Review: Halloween Carnival Volume 1 [Edited by Brian James Freeman]

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Halloween Carnival Volume 1
By Robert McCammon, Kevin Lucia, John R. Little, Lisa Morton
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

If you're looking for some Halloween goodness to get you in the spirit, volume one of Halloween Carnival is a pretty good place to start. Edited by Brian James Freeman, this one's a strong anthology overall, with more hits than misses, and I enjoyed four out of the five stories within. Aside from McCammon, I hadn't read any of the other authors involved, and I'm planning on checking out more work from the bulk of them. On that score, too, this anthology is a pretty big win for me. Since there's only five stories collected here, let's break it down!

STRANGE CANDY by Robert McCammon
Our first stop in this Carnival and pretty a wonderful opening at that. Here, readers are confronted with the eternal dilemma: What do you do when you find a strange, unwrapped hand-shaped piece of sugar-coated candy at the bottom of your Halloween loot bag? EAT IT! Obviously. I was expecting something macabre and ghoulish, but McCammon travels another route entirely. The tenderness at the heart of this story surprised me. It's pretty rare that I come across a Halloween Feel Good story, and this one certainly worked well (although it felt a bit too repetitive given the shortness of the story, but I'm OK giving it a pass all things considered).
4/5 stars.

THE RAGE OF ACHILLES by Kevin Lucia
I haven’t read Kevin Lucia before, but after THE RAGE OF ACHILLES I’m gonna have to dive into his catalog of works. It's also another heavy emotional hitter, but one that's on the opposite end of the spectrum after McCammon's story. This was a wonderfully tragic story about a father’s loss and a priest's commitment to his church's worshipers. I gotta say, this one was really well done!
5/5 stars.

DEMON AIR by John R. Little
It's here that Halloween Carnival hits a jolting, disruptive bit of turbulence. This one was just flat-out lame, with too many coincidental things crammed into so brief a story. A demonic airplane ride (!) should not be this boring. Cool premise, but goddamnit, the author just didn't know what to do with it, how to execute it, how to end it, nothing. There's no cohesiveness, the pacing was crap, and it feels like the author figured out he had no clue what to do with the story and abruptly ended it. The only saving grace to DEMON AIR was its brevity.
1/5 stars.

LA HACIENDA DE LOS MUERTOS by Lisa Morton
Unlike DEMON AIR, Lisa Morton's LA HACIENDA DE LOS MUERTOS good and truly worked for me. A washed up American actor heads down to Mexico to co-star in a horror film and finds himself stuck in a real-life horror adventure. This one's set in the 1950s, and I could pretty easily imagine this as a classic black-and-white horror film with plenty of deep shadows. I dug it.
4/5 stars.

#MAKEHALLOWEENSCARYAGAIN by Mark Allan Gunnells
This one's a novella and comprises 50% of Halloween Carnival's page count. Thankfully it's time well spent! Like Morton's story, this one gave me a strong cinematic vibe with it's focus on a modern-day slasher story. After a fledgling horror writer makes a Facebook post with an off-the-cuff hashtag, #MakeHalloweenScaryAgain, he finds out his post has gone viral in a wholly unanticipated way. This was fun story, and although I had the killer pegged pretty early on this didn't dampen my enjoyment and I had a good time watching everything unravel.
4/5 stars.

Now on to Volume Two!

[Note: I received an advanced copy of this title from the publisher via NetGalley.]

View all my reviews

Michael Hicks

Michael Patrick Hicks is the author of the science fiction novels Convergence, an Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award 2013 Quarter-Finalist, and Emergence. His work has appeared in several anthologies, and he has written for the websites Graphic Novel Reporter and Audiobook Reviewer. In between compulsively buying books and adding titles that he does not have time for to his Netflix queue, he is hard at work on his next story.


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