Seize the Night edited by Christopher Golden
Gallery Books (October 2015)
544 pages, e-book $13.99, paperback $11.93
Reviewed by Frank Michaels Errington
Christopher Golden is a very busy writer. If a project involves the written word, it seems as if Christopher is willing to give it a go. This includes comics, media tie-ins, YA novels, and books for adults. Oh, and let’s not forget editing anthologies. Christopher’s latest project is one such anthology. Seize the Night: New Tales of Vampiric Terror is built upon the premise that “once upon a time vampires were figures of terror…And they can be again.”
The twenty-one authors collected in this volume have accepted that challenge and have largely succeeded in returning vampires and their ilk back into our nightmares where they belong. Although a few stories had me scratching my head looking for the vampiric connection, each tale delivered the goods. And by goods, I mean terror.
“Up In Old Vermont” by Scott Smith. Scott is an American author and screenwriter with two novels to his credit. His screen adaptation of his novel A Simple Plan earned him an Academy Award nomination. This is the sweet story of Ally, a woman who hasn’t had much luck with the choices she’s made in her life. She moves to Vermont to assist in the care of a wife with Alzheimer’s in exchange for room, board, and a small stipend. Sounds idyllic, but what happens is anything but.
“Something Lost, Something Gained” by Seanan McGuire. In 2010 Seanan was awarded The John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer. This is a wildly imaginative story of a young teen-aged girl who gets caught in a summer storm while chasing fireflies. What happens next is devastating, life-changing, and brilliant.
“On the Dark Side of Sunlight Basin” by Michael Koryta. Michael is an American author of contemporary crime and supernatural fiction and has had his work translated into twenty languages. There is a reason why Michael is a New York Times bestselling author and why his work is so highly praised. It all comes down to great story-telling. I loved this tale of a big game hunter who refuses to listen to the advice of his Native American guide. I really enjoyed Michael’s legend-building in this story.
“The Neighbors” by Sherrilyn Kenyon. Sherrilyn is a popular urban fantasy writer. Her novels have sold over 30 million print copies in over 100 countries. This short features some kids spying on their neighbors while there is a serial killer at large. A short, yet terrifying tale.
“Paper Cuts” by Gary A. Braunbeck. Gary writes in a number of different genres, but is primarily known for his work in horror. He is also the recipient of two Bram Stoker Awards. Gary’s story opens with the most visceral writing so far in this collection. Vampires are far from the worst of the horrors featured in this short story.
“Miss Fondevant” by Charlaine Harris. Charlaine has been writing for more than thirty years, with her later works being in the urban fantasy genre. Most notable would be her Sookie Stackhouse novels which led to the HBO series True Blood. Here, a group of sixth graders think their teacher is an energy-sucking vampire. Truth is, they might be on to something.
“In a Cavern, In a Canyon” by Laird Barron. Laird is an award-winning author and poet whose work falls primarily within the horror, noir, and dark fantasy genres. Laird delivers a well-told story of a woman, now in her fifties, still trying to understand if her father walked out on her and her siblings or if something more sinister occurred.
“Whiskey and Light” by Dana Cameron. Dana began her professional career as an historical archaeologist and later turned to writing, originally having success with the “Emma Fielding Archaeology Mysteries” and more recently with her “Fangborn Urban Fantasy” series. Dana is a new writer for me as a reader and I love that about anthologies. Her story from the days of the Puritans features legends, superstition, demons, and a young woman wanting desperately to get away from all of that.
“We Are All Monsters Here” by Kelley Armstrong. Kelley is a Canadian writer who’s had a great deal of success in the urban fantasy genre. She’s created multiple series set in multiple worlds. It’s been two years since the outbreak that led to the onslaught of vampirism and there were still no explanations as to a cause. “Of course people blamed the government. It was in the vaccinations or the water or the genetically modified food. What was the trigger?” I love me some Kelley Armstrong.
“May the End Be Good” by Tim Lebbon. Tim has been writing for nearly twenty years, primarily in the field of horror and dark fantasy. This is the story of a monk in France during the reign of William the Bastard. As if the atrocities of the French Army against the people weren’t horrible enough…
“Mrs. Popkin” by Dan Chaon and Lynda Barry. Dan has two novels and numerous short stories to his credit and has twice had his work included in Best American Short Stories. Lynda has worked as a painter, cartoonist, writer, illustrator, and more. She is the creator of Ernie Pook’s Comeek, a syndicated comic strip which ran for more than two decades. I found this to be a charming tale, but I couldn’t quite figure out how it tied into the theme of the anthology.
“Direct Report” by Leigh Perry. Leigh also writes as Toni L.P. and is the author of the “Family Skeleton” mysteries. Wow. Wonderfully told story. A totally original vampire concept. It took a while to get there, but the payoff was worth the wait.
“Shadow and Thirst” by John Langan. John is an American writer of contemporary horror, he’s been a finalist for a Bram Stoker Award for Best Collection, and he serves on the Board of Directors for the Shirley Jackson Awards. This story is an interesting and complex tale of a grandfather who discovers an unusual structure on his property. After coming back from investigating it, he’s a changed man and not for the better.
“Mother” by Joe McKinney. Joe has more than thirty books to his credit. He is a two-time Bram Stoker Award winner, and he’s a sergeant with the San Antonio Police Department. Joe gives us a tale of the search for what has killed five young children in a small Texas community. Believed to be the work of a chupacabra, the killer turns out to be something far more terrifying.
“Blood” by Robert Shearman. Robert is an award-winning short story writer who is likely best known for the modern day Doctor Who. A wonderfully told story of forbidden love and a trip to Paris. I really like it, but might have liked it even more if I understood it in the context of the anthology’s theme.
“The Yellow Death” by Lucy A. Snyder. Lucy has more than 80 published short stories to her credit and won the Bram Stoker Award in the short story category for her 2012 short “Magdala Amygdala.” This story features some serious vampires. Well done, Lucy.
“The Last Supper” by Brian Keene. Brian is an American author, primarily of horror, crime fiction, and comic books. He has won two Bram Stoker Awards. A fairly short-short story from Brian showing how immortality isn’t always all it’s cracked up to be.
“Separator” by Rio Youers. If you are not familiar with Rio’s work, you really should correct that ASAP. He’s written two of my favorite novels from the last few years, Westlake Soul and Point Hollow. They’re both worth your time. Rio’s vampire story was much like a perfect storm and was truly horrifying.
“What Kept You So Long?” by John Ajvide Lindqvist. John is a notable Swedish horror writer. Here he delivers another entertaining story about doing what you have to do, what you’re “called” to do.
“Blue Hell” by David Wellington. David writes about monsters, including a five book vampire series that follows a Pennsylvania state trooper battling a centuries old vampire. David’s story for the anthology is about tradition, sacrifice, and what happens when it all goes wrong.
These are not your Count Dracula vampire stories, but thankfully they’re not of the friendly variety either. What they all have in common is that each and every story is a cut above the ordinary.
My highest recommendation.