I Can Taste The Blood is certainly an interesting concept. An idea born inside of a washroom after co-editor John F.D. Taff noticed the very words scribbled on the wall. This collection of five novellas from five different writers sees a smorgasbord of speculative fiction on offer to readers that appreciate the darker things in life.
The collection gets off to a strong start with Josh Malerman’s tale set in…well, we’re never quite sure. It is almost biblical in tone, featuring a story within a story as a weary traveller impedes on a nomadic family late one night, telling tale of a demon thief who follows him. It is a strange story but one I found very enjoyable as it progressed. I saw the ending coming a little early with this one but it was still an original and well told story to start off what turns out to be a very good book.
J. Daniel Stone is up second with his take on I Can Taste The Blood OOD and it is really quite brilliant. If you have ever seen the Nicolas Cage movie 8mm and enjoyed it then you will definitely like this one. It follows two young gay men who become embroiled in a seedy film maker’s quest to shock his audience through film. This story has a high sexual content and the final scenes are really quite stomach-churning, but what a fantastic, dark, grimy tale that will leave you needing a shower when finished. I have to be honest when I say that I couldn’t stop thinking about this story for the rest of the day. Stone’s characters are excellent, really bristling with sexual tension. Something about this story just struck a nerve I guess-the sign of a great piece of writing. I’d go as far to say that it is one of the best novellas I have read this year!
The Joe Shwartz story was an interesting one and you are really beginning to see how differently these writers have approached the book. More of a noir type story about a man called Sam who is a fixer, if you like, hired to sort out problems (usually with his fists) and partnered with a brute of a man. This story tells of a kidnapping that takes a bloody turn due to Sam’s unease with the direction a kidnapping is taking. This story is excellent, interesting, with great characters and the ending was fantastic.
The black sheep of I Can Taste The Blood is undoubtedly the story by Erik T. Johnson. Call it transgressive fiction if you like, it is certainly very different, and one that I really struggled to get to grips with. There were times when it got into a groove and I was following along, but then suddenly the rug was pulled out from under my feet and I was left feeling all confused again. The afterword didn’t help me to understand it any better either. I can well imagine some readers thinking it is wonderful, but for me it was too confusing and felt a little bit out of place, kind of interrupting the narrative flow that I was enjoying with the other stories.
The final tale was by John F.D. Taff – a writer who I have been a huge fan of for a few years now. I am a firm believer that the final story in an anthology or collection should be a ripper. It should leave the reader thinking about the book long after they have finished it, and thankfully that is what Taff does here. With his take on I Can Taste The Blood , John goes for the jugular with a tale of small-town horror that will make you squirm. A little different for Taff in that his vision is a straightforward tale of horror that doesn’t quite have the emotional leanings of his usual work. In the author notes afterwards, Taff describes it as “more linear” and I think this sums it up perfectly. I have to be honest and say that stories that make me cringe are few and far between…this one did. I am not giving anything away with this one, only to tell you that it is a highly original, gruesome story that has real bite, and I think it is up there with John’s very best work.
I Can Taste The Blood is a great example of the variety of dark fiction that we have today. Each author’s tale is uniquely entertaining, and despite me not caring too much for one of the stories, I can highly recommend this fine book. It is another winner from Grey Matter Press.