Review: Halloween Carnival Volume 5 [Edited by Brian James Freeman]

Halloween Carnival Volume 5
By Richard Chizmar, Lisa Tuttle, Norman Prentiss, Kevin Quigley
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Editor Brian James Freeman serves up a final batch of Halloween-themed stories in this fifth volume of the Halloween Carnival series.

Whether or not these stories are more tricks than treats, or vice versa, is up to the reader. I will say that while I have enjoyed a number of the stories over the series run, I have not been a fan of the series overall. There were several tales I just did not like, and I would have appreciated a more balanced structure in these volumes.

As with prior installments, nearly fifty percent of the book is devoted to a single story (here it's PORK PIE HAT by Peter Straub), prefaced with a smattering of shorter stories. Here's what you get:

DEVIL'S NIGHT by Richard Chizmar
My first intro to Chizmar’s writing was his collaboration with Stephen King for Gwendy’s Button Box, but this short story really sealed the deal for me. Chizmar can write, man! Although set on Devil’s Night, this story of murder is purely human and very well crafted.
4/5 stars

THE LAST DARE by Lisa Tuttle
This second story is an ultra-weak attempt at telling a tale about a box and the children who go missing when confronted with it. It’s short, but also dull and takes forever to get nowhere.
1/5 stars

THE HALLOWEEN BLEED by Norman Prentiss
Norman Prentiss delivers a hell of a short story with a perfectly good Halloween twist. No details from me on this one, except to say that it's effective, creepy, and mysterious. It's also part of a series of short stories involving the mysterious Dr. Sibley, which means I've got some digging to do in order to find the rest of these stories and learn more about Sibley and his various encounters.
4/5 stars

SWING by Kevin Quigley
I know I read this one, but I'll be damned if I can tell you anything about it two days later... I have zero, and I do mean zero, recollection of it. Nothing. Not a single damn thing. Here's my notes from my Goodreads progress update:

Swing carried with an interesting premise, and while it was well written and had a few evocative scenes, it didn’t quite strike a proper chord with me. Maybe if it had been longer and given more room for the characters to breathe and develop it could have been really exceptional.

I'm going to skip rating this one. It seems I dug elements of it in the immediate post-reading, but whatever those were they weren't quite as evocative I had thought at the time.

No rating.

PORK PIE HAT by Peter Straub
Taking up the bulk of this anthology is a long short story from Peter Straub. It's well told and jazz fans will likely find a lot to enjoy here. I liked the story for what it was and dug the conversational nature of its delivery. Although it is set on Halloween and maybe involves some minor supernatural elements, as well as Hat's superstitions surrounding the holiday, it lacked the strong Halloween flavor I had been looking for. It's a good read, but it's not a good Halloween read with its lack of scares and chills. (Sadly, that's been a fairly common theme across this series as a whole...)
3/5 stars

After reading these five Halloween Carnival books back-to-back, I can pretty safely say I'm burn out on anthologies for a while. I can also pretty safely say that I did not get the Halloween scares I had wanted, and that this series, taken a whole, was pretty much a dud. Some good stories here and there, but I doubt I'll ever be returning for another trip through this particular carnival.

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

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Michael Patrick 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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