Book Review: Dark Dreams: A Collection of Horror and Suspense by Black Writers
Publication Date: Aug 01, 2004
List Price: $19.95
Format: Paperback, 336 pages
Publisher: Kensington Publishing Corp.
Parent Company: Kensington Publishing Corp.
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Book Reviewed by Thumper
Author Brandon Massey (Thunderland, Dark Corner) has compiled a magnificent anthology designed to scare and terrify. Although African-American literature has become more popular--and profitable-the African American presence in the horror genre is lacking. While we have a few authors who write in the genre and who are becoming more popular, African American horror stories have yet to find a sizeable audience. With stories contributed by bestselling authors Zane, Tananarive Due and Stephen Barnes, Dark Dreams is a step towards rectifying this deficiency. Dark Dreams is an excellent anthology of horror stories.
When I received my copy of Dark Dreams, I immediately thought of the Dark Matter anthologies edited by Sheree R. Thomas. Dark Dreams sits on a separate branch by itself. The stories in the Dark Matter anthology (I have only read the first Dark Matter) cover all forms of speculative fiction (that's science fiction for older folks like me). Dark Dreams focuses on stories about things that go bump in the night and wide awake nightmares. With stories ranging from suspenseful to blood chilling, Dark Dreams is near perfect.
I kid you not, there is not a single story in Dark Dreams that I did not like. However, I did have my favorites. The anthology begins with Resident Evil, a vampire tale, by Zane. The significance of Resident Evil is that it marks the second story I read by bestselling author Zane (the first being the Sisters of APF). Zane was probably the only bestselling African American author that I had NOT read. I must admit that I like Zane's style. I know that might shock some of you, but I do. With Resident Evil, I would have loved for Zane to expand the story. I'm not stressing over it though, because as my old choir pianist use to say, "Leave 'em wanting more."
I must mention Robert Fleming's story But Beautiful and Terrifying, which takes place in Japan during the end of World War ll. Gawd, I love this story! When I started reading it, I thought I was in for a tale along the lines of A Soldier Story, but Fleming flipped the script on me. I should not have been surprised. If you have read Fleming's short story collection, Havoc after Dark, you know that he is one hell of a writer, especially in the horror and suspense genre. With But Beautiful and Terrifying, Fleming continues to impress me.
I am also impressed with Christopher Chamber's story as well. I am a fan of Christopher Chamber's Angela Bivens novels. It was refreshing to read another story written by Chambers. His story, I, Ghoul, is a tight story of flesh eating, blood drinking creatures. I love the Angela Bivens novels, honest I do, but it would not hurt my feelings if Chamber decided to venture out in his writing.
I was unfamiliar with many of the authors compiled in Massey's work. The Fourth Floor, written by Ahmad Wright, is about a janitor who can't stop cleaning the fourth floor in a hospital EVER; The Track by L. R. Giles, a story of a town worshiping a race track; and He Who Takes Away The Pain by Chesya Burke, a folktale of Death coming to visit; just to name a few. These stories are Twilight Zone episode just waiting to be filmed.
One of the jewels of the anthology is the story Danger Word, a story of a grandfather trying to keep his grandson safe when man eating Zombie like creatures are on the loose. Danger Word marks the first time husband and wife, Stephen Barnes and Tananarive Due, wrote a story together. Boy, what a story! The story ended just as it reached a fever pitch. Again, I was left wanting more.
The story that literally blew me away was Plaything by Terence Taylor. Plaything is the story of a man on trial for having sex with a doll. My goodness gracious, it ain't often that a story can captivate and repulse me at the same time. Plaything is not a story that caused my hair (what little there is left) to stand on its end. The story effectively shook me up on two plateaus, mentally and morally. I have not felt this way since I read Vladimir Nabokov's Lolita. Taylor gets the standing O for this one. Excellent, Plaything is simply excellent.
Purposely, I saved Editor Massey's story, Granddad's Garage for last. I read the story with one eyebrow constantly in the up position. I was waiting for an unneeded romance to raise its ugly head. If you have read my review of Massey's Dark Corner, you know that Massey's inclusion of a romance damn near ruined the whole novel for me. I am please to announce a romance is nowhere in sight in Granddad's Garage. Massey is a terrific writer and editor.
I can continue to praise Dark Dreams to the clouds for another thousand words or so, but I'll let you go. I have not been completely taken with an anthology in a long time; well not since I read Dark Matter. Dark Dreams fills a spot in African American literature that is begging for attention. Hopefully, Dark Dreams is just the beginning.