Disclaimer: This is a review of a book which I received as a free ARC.
Dark Screams: Vol 3 is the best addition to the series to date. Every story in this collection works and the work well with each other. Granted, this is to be assumed when you put together some of the giants of the horror community in a collection edited by two masterful editors.
The short stories in this collection are:
“The Collected Short Stories of Freddie Prothero” by Peter Straub
All right, I have a confession: I’m not really a big fan of Peter Straub. For the most part the only works of his which I have enjoyed were his collaborations with Stephen King. “The Collected Short Stories of Freddie Prothereo” has definitely been added to my list of great things by Straub. It is written in the psuedo-intellectual style of many literary reviews. What makes this rather tongue in cheek is that the collected works being reviewed are the almost incoherent, yet terrifying, ramblings of a young boy. They start out when the child is barely older than a toddler and continue for only a few years. The interplay between the high-brow criticism and the style of the stories themselves only accentuates the creepy nature of what the child is writing about.
“Group of Thirty” by Jack Ketchum
This was my favorite of the book. Ketchum explores the oft asked question “Who is ultimately responsible for the actions of a reader? Is the creator of a work of fiction culpable if a reader then goes on to mimic the horrific acts in that work of fiction?” These themes are examined through this tale of an author who is invited to an intimate gathering of fans. Naturally, this being Ketchum, things aren’t quite what they seem on the surface. The ending was extremely satisfying.
“Nancy” by Darynda Jones
What is worse than being the new girl in school? Being the new girl in school and knowing that eventually the popular kids will find you out and you will end up a social outcast, just as you have been in every school before. Standing up to the popular crowd and befriending the other downtrodden students seems like a good idea, but it goes awry when one student is not only being picked on by the in crowd, but also by a poltergeist. A twisty tale of haunting and social cliques.
“I Love You, Charlie Pearson” by Jacquelyn Frank
The other side of the high school popularity coin, this is the story of an outcast who knows that he and a high school beauty are destined for each other…if only he could get her to see that truth. Frank does an admirable job of portraying how the filter of obsession can change the view of the world.
“The Lone One and Level Sands Stretch Far Away” by Brian Hodge
In lesser hands this would have just been a tale of free-runners and the horror that they stumble upon. Instead we have a masterful story of human interaction, how people can fall in and out of love, and how emotions can force people out of their comfort zones and into a world of horror.