Volume 4 of the Halloween Carnival series edited by Brian Freeman follows the same basic pattern as previous entries - five authors, five stories, all revolving around the Halloween holiday. Presented here are the following:
THE MANNEQUIN CHALLENGE by Kealan Patrick Burke
I can relate to Theo, Burke's central character and the office outcast attending his job's Halloween party when he’d rather be at home. I’m not sure I’d behave the same way, though, if confronted by a roomful of frozen, mannequin-like party-goers. The story itself is strange, with no explanations as to why and how, but it’s a fun little distraction. It's WTF quotient is very high, and, as with with every one of his works I've read, Burke proves to be a hell of writer even if this particular story wasn't one of my favorites.
ACROSS THE TRACKS by Ray Garton
Ray Garton’s an author I’ve been wanting to try, and this story was a solid intro to his writing. A group of bullied kids in search of candy stumble upon a very strange Halloween party. The depiction of bullying and cruelty among children struck a particular chord with me. I had to deal with my share of bullies in school, and I found the ordeals this particular pack of teens face to ring true. While I never had to deal with torments like the ones depicted here, I found the kids and their situation very familiar and relatable. This one hit all the right notes for me, and I’ll be reading more of Garton’s work for sure.
THE HALLOWEEN TREE by Bev Vincent
I couldn’t get into The Halloween Tree, unfortunately. It was a little too one-note, and not very exciting or scary. It’s another story following some kids trick or treating and facing their fears, but it pales in comparison to Garton’s story, and there’s just not much happening with either the plot or the characters.
PUMPKIN EATER by C. A. Suleiman
What do you when you love Halloween, but your partner does not? This story of spousal dissatisfaction, was enjoyable, but there's not any real surprises packed into its short page count. It's entirely predictable, but Suleiman's characters sure made it all pretty darn entertaining.
WHEN THE LEAVES FALL by Paul Melniczek
Haverville is a strange town, but everyone knows not to trespass on farmer Graver's land. Leave it to two kids to defy that small nugget of common knowledge on Halloween, though. What they discover will change their lives forever! WHEN THE LEAVES FALL was a pretty dry note to end this anthology on, and slightly more than half of this book's page count are dedicated to this particular story. It's slow and plodding, and asks way more questions than it can, or is even willing to, answer, but the biggest problem is how dull it all is. Even for a (longer) short story, I still found it a slog to get through.
Having read now four of the five Halloween Carnival books back-to-back, I feel like I'm getting burned out on anthologies, and this series in particular. But there's only one more entry to go, and I'm determined to finish these. So, onto Volume 5...
[Note: I received an advanced copy of this title from the publisher via NetGalley.]
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