Unspeakable Horror 2: Abominations of Desire edited by Vince Liaguno
Evil Jester Press (October 2017)
404 pages; $14.99 paperback; $4.99 e-book
Reviewed by Blu Gilliand
In his introduction, accomplished author and editor Vince Liaguno describes the theme of Unspeakable Horror 2: Abominations of Desire as “desire gone awry.” This theme winds through a strong slate of stories selected by Liaguno for his follow-up to the Bram Stoker Award-winning collection Unspeakable Horror (2008). As we often see in real life, these stories portray desire as a catalyst for more than pleasure; often, desire leads to unintended consequences, bad decisions, and terrible results.
In Lisa Morton’s “Offrenda,” for example, a man’s desire for his dead boyfriend leads him to addiction, which leads to debt, which leads to a life-or-death encounter with dealers in a graveyard.
In “Kissyface” by Stephen Graham Jones, a boy attends a church lock-in in the hopes of spending some time with a guy he likes. Unfortunately, his desire for his classmate puts him directly in the path of a vengeful serial killer.
In “The Sisterhood” by R.B. Payne, desire leads to secrets, and these secrets lead a band of bad men to the door of an ancient convent. Their need to unearth an ancient relic threatens another secret the nuns are desperate to protect. It’s a powerful tale that ends in purifying fire.
While desire drives the plot of the above stories, other authors manage to embrace the theme without making it the central point. In Greg Herren’s “Rougaroo” (my personal favorite of the anthology), we follow a couple of special agents on a mission deep in bayou country. Rumor has it that a rougaroo—a man who morphs into a gator/human hybrid during the full moon—is stalking a small community. It’s a great little monster story; one in which desire plays a small but integral role.
In “a strange form of life,” Laird Barron brings the unlikely duo of prisoner and prison guard together in a moment of desire that flows into an increasingly eerie tale about strange behavior, demonic sightings, and zombie ants. Lushly written and incredibly atmospheric, it ends the anthology on an exceptionally strong note.
Unspeakable Horror 2 clears two difficult hurdles: collecting a large number of stories that are of equally high quality; and serving as a worthy sequel to a strong original. Here’s hoping we get a third entry—and that it doesn’t take another decade to arrive.