Eric J. Guignard

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Dark Tales of Lost Civilizations
       
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Table of Contents:
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Introduction by Eric J. Guignard
Angel of Destruction by Cynthia D. Witherspoon
The Door Beyond the Water by David Tallerman
To Run a Stick Through a Fish by Mark Lee Pearson
Quivira by Jackson Kuhl
Directions by Michael G. Cornelius
Quetzalcoatl's Conquistador by Jamie Lackey
Königreich der Sorge (Kingdom of Sorrow) by C. Deskin Rink
Gestures of Faith by Fadzlishah Johanabas
Bare Bones by Curtis James McConnell
British Guiana, 1853 by Folly Blaine
The Nightmare Orchestra by Chelsea Armstrong
The Funeral Procession by Jay R. Thurston
Requiem by Jason Andrew
Gilgamesh and the by Mountain by Bruce L. Priddy
Buried Treasure by Rob Rosen
The Small, Black God by Caw Miller
In Eden by Cherstin Holtzman
We Are Not the Favored Children by Matthew Borgard
Rebirth in Dreams by A.J. French
Whale of a Time by Gitte Christensen
Sins of our Fathers by Wendra Chambers
The Talisman of Hatra by Andrew S. Williams
Sumeria to the Stars by Jonathan Vos Post
The Tall Grass by Joe R. Lansdale
The Island Trovar by JC Hemphill

Product Details:

Available in Trade Paperback and Electronic Media Paperback
ISBN-13: 978-0-9834335-9-0
Library of Congress Control Number: 2012931548
Published by Dark Moon Books, March, 2012
Interior Illustration by Ron Perovich
Made in the United States of America

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
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Finalist for the 2012 Bram Stoker Award® for Superior Achievement in an Anthology
 
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Purchase At:

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"As a boy, some of my favorite stories were those of lost lands and civilizations, made popular by such writers as H. Rider Haggard, A. Merritt, and Talbot Mundy. I daydreamed of falling through some hidden cave entrance into a lost and forgotten world (sans injury of course) and if asked about my career ambitions I would have answered that I wanted to be one of those specially lucky explorers. As I gradually became aware that such civilizations weren't terribly likely in our closely-examined world, that fantasy became a bit bruised. But now Eric J. Guignard brings back a bit of that magic with Dark Tales of Lost Civilizations, an anthology mixing the values of pulp fiction (returning us to a milieu where such stories seem more possible) with contemporary standards of fresh description. Here we have lost islands, civilizations on the brink, and uncharted lands imaginatively described with new mythologies. David Tallerman, Mark Lee Pearson, Jamie Lackey, Folly Blaine, Jonathan Vos Post, and JC Hemphill—to mention just a few—all shine, and the new Joe Lansdale piece with a unique slant on a western railroad story is a special treat."

Steve Rasnic Tem, Bram Stoker and World Fantasy Award-winning author of novels (including his latest, Deadfall Hotel) and numerous collections of short fiction; www.m-s-tem.com


"Bright new voices offer chilling glimpses of the darkness beyond mere night."

David Brin, author of Earth, The Postman, and Otherness; www.davidbrin.com


"I traveled this world of doors, compiled by Eric J. Guignard, into lost countries of land and society, into innocent times and  realms of dead gods. I traveled along with treasure hunters, scientists, mad leaders and lost spirits, losing myself in each tale. From British Guiana, 1853 or The Third Reich at the start of World War II, this anthology is composed of fathomed tales, written by a gathering of remarkable storytellers such as Joe R. Lansdale and new authors such as Chelsea Armstrong. This fine anthology explores the potential and folly of these lost worlds in compelling voice that captured my attention straight to the last page."

T Fox Dunham, author of the Ragtime Cycles; T Fox Dunham

 
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
       
  Reviews Posted Below:    
       
  Famous Monsters of Filmland    
  Monster Librarian    
  The British Fantasy Society    
  The Horror Zine    
  Nameless Magazine    
  Darkeva’s Dark Delights    
  Black Gate Magazine    
  Ginger Nuts of Horror    
  Collings Notes    
  Count Gore    
  Biblio Babes    
  One Title Magazine    
  Zombie Coffee Press    
       
     
 
 
spacer Reviews: spacer
   
 

Famous Monsters of Filmland"I was very intrigued when Eric contacted me and asked if I would be interested in reviewing his anthology “Dark Tales Of Lost Civilizations.” Ever since I was a young boy and read Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s “The Lost World” I have been fascinated by lost civilizations. The thought of discovering a lost world, especially as a boy, was and still is terribly exciting to me.
 
I have to say that I was very pleasantly surprised at the quality and depth of the stories in this collection. Did I like every story…well…no, but such is the case with most anthologies I read. I always have my favorites and some I don’t enjoy quite so much. But this in no way takes away from the book. I found the stories to be very well written, filled with interesting characters and places.
 
If you love tales of lost civilizations you would be hard pressed to find a better group of tales gathered in one place.
 
That being said, here are a few of my favorites from the book;
 
Directions by Michael G. Cornelius;  This was my favorite story in the collection. For those of you who follow my reviews and know me know how much of an influence “The Wicked Witch Of The West” had on shaping my love of being scared, horror and monsters.
 
This simply a fabulous take on Oz Witches mythos and is one of the best short stories I’ve read this year.
 
Königreich der Sorge (Kingdom of Sorrow) by C. Deskin Rink; A really great story of the Nazi’s unquenchable search for power and what they discover. A really frightening tale of desecration and evil better left undisturbed.
 
The Nightmare Orchestra by Chelsea Armstrong; A first time published author presents a terrifying and unique look at the dreams that haunt us.
 
The Funeral Procession by Jay R. Thurston;  Genghis Khan, who hasn’t heard of him this amazing and feared conqueror. This tale takes you on a journey with an archaeology team in search of the burial ground of Genghis Khan and what they discover.
 
The Tall Grass by Joe R. Lansdale; In this tale Mr. Lansdale again shows us his considerable talents and why he is one of the best in the business. This story is atmospheric and frightening and shows that when someone tells you not to stray to far…don’t.
 
These were just a few of my favorites in the collection. I am sure you will find your own.

“Dark Tales Of Lost Civilizations” is a great group of stories, especially for those of us that love tales of adventure and discovery, even if some of the discoveries are horrific. You would be remiss if you didn’t give this anthology a try and I highly recommend it."
 
  —Peter Schwotzer, Famous Monsters of Filmland; www.famousmonsters.com Top of Reviews  

 
 

Monster Librarian"Collected in Dark Tales of Lost Civilizations are 25 short stories from the horror and speculative fiction genres, unearthing our forgotten worlds and societies. The stories all begin with some known reality: a familiar legend, an interesting era, textbook chapter, or archeological site. Then, leaping into the void from there, each writer suggests a gruesome alternate history. The stories range from mildly disturbing to downright terrifying, although none are particularly visceral. Most are written in a conservative, suggestive style, relying on the reader’s own imagination to take the plunge from speculation to horror. This element keeps the collection rooted in the possible, making it scarier, perhaps, than the current saturation of seductive monster-based and slasher fiction. The prevailing understatement of gore makes the book a good choice for treating high school history students to a read-aloud on stormy afternoons.

Among my personal favorites was “Quivara”, by Jackson Kuhl. It begins with an old Sioux legend, a tragedy involving brothers mocking their gods. Kuhl’s prospecting hero brings the curse upon himself through greedy pillaging. The story is dark and comical, and Kuhl’s style is brisk. This would be a great piece to read in conjunction with Native American studies; short, pointed, and entirely in character with the original mythology.

“British Guiana, 1853” by Folly Blaine, is a cool piece done in chin-up, British imperialist style. Classic horror tension builds steadily from start to finish as the reader watches helplessly while the explorers, desperately frightened and warned away at every step, still insist on carrying onward to their doom. They open a vault made deliberately impassable; descend into terrifying darkness and stench; ignore a menacing, unearthly, drumbeat, and are climactically pursued into madness by the unnameable horror they unwittingly release. The writing is metaphorical and skillfully done.

“In Eden” by Cherstin Holtzman, is a satiric and original take on re-animation and the problems of keeping order in a wild west town in literal decay. Although the sheriff is only half a man, he makes a tough decision that affects the crumbling existence of what’s left of the population. Holtzman’s style is polished and understated, and he takes a surprisingly fresh angle on a well-trodden subject. Recommended for grades 6 and up."
 
 

—Sheila Shedd, Monster Librarian; www.monsterlibrarian.com

Top of Reviews  

 
 

The British Fantasy Society"Being, as I am, a huge fan of H. Rider Haggard and the like, I came to this collection with high expectations. That’s not to say that this book is limited to stories set in ancient lost cities, found in the remote, unexplored regions of the world. It has a much wider remit than that.

The collection starts strongly with, ‘Angel of Destruction’, a short tale of the birth of an immortal evil at the fall of Assyria. Cynthia D. Witherspoon is one of a number of writers, unfamiliar to me, who I’ll be watching out for in the future.

I was on more familiar ground with ‘The Door Beyond the Water’, by David Tallerman. Readers will likely recognise the Lovecraftian nature of this excellent story of ancient evil influencing men through dreams, but it also has much of Dunsany, Chambers and Hodgson about it, all of whom were, of course, huge influences on HPL.

Michael G. Cornelius’ ‘Directions’ is a little gem, which has gone on my personal shortlist of best short stories of 2012 for when the time for awards nominations comes around. It does stretch the boundaries of the collection a bit, but this tale of how the witches of Oz met their individual ends and how their destinies failed to live up to their expectations is an absolute delight.

One of the real lost civilizations we revisit in the book is that of the Aztecs. In ‘Quetzalcoatl’s Conquistador’, by Jamie Lackey, we find out what happens when the feathered sepent himself possesses the Spanish explorer, Hernán Cortés. Naturally, subsequent events take a different path to that recorded in our history books.

‘Königreich der Sorge (Kingdom of Sorrow), by C. Deskin Rink is the second Lovecraftian tale in this collection. In 1939, Dr. Werner von Eichmann Phd. M.D., following an ancient map, takes his team far North, into the Arctic Circle. They eventually discover a huge trapdoor, one that appears to have been purposely buried and hidden by a Russian expedition a couple of years previously. The story is cleverly presented as a series of reports, sent to his superior, Herr Generalfieldmarschall, Willhem Keitel, and eventually from Major Joseph Müller, whose platoon is sent to find Eichmann’s expedition.

Sometimes less is more. ‘Bare Bones’, by Curtis James McConnell is just four pages, but it was my favourite in the book so far. How can the fully evolved Homo Sapiens skull be two million years old? What can our troubled scientists do with a discovery that completely invalidates everything they know about the evolutionary history of mankind? This one went straight into my personal list of best short stories of 2012.

Cherstin Hotzman’s ‘In Eden’ is a truly original zombie story with a difference. No flesh eating zombies these. It’s the old West, and in a small town named Eden, people were refusing to stay dead. They might go on forever, dead, but aware; their flesh rotting on their bones, until they either leave the town limits, or someone does something about it Only the sheriff seems to believe that something needs to be done, but if he fails to fix it, who will step up to help him?

‘Rebirth in Dreams’, by A.J. French, was interesting enough to have me searching Amazon for more of his work. It’s a weird metaphysical tale, which, in the words of the editor, is like a collaboration between Hunter S. Thompson and H.P. Lovecraft. Another one for my ongoing shortlist of the best short stories of the year.

Why did he insist that even his son refer to him as Dr. Phillips, and what is the terrible family tradition, passed down from father to son? ‘Sins of our Fathers’, by Wendra Chambers answers these questions in a manner which reminded me of a classic mystery/horror movie. Indeed, I could easily envision the cold, distant, secretive Dr. Phillips as played by Vincent Price.

‘Sumeria to the Stars’, by Jonathan Vos Post is an odd one. The author is a mathematician and Physicist. He packs his story with enough science to plough a highway over the heads of readers better educated than me. However, he manages to keep the science-blinded reader interested. Archaelogical evidence has been unearthed that shows the ancient Sumerians had knowledge of quantum physics and black holes. Teams of experts in various departments try to work out how. Was Von Daniken right? Was the Earth visited by an alien race, or was it time travellers from the future.

Joe R. Lansdale’s ‘The Tall Grass’ is one of the highlights of the collection. Why does the train stop in the middle of nowhere, for no reason? What is laying in wait for anyone who wanders too far away? It’s reminiscent of classic horror tales of an early time. Quiet, but creepy.

I made notes on all twenty-five stories as I read them. Then I brutally cut as many as I could from the final review, based on whether, or not I’d come up with anything more interesting to say about them, other than, “I liked it. It was really good.”

There are genuinely no bad stories in this book. Some of them I cut simply because I couldn’t think of much I could say about them without giving away too many spoilers. Several stories made it on to my best of the year shortlist and the book itself is now on my best anthologies of the year shortlist."
 
  —David Brzeski, The British Fantasy Society;  www.britishfantasysociety.co.uk Top of Reviews  

 
 

The Horror Zine"Dark Tales of Lost Civilizations begins with an introduction by the book’s editor, Eric J. Guignard. The introduction is very well written. It asks poignant questions, and reads like a cross between a Rod Serling narrative and an article from the National Geographic magazine. In fact, Guignard continues introductions by placing one in front of each story to give it a brief synopsis. This is surprisingly effective and increases the interest by the reader.

This book is not horror. Instead, I would try to type it into a mix of the sci-fi and fantasy genre, along with a large helping of history. The premise of Dark Tales of Lost Civilizations is to showcase different tales of adventure and yes, lost civilizations, some ancient, some more recent and some futuristic. The stories can be compared to those of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s The Lost World and H. Rider Haggard’s King Solomon’s Mines.

Because this is an anthology of twenty-five stories, I don’t have room to critique them all. Therefore I will discuss my favorites in the order that they appeared in the book.

“Quivira” by Jackson Kuhl is a colorful and lively story that includes Sioux Native American folklore told with humor. Lyddy was in New Mexico on a quest for gold when “a man who resembles his twin” shows up dead. An entertaining story.

“Quetzalcoatl’s Conquistador” by Jamie Lackey is a realistic retelling of an actual historic event that originally took place in the 1500s. Spanish Conquistador Herman Cortez led an expedition that caused the fall of the Aztec Empire, and this story twists the truth…but only by a little. This is a well-researched yarn that is realistic and exciting.

“Gestures of Faith” by Fadzlishah Johanabas stands out for its beautifully descriptive prose. Johanabas, a neurosurgeon in Malaysa, manages to court us with flowery fiction that includes Isis, Mount Olypus, and an Oracle that talks to Poseidon. This story would appeal to fans of Middle Earth.

“Bare Bones” by Curtis James McConnell is one of my favorites in this book. Fast paced and humorous, this one is in-your-face with action. A two-million-year-old skull is found, or is it? Why does carbon dating say it is old, but its features say it is modern? Is it de-evolution or time travel? My only regret with McConnell’s story is that I didn’t grab it first for The Horror Zine.

“The Nightmare Orchestra” by Chelsea Armstrong is told from a child’s point of view. Skye doesn’t understand why his father forbids him to play with “the dreamers.” This story contains good character development and is a strange but compelling tale.

“Buried Treasure” by Rob Rosen is another personal favorite. What modern wonders of today will be archaic in the future? A 500-year-old map is the ticket to adventure. On a planet gone dry, water is worshipped as a god. But this water is man-made in a very surprising twist.

I was pleasantly surprised to see a story written by Joe R. Lansdale included in this book, who is one of my all-time favorite writers. And “The Tall Grass” lives up to Lansdale’s high standards of quality. I thoroughly enjoyed the character’s trip in 1901 on a train that always seems to break down in the middle of the night at a prairie of tall grass. The excitement begins when a passenger decides to explore the grass, and encounters frightening creatures within. “The Tall Grass” is probably the one story in the book that could be classified as horror. A real gem.

Of course all anthologies have their share of clunkers, and this one certainly does. Some of the fiction in Dark Tales of Lost Civilizations delves into so many explanations that the stories are bogged down under the weight of details. Others go off on unnecessary tangents, making me think, “Huh? What is this story about?” And there were one or two that were so slow in pace that my eyes glazed over and I could barely keep them open. I was disappointed that Eric J. Guignard, an accomplished writer in his own right, did not include one of his own works.

But overall, this is an anthology worth your time. Which stories would be your favorites depends upon what time period in history fascinates you the most. Dark Tales of Lost Civilizations seems to cover a lot of interesting ground, from ancient Mount Olympus to modern day. I liked this book and believe you will too. And the price is right: 270 pages for only $14.95 paperback, $3.99 Kindle."
 
  —Jeani Rector, The Horror Zine; www.thehorrorzine.com Top of Reviews  

 
  Ginger Nuts of Horror"This is a brilliant anthology of 25 stories that will capture the hearts and imagination of anyone who grew up like I did on a diet of Boys Own Adventures, Alan Quatermaine, and other tales of derring-do. Grab a copy of this book and let your imagination run free for a time."  
  —Ginger Nuts of Horror, book reviews; http://thegingernutcase.blogspot.com Top of Reviews  

 
 

Zombie Coffee"When I was first approached to review this anthology for Zombie Coffee, I was a little wary about it. History has never been my favorite subject, which led to historical fiction being one of my least favorite genres. Still, I decided to give this anthology a try because something about it intrigued me, and I’m very glad I continued reading because there are some gems in this book I’m glad I had the chance to discover.

Dark Tales of Lost Civilizations is a horror/speculative fiction anthology that focuses on lost civilizations and unanswered mysteries. Have you ever wondered what happened to the lost city of Atlantis? Wondered what power erased whole civilizations from the face of the ancient world? Considered that some ancient powers aren’t lost but just dormant? If so than this is the anthology for you. You’ll find a wide array of authors from the popular names you’ll recognize, to the lesser known, to the newly published. I have to admit there were some stories I didn’t like personally, but all the stories are well written and diverse. That’s my favorite thing about anthologies, while you may not like everything there’s something for everyone.

Here are a few of my favorites:

“The Nightmare Orchestra” by Chelsea Armstrong takes nightmares to a personal level. What if the things which populate our nightmares used to live out in the real world? Well, Armstrong answers that question in a well crafted short story that will have you waking up in the middle of the night for new reasons…

“The Small, Black God” by Caw Miller takes you on an adventure in newly discovered ruins where the black god of ego begins to call to the scholars unearthing the ruins. Miller crafts a very unique tale that will leave you wondering what kind of retribution would the black god take on your ego…

“We Are Not the Favored Children” by Matthew Borgard is another story I loved. It deals with a society that has revolved around gods, only to find out that not only have they abandoned their religion, but their gods have abandoned them.

If none of these stories sound like ones you’d enjoy never fear. At 240 pages Dark Tales of Lost Civilizations is home to many other short stories for you to unearth for yourself. Eric Guignard has put together a diverse collection of stories for your reading pleasure and it would make a great addition to your summer reading list. Especially if your summer plans include a visit to the ruins of any ancient civilizations…"
 
  Theresa Nienaber, Zombie Coffee Press; www.zombiecoffeepress.com Top of Reviews  

 
 

Count Gore"Just when I thought that every avenue of theme anthology had been exhausted, I receive a brand-new antho that has me flipping pages with enthusiasm. As the cover states, this is “An anthology of horror and speculative fiction stories unearthing our forgotten worlds and societies.” Cool! I dig archeology, so I certainly dug into DARK TALES OF LOST CIVILIZATIONS with gusto. And I wasn’t disappointed.

Mr. Guignard has chosen some great stories, some by newer writers (even first publication,) and some by established authors, such as East Texas horror dynamo, Joe R. Lansdale, who turns in a surprisingly Lovecraftian tale of the turn-of-the-20th-century West. You’ll find strange desert-buried societies, angry deities, the truth about Atlantis, gods who abandon the worshippers who have abandoned them, ancient powers that come to life with unpleasant consequences, nightmare creatures that escape into reality, excavations of lost tribes that were best left buried, Nazis who plunder the past for the glory of the Fatherland, Spanish explorers in a very New World, jungle paleontologists who dig up a horror, Genghis Khan’s final burial place, vast underwater worlds, the forlorn stories of the Witches of Oz, and much, much more! Here are 25 ripping good yarns of adventure, misadventure, and marvels that would have made Jules Verne stand up and cheer!

Pulpy, exciting, mysterious and gripping, DARK TALES OF LOST CIVILIZATIONS is a thrilling journey into lands of mysteries and terrors. The editor opens the expedition with a beguiling introduction and precedes each story with a paragraph about each author and why the story was chosen for the anthology. This is great summer reading! Enjoy! Check out the editor’s website at www.ericjguignard.com."
 
  —J. L. Comeau, Count Gore; www.countgore.com Top of Reviews  

 
 

One Title Magazine"Dark Tales of Lost Civilizations, edited by Eric J. Guignard, is an anthology of the horrific and the mysterious, of long forgotten realms and dark, unimaginable secrets of humanity’s past. This showcase houses some of the best short fiction that breaches boundaries of typical horror and historical genres. Each piece explores different aspects of the human psyche, from insatiable curiosity to the greed of man, to the ever growing search for knowledge that spurs on explorations in culture and history. Guignard perhaps describes the theme of this anthology best when stating that the inspirations for these stories “invariably would resolve around a sense of wonder”. The fiction within Dark Tales of Lost Civilizations truly does appeal to one’s sense of wonder and curiosity, allowing the reader to explore those unanswered questions of the past.
 
Take, for instance, Cynthia Witherspoon’s Angel of Destruction, which offers a unique and terrifying look into the collapse of a powerful civilization. Witherspoon’s use of narrative and description takes the reader into ancient realms sugared with a touch of supernatural mystery. It is a look into the fall of a complex civilization with an added explanation as to how a popular supernatural monster got its beginnings. From a different gaze, C. Deskin Rink’s Konigreich der Sorge (Kingdom of Sorrow) is an absolutely masterful work of horror that instead features a civilization that is well documented within the history books, one that is a more recent echo in the not so distant past. In the same style as Shelley’s Frankenstein and Stoker’s Dracula, Rink uses first person narration to describe the inevitable demise of a knowledge hungry archaeological team. This story explores the nature of curiosity, and what could wait beneath the frozen ground of the Arctic Circle. In addition to those above, Kuhl’s Quivira is almost psychological nature, delving into themes of madness and greed. Kuhl’s use of ancient mythology and macabre setting makes for an engaging read, drawing the reader in with vivid imagery. Worthy mentions also include Jason Andrew’s Requiem, Wendra Chambers Sins Of Our Fathers, and Bruce L. Piddy’s Gilgamesh And The Mountain.

This anthology of lost civilizations, horrific mythologies, undiscovered cities, and harrowing adventure, appeals to the reader’s fascination with history. Those that have an appetite for the mysteries of our forefathers would enjoy this showcase of fiction. I recommend Dark Tales of Lost Civilizations for any lover of the past looking to escape from the present, and for any lover of horror looking for the next addition to their bookshelf."

 
  —Samantha J. Moore, ONETITLE Magazine; http://onetitle.ca Top of Reviews  

 
 

Black Gate Magazine"Many readers might think they knew what to expect from this book, just from the title. They would be wrong. Mr. Guignard does an astonishing job of expanding the apparent range of his title into a varied and colorful collection of almost everything under the sun, or rather, everything hidden away from the sun.

Who knew there were so many kinds of lost civilizations? The civilizations visited in these stories range from historically documented civilizations—either trampled under the march of history, as in Jamie Lackey’s story, “Quetzalcoatl’s Conquistador,” or active participants in the trampling, as in “The Funeral Procession” by Jay R. Thurston—to the entirely mythical, like that of “Gilgamesh and the Mountain” by Bruce L. Priddy. In between these two extremes, we find an intriguing half historical, half legendary lost society in Jackson Kuhl’s “Quivira”.

There are lost civilizations drawn from uncharted islands (”The Island Trovar” by JC Hemphill), from nameless ruins reeking of antiquity and better left unexplored (”The Door Beyond the Water” by David Tallerman or “Königreich der Sorge or Kingdom of Sorrow” by C. Deskin Rink) or even from fictional sources like Oz (”Directions” by Michael G. Cornelius).
Nor is it just the lost civilizations themselves that are varied. Rather, it is the changing mood and tone that keeps this anthology so fresh. The reader assumes there will be horror (since it is mentioned in the subtitle) and will not be disappointed by Chelsea Armstrong’s “The Nightmare Orchestra”. The reader also suspects there will be something spooky, and Joe R. Lansdale provides a deliciously creepy yarn in “The Tall Grass”.

But most readers will not expect a laugh-out-loud futuristic comedy like Gitte Christenson’s “Whale of a Time”. While it is not surprising that most of these tales deal with magic, or at least with a lost technology so advanced it might as well be magic, in “Sumeria to the Stars” by Jonathan Vos Post. we find a hard science SF tale. There is no horror, or even real magic, in “To Run a Stick Through a Fish” by Mark Lee Pearson, only bittersweet grace. And nobody could possibly expect the sheer quirky originality of “Bare Bones” by Curtis James McConnell.

Almost any story in this anthology, whether the fourteen cited above or the eleven left for the reader to discover, is worth the price of purchase. The entire collection is a delight. Kudos to Mr. Guignard for assembling it."
 
  —Michaele Jordan, Black Gate; www.blackgate.com Top of Reviews  

 
 

Collings Notes"When I received the e-file of Eric J. Guignard’s anthology Dark Tales of Lost Civilizations for Bram Stoker® Award consideration, I had high expectations about reading it. After all, what was not to like? “Dark Tales”—my favorite kind. And “Lost Civilizations”—an interest that, for me, goes back half a century…roughly, it seems, to when several of those civilizations had not yet been lost.

Couple that with an evocative cover listing several of my favorite authors, and I anticipated hours of enjoyable exploration.

Well, my anticipation was not met.

Instead, it was exceeded, by such a degree that I finished the book two days after I received it. Then sat at the table wishing there were more.

The premise behind the anthology is simple enough. Who isn’t intrigued by Atlantis, or the Golden Horde of Ghengis Khan, or mysterious islands in uncharted seas, or the possibility of ancient time-travelers? From those starting points—and a score more—mix in generous quantities of horror, from waking zombies to nameless creatures and animate skeletons, and the result is story after story that captures the imagination and makes the specter of the past even more chilling. 

The twenty-five stories, all by fine writers with a careful eye toward craft and artistry, range from the quietly atmospheric to the overtly horrific…ribcages erupting from the living bodies of men. Some incorporate traditional horrors, such as ghosts and Lovecraftian behemoths; others introduce entirely new levels of creatures and creations. In Caw Miller’s “The Small, Black God,” a stone statue becomes the instrument of vengeance and death. In Rob Rosen’s “Buried Treasure,” the treasure found in the northern desert wastes is both that which is sought and something more. Gitte Christensen’s “Whale of a Time” evokes another time and place while simultaneously playing with multiple levels of a manipulated reality. Andrew S. Williams’ “The Talisman of Hatra” subsumes overt horror beneath a challenging story of love and betrayal. Jonathan Vos Post’s “Sumeria to the Stars” transforms the starkness of mathematics into possibilities almost—but not quite—beyond imagining; in its closing lines, it provides a counterpoise to Bruce L. Priddy’s re-creation of ancient epic in “Gilgamesh and the Mountain.”

I could go on, listing almost all of the stories and explaining why each was remarkable, but suffice it to say: If you are at all interested in tales of darkness, in unexplored reaches, in forgotten cities and ding empires, in creatures from the depths of land and sea, even in what might wait at midnight in the tall grass outside a stalled train…this anthology will satisfy your interest, your curiosity, and your desire for a thrill of horror.

Highly recommended."
 
  —Michael R. Collings, Collings Notes; http://michaelrcollings.blogspot.com Top of Reviews  

 
 

Darkeva's Dark Delights"Today, my Friday Fright Feature is the dark fiction anthology Dark Tales of Lost Civilizations.
 
Description (from Goodreads):
 
Darkness exists everywhere, and in no place greater than those where spirits and curses still reside. Tread not lightly on ancient lands that have been discovered by this collection of intrepid authors. In DARK TALES OF LOST CIVILIZATIONS, you will unearth an anthology of twenty-five previously unpublished horror and speculative fiction stories, relating to aspects of civilizations that are crumbling, forgotten, rediscovered, or perhaps merely spoken about in great and fearful whispers. What is it that lures explorers to distant lands where none have returned? Where is Genghis Khan buried? What happened to Atlantis? Who will displace mankind on Earth? What laments have the Witches of Oz? Answers to these mysteries and other tales are presented within this critically acclaimed anthology featuring such authors as David Tallerman, Jamie Lackey, Folly Blaine, A.J. French, Joe R. Lansdale, and many more.

Review:
 I knew of the anthology Dark Tales of Lost Civilizations and was familiar with the concept before being approached to read it, but nothing quite tops the feeling of when you go into an anthology not knowing what to expect, and you come out with stories that are fantastic, each one containing new wonders you didn’t know you would find. There are stories collected in this volume that will appeal to sci-fi readers, stories that will appeal to fantasy readers, stories that will appeal more to horror readers–in fact, some of the stories are so good that they will appeal to readers of all three genres even if they have a slight tendency or lean toward one most of the time.

Editor Eric J. Guignard, also a genre writer, has selected some truly astonishing tales to be included in these pages, and although there are a few big names, notably Joe R. Lansdale, most of the offerings are from emerging writers who are relative unknowns, but the combined talent that jumps off the page makes this an anthology you can’t afford not to read.

After a thoughtful introduction, we launch into the first dark tale, “Angel of Destruction” by Cynthia D. Witherspoon. Set in the crumbling Assyrian empire, a princess whose husband, fathers, and brothers are all dead awaits the barbarians that will surely come to take her away and plans to fight them. Her servant is more than meets the eye, though, and soon sheds her old hag-like appearance to reveal a new, more youthful one, asking the princess to join her god and not the god of the Assyrians. Although I had a pretty good idea who the mysterious woman-servant Arbella really was, it’s still an entertaining tale of a choice that the princess makes for herself, not for her empire, not guided by her father or brothers or husband or any man telling her what to do. It’s a memorable tale that sets a nice tone for the rest of the anthology.
 
In “The Door Beyond the Water” by David Tallerman, a shaman, Cha Ne, sees in a dream that a mysterious man is coming, and questions his spirit guide for more information. The new arrival, Montague Evans, is a white man who will arrive before the third moon. There are dual points of view, those of Montague and Cha Ne, that alternate, which lends a wider scope to the story. Cha Ne also has a novice, Cha Poc, who gets sick every time he has a journey through dreams, but Cha Ne has to make a decidedly more arduous journey that will take him to a surprising place.

Next up is “To Run a Stick Through a Fish” by Mark Lee Pearson, which is about a Japanese girl, Izanami, named after the divine mother of the Ainu race, who, legend has it, was the product of a union between a goddess and a dog. After her grandfather teaches her how to summon rain, the villagers start getting spooked by her, and an interesting ending follows. One of the other strong points of this anthology was the diversity of races and cultures highlighted within the stories, which is always important in an anthology of this scope. Far too often anthologies face a danger of being too content to stick predominantly to one era or culture, especially according to the editor’s preferences, which can lead to an unbalanced product, or just too much of the same so the reader feels like he or she has already read many of the stories if they’re too similar.

We get a little bit into a Sioux tale at least for the setup of “Quivira” by Jackson Kuhl, a somewhat whimsical and humorous tale of Tobias Clayton Lyddy, who meets a stranger who insists on being called Clayton while Tobias is to be called Mr. Lyddy. Tobias thinks the stranger, Clayton, looks an awful lot like someone he killed, and things turn out interestingly with an almost Monty Python-esque ending.
 
“Directions” by Michael G. Cornelius is a multi-pov look at the Wizard of Oz, which of course, starts with the Wicked Witch of the West saying how she never expected a young schoolgirl to be the cause of her demise. She pictured the Wizard being the only one who could destroy her. She keeps dreaming of the death that the Wizard was supposed to bring, something she has mythologized in her mind.

North is the one we know as Glinda the Good Witch, but for those who’ve read the original, they know that North is Locasta, who was compressed into Glinda, who is actually the South witch. She laments the feebleness of kindness, the diminutive power of sweetness, and describes how her evil sisters reigned over her with appalling ease. She also, as it turns out, has some anger management issues against the humans who asked her to help defend them against the evil sisters. The East Witch also had an unexpected demise, not picturing that a house would do her in. She thinks that people will start to appreciate her now that she’s gone.
 
South, the point of view of Glinda, is the most interesting, because she describes herself as having been the most powerful being in all of Oz, “more powerful than the charlatan Wizard and his foolish band.” All of the tales of the sisters are tragic, and tinged with a note of despair, but the harsh truths Glinda shines about their mother, and her role as the oldest of the sisters, is the most compelling. Saddest of all is that no one remembers her. Although the novel Wicked and the subsequent Broadway shows it inspired also took the Wizard of Oz tale into a new and interesting perspective, this is one of the best pieces of fiction done on the Wizard of Oz period, and any die-hard fan, particularly those who wanted to know more about the witches, needs to read this story.

Changing things up to the Incan side of things is “Quetzalcoatl’s Conquistador” by Jamie Lackey, whose stories I have read and enjoyed in previous anthologies. Herman Cortes exemplifies selfishness, and Lackey does a great job bringing this out. His lover (advisor and translator, too) Malinalli, who he has renamed Marina for his ease, is dying, but Quetzalcoatl has an interesting role in the way this scenario plays out.

For adding a dash of Nazi World War Two exploration to the mix, “Kingdom of Sorrow” by C. Deskin Rink does the trick. The story, an epistolary, is told through a series of journals about a German expedition to the Arctic Circle in search of a hidden city. The closer they get, the more they start to see stones with runes on them. The chief scientist finds a ruined city, the mythical Kingdom of Sorrow, but it’s more than he or the other men bargained for. They build shelter, look around the place, and try to figure as much as they can. Despite the main character’s insistence that he can always count on rational, scientific explanations, he is filled with a sense of dread and unease. When they eventually pry open a sealed set of doors, let’s just say there’s usually a good reason why doors like this are so hard to open—they’re best to remain shut to keep in whatever they are holding back. There’s a distinct undercurrent of Lovecraftian influence to this tale, which I enjoyed because it was subtly hinted at and not overbearing as it is with other stories I’ve read in anthologies.

Suddenly the point of view changes from Doctor Werner von Eichmann, who it turns out has gone nuts. The men continue to hear repeated pounding from four doors in a chamber and try to flee, but of course they learn the hard way that the damage is already done.

“Gestures of Faith” by Fadzlishah Johanabas has a Greek mythology influence mixed with Egyptian lore for good measure. Thoth, one of Poseidin’s worshippers, isn’t feeling the love from the sea god, and Zeus is also PO’d, we’re told. It’s a good creation story that Greek and Egyptian myth fans will enjoy, and although I was glad the anthology didn’t focus exclusively on those cultures, which have been overdone to death in anthologies and short stories in general even though there are still some authors who deal with those subjects originally, I would have liked to see two or three more tales in the subgenre.

Moving on to the more science fiction-based fare is “Bare Bones: by Curtis James McConnell, in which the protagonist is an archeologist or researcher who has a two-million-year-old skull on his desk—the consequences of the discovery and the subsequent consequences of his actions present a unique moral dilemma, making for an interesting read.

“British Guiana, 1853” by Folly Blaine is another epistolary, told from the point of view of a husband writing to his wife through letters. He’s a British Museum explorer sent on an expedition for an opportunity to study a living relative of Megalosaurus or Iguanodon in the dark heart of South America. The dialect and accuracy of the British 1800s vernacular is intact, which helps this story’s authenticity. His party consists of him, an interpreter, Azco, six “Indians,” two horses, and numerous containers for holding specimens he thinks he’s sure to find. It doesn’t take him long to get sick. Like other tales of its kind, it also doesn’t take long for the protagonist to wander into dark and cavernous underground hidden cities, and he does make rare discoveries, just not the kind he was hoping for. He finds a nest containing four eggs that he thinks are the offspring of the creature he has come to study, and these lizard-like beings have crystals in their skulls. One of the eggs hatches, and he names the baby Gilberth. Much to his alarm, the protagonist discovers that these creatures feed exclusively on blood. This tale has a knock out ending that’s sad but definitely leaves an impact.

Next up, “The Nightmare Orchestra” by Canadian scribe Chelsea Armstrong is all about the fascinating world of nightmares, specifically a father teaching his son how to inhabit them, and explaining why they are where they are. The natural instinct of these nightmare dwellers is to take joy in torturing the dreamer, but the little boy wants no part of it, which creates great tension until the shocking and tragic reveal at the end.
 
Not one to be left out of the party, we get a Genghis Khan story in “The Funeral Procession” by Jay R. Thurtson, which starts off with a slow build and ends with a killer bang.

“Requiem” by Jason Andrew is for the sci-fi folk, conjecturing about what would happen if humans discovered intelligent life forms off of Earth, which is what happens here, and this tale, like most of the ones in this anthology, has a tragic bent, which is to be expected given the subject matter.

Mixing things up with a Babylonian tale is “Gilgamesh and the Mountain” by Bruce L. Priddy, which is supposed to continue The Epic of Gilgamesh. This tale is told in narrative verse, so if that’s not your particular cup of tea, you may not dig it. It’s an ambitious undertaking and hard to pull off, but is I would say the most poetic offering of the anthology.

Other notable highlights include “In Eden” by Cherstin Holtzman, which deals with one of the most interesting eras, the Wild West, and frankly I was surprised there weren’t more tales of this theme in the anthology considering its recent profusion as a subgenre. In any case, this story starts off with a sheriff clutching his wife’s corpse in his kitchen. He knows the West is dying, and his friend proves him right by killing him, too. But the West refuses to die—the town, Eden, still has its inhabitants who although dead, are somehow alive in some kind of purgatorial existence. The sheriff has some dangerous plans for the town and things take an interesting turn near the ending.

I went in with high expectations for “Rebirth in Dreams” by editor and writer A.J. French, because I’m a huge fan of the previous anthologies he’s been a part of, but I was new to his fiction and eager to see what his own writing was like. His work has clear Lovecraftian influences, and Guignard aptly describes this story as a fusion of Hunter S. Thompson with Lovecraft. “It’s a path of self-exploration, one of transcendental knowledge, and of discovering ancient secrets. And mezcal…lots and lots of it.”

French starts off the tale with the sentence “Dreams have much to tell us about the existential condition of being.” True indeed, particularly for his protagonist, who becomes obsessed with dreams and the knowledge they contain in his teens, and later develops into a reclusive adult who reads about symbols, pagan rites, and paths better left un-trod. He hears about people who use drugs and other mind-altering substances to influence their dreams or divine new information from them, and thinks smoking pot is sacred, as is opium, etc, and he describes the legends associated with why.

It doesn’t take him long to find a “Mexican witch” who owns a store selling these mind-altering substances, who sells him mezcal, which is agave brewed from the rugged fields of the Oaxaca Valley, which she says is guaranteed to “drive your mind from reality.” He finds out the hard way that he should have heeded her words as a warning, not a dare, although one could argue he gets what he asked for.

Another interesting historical tale comes in the form of “The Talisman of Hatra” by Andrew S. Williams, which is about Princess al-Nadira, who is torn between the loyalties to her family and to her people. She’s high priestess to a goddess that protects her people, Atar’atha, goddess of love (aka Aphrodite). Some say the Princess is the goddess’s human vessel, her avatar. The city and kingdom seem to thrive, but nothing lasts forever, and soon a big war comes that wipes most things out, the Sassanids fight for control of the Persian Empire, and they want to take it from the Parthians, long the rulers of Persia, who the Princess’s people long relied upon. Although there were no surprises here, it’s a richly woven tale that historical fantasy fans should enjoy.

“Sumeria to the Stars” by Jonathan Vos Pos is another treat for the sci-fi fans, which follows a new discovery of a tablet that leads scientists and experts to believe that the Sumerians knew calculus and quantum physics, or someone gave them a cheat sheet, i.e. an alien race. Although I liked the bits about the tablet and cuneiform, the story felt like a history lesson to me, and had a bit too much mathematical jargon, but despite that, it’s a well-written tale and one has to bear in mind the story was originally a novella.

Joe R. Lansdale’s offering comes near the end with “The Tall Grass,” about a guy who sees some unusual looking grass outside his train window. The train has stopped and the conductor warns him not to venture outside. He does anyway, and finds there’s a good reason why the grass is so tall and an even better reason not to go in it.

To finish things off we have “The Island Trovar” by JC Hemphill, which is a treat for the horror readers that I don’t want to give away too much of, but suffice it to say the villain is scary, and the protagonist ends up being scarier.

Overall, this is a very strong anthology with several impactful pieces that will appeal to a wide spectrum of genre fiction readers. Dark Tales of Lost Civilizations has a little bit of something for everyone, and left me very impressed and enriched after having read it."
 
  Anita Eva, Darkeva’s Dark Delights; www.thedarkeva.com Top of Reviews  

 
 

Nameless Magazine"Eric J. Guignard has put together an ambitious anthology focused on not only earthly lost civilizations, but imaginary worlds as well: Covering a diverse gamut, from the early twentieth-century American West to ancient Sumeria to the dark world of dreams, and even Oz—the entries range from flash fiction to heroic poetry to rather long short fiction.

Not every story is a standout, and there are repetitive themes and styles that detract from the overall enjoyment of the book as a whole. If there is a single complaint to be made, it would be the sequence in which the selections are ordered. There are a number of stories, for example, in which the protagonist is an increasingly maddened/ desperate/ endangered archeologist/ paleontologist/ other "-ologist" and often relays the plot through a series of missives to someone "back home." Because these stories either follow one another exactly or very closely in the book, they become tedious to read and lessen the impact they would otherwise have. Additionally, the majority of the better stories appear in the last half of the volume; a less determined reader may give up in the middle of the book and never discover some of the true gems.

Despite this minor criticism, Guignard should be applauded for bringing together some excellent work. "Quetzalcoatl's Conquistador" by Jamie Lackey is a wonderful fantasy with the best ending line in the collection. "Bare Bones" by Curtis James McConnell presents a brief, yet fresh "what-if" scenario with a twist of humor. Canadian author Chelsea Armstrong's "The Nightmare Orchestra" imagines a united world of humanity's nightmares told from the point of view of a child trapped within them.

Another short piece, "Requiem," contributed by Jason Andrew, is simply a prologue for a piece of music with a fascinating genesis. A.J. French gives us "Rebirth in Dreams," a profound tale of addiction to spiritual enlightenment. Geeks will get a kick out of "Whale of a Time" from Australian science fiction writer Gitte Christensen, where virtual reality is no longer virtual and user groups run amuck. Perhaps the most intense story in the book, "Sins of the Fathers" by Wendra Chambers, is a study of personal freedom and morality versus genetic technology for the greater good-told uniquely and beautifully.

Four strong pieces bring the read to a close. "The Talisman of Hatra" by Andrew S. Williams weaves a fable of sacrifice. Jonathan Vos Post's "Sumeria to the Stars" challenges the mind with a highly technical scientific presentation regarding the surprising computational awareness of the ancients-sure to please the computer savvy and Hawking-wannabes alike. "The Tall Grass" is a straightforward terror tale penned by master Joe R. Lansdale that takes place on a late-night train stop circa 1900, and, although short, it is not sweet, bringing a certain feel that only Lansdale can deliver. Finally, JC Hemphill's "The Island Trovar" harkens back to the storytelling of Edgar Rice Burroughs (fortunately Hemphill is a better prose writer) or Merian Caldwell Cooper, and ends the book on an adventurous note."
 
  —Sunni K Brock, Nameless Magazine; http://namelessmag.jasunni.com Top of Reviews  

 
 

Biblio Babes Book Reviews"A collection of adventure stories, not for the faint of heart.

Angel of Destruction - Cynthia D. Witherspoon
When a great city falls victim to tragedy, a lone woman is given the chance to wreak some havoc by an unlikely source... This was a very intriguing premise, but it was so short! Nowhere near enough information or back story for my taste.
 
The Door Beyond the Water - David Tallerman
A man following in the footsteps of an explorer gone insane discovers for himself just what could drive someone to the depths of madness... and destruction... Dark creeping horror with an old-timey feel. Could have used more blood.

To Run a Stick Through a Fish - Mark Lee Pearson
A little bit of lore about a very unusual people...Strange. VERY strange. I find the juxtaposition of such a traditional style of story with such macabre and visceral subject matter kind of delicious. You know, even though I'm pretty sure I didn't get it.

Quivira - Jackson Kuhl
Tobias Lyddy accidentally stumbles across a secret city, mysterious treasure, and something much more bizarre and deadly than he could have ever imagined... I found this to be wonderfully witty and clever, in both writing style and subject. It grabbed my attention from the first sentence and kept me barreling along until the very end. The first story I actually "got". Thank Christ. I was beginning to think I was a little stupid there...

Directions - Michael G. Cornelius
It's finally time to hear from ALL the witches of Oz... While this was a good read, and a particularly unique take on a literary dynasty, I probably would have enjoyed this more if I was more familiar with The Wizard of Oz.
 
Quetzalcoatl's Conquistador - Jamie Lackey
Bring a Spanish explorer isn't all murder and sacrifice; at least, not the murder and sacrifice of those you had previously intended... Why does it have to be so difficult to enjoy a story when you don't particularly like any of the characters? Plus, I'm unfamiliar with the original story, so I have to say my ignorance kind of shit the bed on this one.

Konigreich der Sorge (Kingdom of Sorrow) - C. Deskin Rink
Many years ago, the Nazis finally found themselves up against their most frightening foe: a force more evil than themselves... This was the first story that really struck me deeply, and it packed a real whallop; it's definitely a top contender for my favorite of the bunch. Heroics (the Nazi kind, but still) caves, monsters, madness... It was everything I love in an adventure story, and it was delightfully well-written, to boot.

Gestures of Faith - Fadzlishah Johanabas
When an ancient Island nation begins falling into decline, all hope rests on the shoulders of a most unassuming boy... Surprisingly, this wasn't the least bit horrific. Instead, it was a pretty little origin story, one which I found to be... pretty nice, actually. Yes, terrifying I know; I enjoyed something was wasn't gore-soaked or frightening. I'm kind of shaken myself.

Bare Bones - Curtis James McConnell
When making a scientific discovery, does one accept a completely new theory, or sweep it under the rug? This was a story I could really identify with; not because I'm a scientist or proficient in handling skulls, but because it was one of the few set in modern times, or had a modern feel. Hey! I'm familiar with vacations and reports! But besides liking it for its setting, I also found it quite sharp and witty, interesting as hell, smart enough to make me smile but not so smart that I felt like a dumbass, and it had just the right amount of nastiness. Two thumbs up!

British Guiana, 1853 - Folly Blaine
Jungles, paleontologists, and ancient monsters: the perfect recipe for something disastrous... Hooray! Jungles and monsters! I LOVE stories like this! Not only was it a great read, but I adored the protagonist. I could really identify with him and his decisions... which means I should probably NEVER go monster hunting.

The Nightmare Orchestra - Chelsea Armstrong
In the land we inhabit in our nightmares, there are those we rarely give thought to, except for a terrified shudder of fear every so often. But those denizens of the nightmare world have a life of their own... This should be a full-length novel. Seriously, the author should get on that, STAT. I want origins, I was explanations, and I want scores of nightmares. Hey I can even help contribute some nightmares! One of my recurring ones starts with me, pant less, on a public bus. I have to pee, and there's only one toilet. Did I mention it's in the middle of the isle and there's no walls around it? Yeah. It only gets worse from there...

 The Funeral Procession - Jay R. Thurston
There are reasons why some things are buried, and there are very good reasons why some things should STAY buried... I can say this was interesting and informative for sure, but I really couldn't eke out a connection with any of the characters. Boo-urns.

Requiem - Jason Andrew
We have often viewed alien life forms as either non-existent or hostile. How would we react if they were just like us? Sad and sweet. The writing came through for me emotionally, but I don't think I got it intellectually. Doesn't mean I didn't enjoy it, though.

Gilgamesh and the Mountain - Bruce L. Priddy
The saga of Gilgamesh didn't quite end as we were led to believe... Normally I hate poems. I'm pretty sure I mentioned once in an earlier review that poems were stupid and didn't make any sense and any jackass could upchuck a jambalaya of words onto a page and call it "art". Poetry ranks right up there with paintings that consist of a red circle and a black line that sells for a million dollars to some asshole because their stock broker dude says it's a wise investment. Ugh.

This? This is a story in poem form. I'm totally cool with this. It has a beginning, middle, and end, and contains such words as "the" and "and". It's even cognizant. On top of those features that set it far and above loads of poetry I've suffered through, it was kind of horrific and had a killer ending. A definite gooder.

Buried Treasure - Rob Rosen
Whether you're a 9-year-old playing in your yard in the 80's (I found a necklace once! But mostly I found worms.) or a gown adult in the future, there's always mystery and valuables to be dug up...  I'm a big fan of post-apocalyptic radness, and though I guessed the end (only because I'm a seasoned world traveler *cough* never left North America *cough*) I still enjoyed it a heck of a lot.
 
The Small, Black God - Caw Miller
 Not all archeologists have noble intentions, and not every artifact should be discovered... Another old feeling one, but the characters were done so well that I totally fell into it. Absolutely well done, and a great read. Nothing too obtuse or vague, just plain old good storytelling.
 
In Eden - Cherstin Holtzman
When it's time to go to the great mystery in the sky, there are some that just aren't willing to lie down easy... Hooray! There was a zombie story in here! So no matter what, I couldn't help but enjoy this. There was blood and horror, and though mildly vague, I still got my jollies just fine.

We Are Not the Favored Children - Matthew Borgard
Transitions are seldom easy, and transitioning from one God to another could prove not only difficult, but also deadly... I really enjoyed the setting of this one, but there were some parts I was still fuzzy on. Possibly because I have little experience existing in an ancient tribe with multiple deities that would be willing to destroy me.

Rebirth in Dreams - A. J. French
When a gentleman decides to take his consciousness into his own hands, he is ill-prepared for the journey that awaits him... It's no secret that I work in a head shop. I've made that pretty clear, I think. And one of the most valuable lessons I've learned from my boss is that we don't sell things like salvia because "it's a journey plant. And I don't feel comfortable sending people on journeys without providing a guide." And the protagonist in this story found out all about that. This story was very dark (just the way I like them!) and totally neat-o. The author's description of the trips seemed pretty... ahem... spot on, and that was another plus for this one as well. My only complaint is that I wish it was longer and more detailed. A head shop chick who enjoyed a story about getting high; what are the odds of that?

Whale of a Time - Gitte Christensen
In the future, mankind has experienced a heck of a move, and the underwater creatures they share their space with have more to them than anyone imagined... All I have to say is that this was weird as fuck and boatloads of fun. See what I did there? With the boat reference? Because the story is set in the ocean? Awww, you guys get it. And oh, those crazy steampunks.

Sins of our Fathers - Wendra Chambers
 Every person is interested in their origin, but not every person will be delighted with it... I loved the fact that this was a longer one. It takes time for me to warm up to characters and ideas, so longer is definitely better (that's what she said!) Unfortunately, though it was long and enjoyable (do I even need to say it again?) it was one of those ones that I didn't get. It was good and all, but it didn't come together at the end with a simple explanation. Fuck.

The Talisman of Hatra - Andrew S. Williams
 When you have to make a decision between the well-being of your family and the well-being of your people, there can never be a kind outcome... You know, this was quite beautiful, actually. And finally, a female protagonist I can really get behind (Christ, these "That's what she said" jokes are just writing themselves, here)! And though it was tragic, I thought the ending was just right.

Sumeria to the Stars - Jonathan Vos Post
Algebra, quantum physics, and ancient tablets from the past; someone is going to get throw for a loop...

I've watched countless episodes of Ancient Aliens and I've seen Thrive at least twice (seriously though, everyone should watch it, so go do that when you're done reading this). And you know what? I'm still way WAY WAAAAYYYYY too dumb for this. I've got nothin'.

The Tall Grass - Joe R. Lansdale
If ever you find yourself the only one awake at an unplanned train stop, for the love of Mike DO NOT GET OFF THE TRAIN.
 This is my other contender for my number one favorite story. It was ridiculously well-written (which may be why Lansdale has such a crazy following) and while it had a nice reserved ghost story vibe, it has utterly hideous and awesome 21st century monsters. The characters were bang on, and I was mesmerized from start to finish. I can't believe in all the reading I've done that this was my first Lansdale.

The Island Trover - JC Hemphill
Mysterious Islands from which no one has ever returned are a big draw for the adventurous, as well as the greedy... Jungles? Awesome. Assholes? Fascinating. Gore? Wholly entertaining. Simple, straightforward, and enjoyable, this was a great choice to wrap it all up.

******

Overall, definitely worth a read. It was extremely varied in styles and genres, which means that pretty much anyone will be able to find something they'll enjoy in this anthology.

There were stories I loved, stories I wanted expansions on, and stories that I found were unclear/I needed to be way smarter for. Which really, is the sign of a good anthology: intelligent, with something for everyone."

 
  — Kat Thomas, Biblio Babes Book Reviews; www.bibliobabes.ca Top of Reviews