Water contrary to popular belief is not life, it is death, judging by the stories in this anthology. Dead Water is the fifth in a themed series of anthologies from Hersham Horror in what is fast becoming a must read set of books for all fans of horror.
Following in the footsteps of Stuart Young and Mark West, horror legends Maynard and Sims have edited this superb anthology based around the theme of water. Featuring Simon Bestwick, Alan Spencer, David Moody, Daniel S. Boucher and Maynard, Dead Water is one of those anthologies where every story hits the mark dead on.
Simon Bestwick's The Lowland Hundred has the honour of kicking of the anthology. Taking its cues from an old legend about a Welsh Atlantis Simon's story about a chance meeting between old school friends and a boat trip that goes seriously wrong, is an excellent start to the anthology. The interplay between the flash school friend and his cold wife is full of comic pathos, which builds to an explosive outburst and an aftermath that shows just how cold and calculating his wife can be.
But this is just one narrative thread of the story, the true horror element of the story comes when the protagonist's boat gets grounded on a mysterious island after surviving a foggy storm. It is here that the story shifts from being a sort of kitchen sink drama to one with Lovecraftian undertones. Finishing of with a melancholic ending The Lowland Hundred is a strong, assured story that is brought to life with great characters, dialogue and mythos that is just begging to be explored in a longer format story.
Alan Spencer's A Night at the Lake, is without doubt my favourite short story I have read this year. It is a simple tale of love, fidelity, secrets and lies, all cast adrift on a lake with an ancient and terrifying legacy.
It's not easy finding true love, most people don't like to take a chance on a stranger, but what if you could tell if a person's intentions for you were true? Would you use this power, or just go with the current? And what would you do if you used this power and found out that they might not be your true love? This is is one of those stories where as you read it, is seems innocent enough, but then a dark undercurrent starts to seep into the plot, until BAM! you have an ending that leaves you speechless with shock.
David Moody's The Lucky Ones, takes a different approach to the theme of water. In this story the water of the world has been poisoned in a war against an unknown enemy. Rather than playing a major role in the story the water here is as distant as the men and women fighting in the war.
Humanity is reduced to living in factory like citadels, cut off from the rest of humanity, the transport ships that brings in clean water and food is the only contact with the outside world. William is the lucky one of the story, and thanks to a chance accident in the factory he gets to peak behind the veil and discover the truth behind those in power.
This is another very powerful story with a sting in its tail. David Moody has created a rich and detailed post apocalyptic world. A grimy noisy industrial landscape, far removed from the world we know. The use of letters from the Front is a stroke of genius, in particular the use of phrases like
"with luck on our side the enemy will soon be defeated and we'll all be home soon".
These letters reminded me of those sent home by our soldiers during the Great War. It adds a certain degree of poignancy to the story. William's journey of discovery and revelations is a dark and sombre affair. The Lucky Ones is a dystopian masterpiece that has a brilliantly downbeat ending.
In The Day of Black Rain, water plays a much more important role, after a freak rainstorm where it rained black leech like creatures, a group of students are trapped in the library of their University. When they wake up the next morning they find that the campus is slowly being changed into an alien landscape, full of dangerous creatures and strange l vein like plant creatures. Their situation is dire, running low on water and students as they slowly get picked off by the creatures they decide to make a run for safety.
It has to be said that this is not a totally original story, the motivation behind the creatures and their achilles heel will be recognisable as that from a certain horror film. However that doesn't meant this isn't a great story. Daniel S. Boucher's narrator is instantly likeable a classic everyman hero. The story itself racks up the tension very well, and has a fantastic double death scene that is gruesome,and shocking. And returning to this later on in the story for another vomit inducing scene was a great play by Boucher. By the time that you reach the end you'd wish you could keep on reading.
Rounding off this excellent anthology is a deeply emotional story from Maynard Sims. When David Turner's wife died he lost not only his wife, he also lost his daughter. Stricken with grief Maria turns to drugs and moves away with man known for his bad reputation and violent nature. However when he has enough of her and sends her packing she returns to her father. Now a fully fledge heroin addict she agrees to go into rehab. She spends a lot of her time down by the lake in the rehab's grounds, where she soon starts to see those made of Silver. Which will soon lead to tragedy.
Silver is a story full of grief and loss, Maynard Sims do a stellar job of recreating the pain and sense of hopelessness that David is going through. A deeply moving that tags at the heart strings without ever getting maudlin or seeming contrived. a
These stories are all linked with the theme of water, however I would also add that they are also linked with a common thread sombre, downbeat feel. This isn't an anthology filled with happy endings, in fact there are none. This is a very strong accomplished anthology, that sees this series of themed anthologies carry on in spectacular style.
HERSHAM HORROR BOOKS PRESENTS
5 more Original Stories from the Minds of:
Daniel S. Boucher
The Fifth anthology in our PentAnth range brings you five more chilling tales of terror. We all need water to live, but what if that life giving body was not so friendly after all.
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