Reviewed by Alex Scully
Uninvited Press’s latest release, Dark Forest, edited by Robert Dunbar, is a collection of classic tales with annotations from modern authors. The theme centers on the environment, particularly the forest and backyard foliage. Who knew the gentle oak in your back yard harbors a simmering hatred for you? Those lovely sunflowers and delicate vines in your garden are seething with a sinister menace as you pass. Let’s not discuss what’s happening in the woods behind your beloved home.
The collection is divided into four sections. Each section contains stories examining an aspect of dark forests. Part one, “The Soul of a Place,” opens the collection with a peak into the nightmares to come. Algernon Blackwood’s “The Willows” and Ambrose Bierce’s “A Vine on a House” both give us a furtive glimpse into the horrors, but yet each story holds back in its own way. The fear that grips each story is such that it remains just beyond our line of sight. The monsters may, or may not, be real, but the terror is very real. Part two, titled “Green Hell,” brings the intangible nightmares into our reality. This section features stories from Arthur Machen, John Blunt, and Edith Nesbit. These are horrifying stories of Nature set against Man in both the extreme and the subtle. Part Three, “Shadowed Corners,” features Phil Robinson, Howard R. Garis, and H.G. Wells. Here we see science and technology run amok. The stories in this section fuse the primal, natural world with modernity to terrifying ends. Part four closes on a strange, yet hopeful note. Two novellas, Algernon Blackwood’s “The Man Whom the Trees Loved” and Robert Dunbar’s “Wood,” give us a glimpse into what might be. The possibilities are bizarre, disturbing, and darkly fascinating. With annotations from a host of fantastic modern authors, each short introduction serves as a literary launch point from which to draw new perspectives on each story included here.
There are countless anthologies released each year. Why this one? The classic stories are simply compelling. They offer a glimpse into the past, while at the same time, reflecting on modern fears, issues, and daunting environmental problems. Dunbar is a skilled editor, and his selections reflect a thoughtful, carefully-planned storyboard around the larger theme. Dark Forest is an excellent dark fiction Gothic collection. These are some of dark fiction’s best voices, and they stand the test of time. Highly recommended.