s work, you know that his writing is awesome, but that he’s especially a master when it comes to describing music and its effect. That’s what I loved most about this story– the description of this character’s experience with the music. It’s just several paragraphs that leave a lasting impact, especially if you’re a music lover. You’ll be enveloped in thoughts of how certain songs or musical moments have swept you away.
–Open Mic Night by Kelli Owen: I loved the overall concept and subject matter in this story. Kelli created an engrossing tale about supernatural forces surrounding the “27 Club”. I took my time savoring the words in this story and thought the ending was stellar as well.
–Ascending by Robert Ford: Bob’s stories have me hooked from the beginning line, and this one is no exception. A love story rooted in horror, with references to some musical giants, including some great dialogue based on lyrics or lines from musicians. It also has an ending that I didn’t see coming.
-Running Free by Brian Keene: This is the part where I make a shameful admission…this story is my introduction to Keene’s writing. I have several of his books on my shelf, and due to my current book hoarding status, I just haven’t read them yet. You can bet that I’ll be working them into the rotation soon, however. This story was great from beginning to end. It has creepiness, heart, and a touch of humor in the right places. Without spoiling exactly how, I’ll say that this one has ties to some other stories in the anthology (aside from venue), which I really loved.
Overall, a fantastic concept and a 5-star mix of stories that I’d highly recommend to horror fans, especially if you love a dash of rock and roll mixed in to what you’re reading. Consider The Shantyman added to my list of fictional venues I’d like to frequent.