My original HAUNTED NIGHTS: A HORROR WRITERS ASSOCIATION ANTHOLOGY audiobook review and many others can be found at Audiobook Reviewer.
Co-edited by Ellen Datlow and Lisa Morton, Haunted Nights: A Horror Writers Association Anthology presents 16 original Halloween-themed short stories from authors Seanan McGuire, Jonathan Maberry, Stephen Graham Jones, Kelley Armstrong, Paul Kane, and plenty more. Each story is read by a different narrator, giving this anthology a wide range of flavors and vocal styling that keep the pace fresh over the course of nearly 12 hours.
As far as the content goes, I often find anthologies to be a mixed bag and this is no exception. The audio production end is strong throughout and the narrators give fine readings for each of their segments, so I have no quibbles on that end of things. However, a number of the stories contained herein struck me as largely forgettable. Still, there are a handful of standouts. Stephen Graham Jones delivers an awesome ghost story in “Dirtmouth,” and Jonathan Maberry gives us a fun bit of straightforward culinary revenge in “A Small Taste of the Old Country.” Garth Nix’s “The 17-Year Itch” provides a cool story of possession in a prison setting – I thought I had this one figured out from the beginning but was pleasantly surprised to find out I was wrong. “The Turn” by Paul Kane gives us a demon’s perspective on Halloween, and John Langan reports on a found-footage movie that may be more documentary than genre fiction in “Lost in the Dark.”
The one aspect I appreciated above all else was the diversity in theme. Plenty of other Halloween-focused anthologies focus mostly, if not entirely, on a familiar, oftentimes whitewashed, North American approach to the holiday, but there’s a nice mix of cultural representation and beliefs from this HWA production. Maberry focuses on Austrian customs while Armstrong delivers a Welsh-based Halloween story. Eric J. Guignard gives us an LA-based Day of the Dead celebration alongside some gang fights in his “A Kingdom of Sugar Skulls and Marigolds” and Elise Forier Edie tells us a story from the perspective of a 19th Century Irish immigrant to New York. John R. Little examines Halloween with a sci-fi speculative bent, as a small group of human survivors living on the moon attempt to recreate the lost traditions of an Earth they never knew in the year 2204.
My chief complaint, though, is that Haunted Nights just isn’t particularly horrifying. There’s some nice ghost stories and plays on familiar horror tropes, but there are no real scares and only a few of the stories dare to approach anything truly horrifying. This anthology is rather placid, with the authors playing it far too safe and refusing to take any risks. Frankly, taken as a whole, this is far too tame for my tastes and I found myself pining for edgier material nearly the whole through.
[Note: Audiobook provided for review by the audiobookreviewer.com]
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