Hi and welcome to my review of After Sundown! Huge thanks to Anne Cater for the invite and to Flame Tree Press for the gorgeous proof copy!
After Sundown is an anthology of 20 original horror stories, 16 of which have been commissioned from some of the top names in the genre, and 4 of which have been selected from the hundreds of stories sent to Flame Tree during a 2-week open submissions window.
I’ve said it before here on FromBelgiumWithBookLove and I’ll say it again: short stories are an art form on their own. As such I have been disappointed before by the short stories of authors whose full-length novels I love. Having said this, I will admit I greedily accepted a spot on this tour seconds after spotting the name C.J. Tudor on the list of contributors. It’s only when my slot was confirmed that I noticed the names of many other authors whose work I love, such as Laura Purcell (The Silent Companions), Grady Hendrix (The Southern Book Club’s Guide to Slaying Vampires), Ramsey Campbell (The Wise Friend) and Alison Littlewood (Mistletoe), and a few familiar names whose work I have yet to try, such as Catriona Ward, Tim Lebbon, and Michael Marshall Smith a.k.a. Michael Rutger.
Even realising that a great novelist does not necessarily equal a great short story writer, I was positively buzzing when I received my review copy and my expectations were sky-high. Fortunately, After Sundown had no trouble whatsoever living up to them.
After Sundown is a solid short story collection, featuring a wide range of subgenres within the horror genre, proving just how prolific a genre horror really is. The stories are composed in such a manner that slightly longer stories alternate with slightly shorter ones, all the while alternating subgenres as well, generating a steady flow to keep the back-to-back reader going. From dystopian tales, over flesh-eating insects, creepy kids and maleficent plants to ghost stories, there’s a lot to love in this anthology.
I am not going to talk to you about all twenty stories in detail, we’d be here until tomorrow, so I’m just going to highlight my favourites.
Research by Tim Lebbon is about an author who becomes the subject of… erm… well… research. Of a very experimental kind. It’s a psychological horror story that convinced me to get me some more Tim Lebbon on my shelves. His books, I mean, obviously.
Swanskin by Alison Littlewood is about female shapeshifters, a tale of loss, love and revenge and if you like folklore, or collections like Foxfire, Wolfskin and Other Stories of Shapeshifting Women by Sharon Blackie, you will love this story.
That’s the Spirit by Sarah Lotz is a ghost story about a medium who considers himself a fraud, but is he though? Actual chills reading this one!
It Doesn’t Feel Right by Michael Marshall Smith is about struggling parents and children refusing to wear socks, and I was hanging on Michael’s every word, wondering what the actual horror bit would be, until the finale that truly creeped me out!
Creeping Ivy by Laura Purcell is the diary of a man who killed his wife but might live to regret his actions. If you’re a fan of Laura’s novels you’ll love this atmospheric Gothic tale!
Bokey by Thana Niveau… What can I say, creepy kids really seem to do the trick for me.
Murder Board by Grady Hendrix is a rather gory story about an evil Ouija board, leave it to Grady Hendrix to come up with that, and to make you care about characters you’re only with for 20 pages.
The Mirror House by Jonathan Robbins Leon is about a woman who finds a door in the pantry that wasn’t there before.
The Naughty Step by Stephen Volk is a story about a social worker trying to help a little boy whose parents have perished, it is terrifying and heart-breaking.
A Hotel in Germany by Catriona Ward is about a movie star and her loyal assistant but as she peels back the layers of the story, it becomes clear how superbly imaginative and well-rounded it really is.
Well, there you have it, ten new favourites out of a twenty-story collection, that’s not too shabby, is it! After Sundown is a collection I’ll definitely dip into in the future but I also enjoyed reading the stories back-to-back this first time around. If you’re looking for an anthology to add to your #spooktober shelves I highly recommend it be After Sundown!