BOOK REVIEW: The Black Room Manuscripts Volume 2
– By Dave Dubrow
The problem with reviewing a charity anthology is that if you give it anything less than a positive rating, you run the risk of shorting the charity in some way. So how to tackle The Black Room Manuscripts Volume 2, the profits of which are set to be donated to Alzheimer’s Research UK? With honesty, of course. Every piece of writing must be judged on its outcome, not its intentions.
Lacking an organizing theme, the anthology encompasses a broad variety of horror motifs, from zombie apocalypse to dead man’s perspectives to Cthulhuesque beasts beneath the earth. Quality also ranges far and wide: some tales were merely banal descriptions of brutality placed under the endlessly-redefined rubric of horror, while others brought scares, revulsion, and pathos in brief, self-contained narratives: the essence of a good horror short. The highlights of the anthology include:
Spores by Jack Rollins. It goes where you expect, but has great power in its graphic description of fungoid horrors.
Graham Masterton’s What the Dark Does packs a lot of story into a small package. Fans of Masterton will find much to like about this tale.
Familial love and parental responsibility get a wrenching workout in Nathan Robinson’s The Glen.
Not quite a horror story, but a sad, sweet tale of loneliness, death, and what lies beyond, The Vile Glib of Gideon Wicke by Lily Childs is arguably the best story in the collection.
Stuart Park’s Oranges are Orange is a terribly creepy, tragic tale, one that puts you deeper than you’d ever want to go into the mind of someone profoundly damaged.
Unforgettable in concept, Dr. Lynne Campbell’s Backbone Isn’t Always Enough ekes out a spot among the top stories despite the weakness in narrative.
Jasper Bark’s And the Light Is His Garment takes a well-known story to its bitterest conclusion, making it a cautionary tale for truth-tellers in a time of beloved illusion.
While it lacks surprises, Laura Mauro’s Terry in the Bed by the Window is a good, old-fashioned horror tale, made credible by her obvious knowledge of the subject matter.
In a collection of 21 short stories written by a virtual who’s who of the UK’s indie horror scene, you’re more than likely going to find that your entertainment money was well-spent on The Black Room Manuscripts Volume 2, with the added bonus of the profit going to a worthy cause.
– By Dave Dubrow