Hi and welcome to my review of Beyond the Veil!
Massive thanks to Anne Cater for the invite and to Flame Tree Press for the beautiful proof copy!
Beyond the Veil is the second volume in an annual, non-themed horror series of entirely original stories, showcasing the very best short fiction that the genre has to offer, and edited by Mark Morris. This new anthology contains 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 100s of stories sent to Flame Tree during a 2-week open submissions window.
I will admit I didn’t know many of the contributing authors but I’d had such a fabulous time with After Sundown, the first volume in this anthology series, that I jumped at the chance to read Beyond the Veil. I have no regrets: like its predecessor, Beyond the Veil is an eclectic collection of stories, tackling many of the horror subgenres.
I love short stories, but I’m very particular about them: I need them to tell me a full story in a limited number of pages, the ideal short story is a novel told in a fraction of the pages it would normally take to tell. There is not one short story in this collection that doesn’t meet that requirement, which made me a very happy reader.
I had a great time with this anthology! It’s perfect for reading back to back, which I did when I started it on a Sunday, but also for dipping into when you have a limited amount of reading time available, which I did when I continued reading it during the workweek.
For those of you who like to know exactly what they’re buying, here’s an overview:
THE GOD BAG by Christopher Golden: the first story in this anthology and boy what a story it is. The narrator’s mum is dying, her mind is going, honestly that’s a scary story all on its own, but there is one thing she refuses to let go of: her God bag. When the narrator and the reader find out what exactly that bag contains… well, it might not have been the hugest of surprises for this reader but I sure as hell hoped I was wrong. A full story in few pages, The God Bag is possibly my favourite story in this collection. Golden will have a new book out early next year, Road of Bones, that was on my radar before but it has just climbed to the top of my wishlist.
CAKER’S MAN by Matthew Holness: so creepy, birthday cake is ruined forever.
THE BEECHFIELD MIRACLES by Priya Sharma: an understated piece of psychological horror that is weirdly thought-provoking and ends with a bang that made me hungry for more.
CLOCKWORK by Dan Coxon: short but sweet. A tad disturbing, with the sting in its tail.
SOAPSTONE by Aliya Whiteley: the aftermath of the death of a friend.
THE DARK BIT by Toby Litt: a chilling slice of body horror that made me cringe in a very good way.
PROVENANCE POND by Josh Malerman: from the author of Bird Box comes an atmospheric story about a girl, a pond and imaginary friends, or are they?
FOR ALL THE DEAD by Angeline B. Adams and Remco van Straten: in a small coastal town, the people are subject to a sea that is a fickle mistress: “she may hear you but never does she obey”.
THE GIRL IN THE POOL by Bracken MacLeod: an unsettling tale about a burglar who interrupts his thievery to save a drowning girl from a pool, but where did she come from and does she really need to be saved?
NURSE VARDEN by Jeremy Dyson: a trip down memory lane can be dangerous… An addictive story whose ending left me craving more.
IF, THEN by Lisa L. Hannett: a gardener and a lady’s maid and ifs leading to thens. To be honest, I’m still not sure what this was about, I have a theory, but am I right? I’ll never know and there is a certain charm in that.
AQUARIUM WARD by Karter Mycroft: blue-eyed bugs that are watching and waiting, superpowered meth, feds in hazmat suits: a dystopian tale told with a certain urgency, I loved it.
A MYSTERY FOR JULIE CHU by Stephen Gallagher: a hugely entertaining – if not that scary – story about a girl with a knack for finding treasure among junk.
AWAY DAY by Lisa Tuttle: I had no idea where it would go but I loved where I ended up with it, one of my favourites in this anthology.
POLAROID AND SEAWEED by Peter Harness: Christ on a cracker, what the hell did I just read?! A story that brought out many emotions in me, from pity to disgust and pretty much everything in between.
DER GEISTERBAHNHOF by Lynda E. Rucker: a tragic and unsettling story set in Berlin.
ARNIE’S ASHES by John Everson: Arnie is dead and his friends have the ashes to prove it. But then why are there people knocking on the door wearing Arnie’s face? A bit yuck, but very entertaining!
A BRIEF TOUR OF THE NIGHT by Nathan Ballingrud: one that pulled on my heartstrings quite unexpectedly and one I definitely will revisit.
THE CARE AND FEEDING OF HOUSEHOLD GODS by Frank J. Oreto: simply excellent! The suspense left me breathless and I’m still not sure what it says about me that I felt such relief at the denouement…
YELLOWBACK by Gemma Files: a horrific, terrifying and nauseating story, seriously I was so happy I wasn’t anywhere near food while I was reading this. 100% eww but a great way to finish this collection.
Beyond the Veil is out now in eBook, paperback and hardcover.