Edited by Doug Draa
Published by Wildside Press
Reviewed by: Deuce Richardson
Well, I just finished reading Weirdbook #38. Editor Doug Draa has produced another solid issue of weird fiction. As usual, for the sake of brevity, I’m going to concentrate on the stories that I liked or that, at least, really stood out to me.
“Harlot Road” by Michael Bracken is a political thriller wrapped around a revenge story. Other than the non-historical setting, there really isn’t much “fantasy” to be found in it. Despite that, the protagonist was interesting and the story was solid.
“With a Poet’s Eyes” is another installment in John C. Hocking’s long-running sword & sorcery series featuring the Archivist. The Archivist and his companion investigate the disappearance of the poet, Lord Kelsh. Kelsh may have scorned the wrong woman… As usual for Hocking, this is a good tale with a strong ending.
I found “The Wishing Well” by Robert Graves to be perfectly fine, writing-wise, but the story needed a stronger plot.
“O King of Pain and Splendor!” is a tale of Darrell Schweitzer’s immortal sorcerer, Sekenre. To me, the Sekenre stories have always seemed to be a unique blend of Clark Ashton Smith, Lord Dunsany and Gene Wolfe. This tale does not disappoint. In fact, I would have to rate it as the best in the entire issue.
Adrian Cole’s “You’d Do It for Diamonds” is a fun read. It recounts an early adventure in the career of Cole’s pulp-style hero, Nick Nightmare. Nick makes a foray into Pulpworld, an alternate universe, and encounters several nasty surprises.
“The Handmaid of the Key” by R.C. Mulhare takes a look at Lavinia Whateley and her eldritch twin sons, all of whom were made famous in Lovecraft’s “The Dunwich Horror.” Mulhare’s story is set several years before TDH takes place. This type of thing is easily botched. I thought Mulhare did a fine job of it.
“An Implement of Ice” by W. H. Pugmire draws from the Derleth Mythos for its background. Not particularly groundbreaking, but I enjoyed it nonetheless.
Tim Jeffreys did a good job of building suspense in his story, “Wolvers Hill,” but I found the ending somewhat unsatisfying.
“Rafts” by Lorenzo Crescentini is a charming, albeit quite minor, tale.
“Clean Sweep” by Edward Ahern is a sort of “ghostbusters” story. The protagonist, Ralph, ends up getting on the wrong side of ghostly gangsters. I enjoyed it.
Cynthia Ward’s “Leaving Malaga” features vampires, but isn’t a vampire story, exactly. I found her mention of Nicodemus, Kansas interesting.
“Abomination is Her Name” by J. N. Cameron harkens back to tales like King’s “The Mist.” The end is chilling. One of the best stories in this issue.
“Kachina” by Kenneth Bykerk is also one of the better tales in this issue. The premise could be somewhat summed up as, “What if the first chapter of A Princess of Mars was the beginning of a horror tale? What if John Carter was, instead, a wastrel and thief named Horatio Parsons who never made it out of the mysterious cave?” This story is well-wrought and has a few semi-Lovecraftian touches, which also reminded me somewhat of Irvine’s A Scattering of Jades.
“Flat is Flat and That is That” by David J. Gibbs is about a young man riding the rails and jumping trains in search of a better life. Not bad.
Scott Harper’s “Death Is Not My Master” is an enjoyable sword and sorcery tale featuring a vampire as the protagonist.
As usual, an anthology such as this is uneven. The highs certainly outweigh the lows in this issue, in my opinion. For the weird fiction aficionado, Weirdbook #38 delivers a solid dose of what we crave.