Edited by Robert Pratten

Reviewed by Mario Guslandi

To the dismay of those who keep sounding the death knell for the genre, the horror story anthology is alive and well, especially in the world of the small press, as Love and Sacrifice clearly shows.

A slim volume of about 100 pages, the book assembles twelve dark tales "about troubled relationships" by contributors who, although for the time being not exactly famous, exhibit both a solid background and a steady hand at producing perceptive but disquieting tableaux of family life, difficult friendships, love affairs, bizarre sexual encounters.

Conceived as a companion anthology to the award-winning film London Voodoo, the anthology provides hours of pleasant reading, now simply entertaining, now thought-provoking, sometimes eliciting a sense of melancholy for the frailty of the human condition, occasionally trying the unpleasantness of the cutting edge.

There are no really bad stories in here, a few being just ordinary run-of-the-mill material, but some are particularly worth mentioning.

Mike Davis' Stepping off is a poignant, accomplished story of only two-and-a-half pages about abuse and wasted life, leaving a long lasting feeling of sadness.

Gary McMahon contributes Nine Lives, an insightful piece describing with subtlety how a man becomes gradually aware of his wife's unfaithfulness and how this is going to change his life.

In William Malmborg's delicate Code Blue illness casts its dark shadow on the existence of a cystic fibrosis patient and her devoted fiancée.

For the Game by Bruce Golden effectively describes how the supernatural quietly creeps into the life and career of a baseball player, whose star will shine only for a little while.

James S Dorr's The Groupie is an excellent piece reporting with cold precision but gripping narrative style the doings of a woman going through the centuries both killing and being killed.

In Freaks by Brian Rappatta bizarre sex and horror team to generate a strongly tasting tale not for the squeamish or the puritans.

Jeremy C Shipp provides Those Below, an offbeat zombie tale with an undercurrent of subtle melancholy and deep human pity.

In short, an interesting showcase for a bunch of talented writers and a good way to spend a few pleasant reading hours.

Love and Sacrifice edited by Robert Pratten. Zen Film Publishing pb, 110 pp, UK £5.95/ USA $9.95. Available from the publisher or Amazon


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