Rhonda Parrish has pulled together another worthwhile anthology, this one published by Tyche Books, featuring a stunning cover by Ashley Walters.
The standout story was Laura VanArendonk Baugh’s “The Second Great Fire”, which gives us a wonderful evocation of movie theatre projection rooms, WWII London, and the Blitz. It alone is worth the price of admission.
Entirely different in tone and approach is Chadwick Ginther’s “Midnight Man vs. Frankie Flame”, a sort of superhero story; and Dusty Thorne’s “Permanence”, an unassuming but entirely satisfying piece. And I confess to a soft spot for Krista Ball’s “Bait”, though I’m not sure how well it will work for someone not already familiar with her fabulous Dark Abyss series. (If you don’t already know the Dark Abyss series, stop reading this and go download The Demons We See immediately.)
I was mildly disappointed by Hal J Friesen’s “The Djinni and the Accountant”, as the premise led me to anticipate a laugh riot, when in fact the story has a quite serious point. It’s an excellent piece, just not the story I had expected, and therefore my judgment is entirely unfair. Similarly, “Light My Fire” by Susan MacGregor is an intelligently written and engaging story, but I tend to dislike fantasies that feature actual historical figures, a personal idiosyncrasy that readers of this review may safely disregard. The only story I actively disliked was “Cilantro” by Annie Neugebauer, which repulsed me partly because it is the category of horror that is supposed to be repulsive, and partly because it reminded me of a Dean R. Koontz Ace Double from my youth, of which no more need be said. In other words, none of my negative comments have any relevance to other readers, who will likely enjoy each of these stories
In between were fifteen other strong stories, covering a wide range of styles and themes. Parrish provides a nicely balanced package with something for everyone, a fascinating cross-section that provides a glimpse of where the genre stands in 2018.