Joe Mynhardt, Editor
Crystal Lake Publishing
May, 2014; $12.99 PB, $4.99 eBook
Reviewed by Josh Black
Crystal Lake Publishing have put out several anthologies and collections, but the inaugural volume of Tales from the Lake is their first non-themed anthology. It encompasses a wide array of subgenres and brings together horror veterans and newcomers alike.
Ben Baldwin’s cover art is once again eye-catching and evocative. Editor Joe Mynhardt begins the collection with an introduction, writing about the book’s origins and the annual Tales from the Lake Horror Writing Competition. Current HWA president Rocky Wood provides the foreword, giving just a taste of what’s to follow. What follows, of course, are the stories.
Fervent fans of the genre know that the perfect anthology, that elusive creature, is tough to track down. It’s hard to please everyone after all. The best an editor can do is cull the best stories they can and present them in a well-constructed package. With Tales from the Lake Vol. 1, Mynhardt has done just this. Some of the highlights here are stunning, and the weakest of the material should still be enjoyable for everyone.
J. Daniel Stone is a relatively new voice in the dark symphony of the horror field, which makes his entry here all the more impressive. “Alternative Muses” fits well alongside “Books of Blood”-era Clive Barker and early Poppy Z. Brite. Its lyrical depiction of a pregnant young woman’s obsession with the thin lines between pleasure, pain and art makes for a very human sort of horror. The climax takes extreme body modification to a place somewhere between death and birth, in art as well as life.
Genre veteran Graham Masterton shares with us another wonderfully strange vision with “Witch-Compass”, a story of desires supernaturally fulfilled (at a steep price, naturally). It’s a gripping cautionary tale of choice and consequence, and its repulsive antihero is easily the most disturbing part of it.
Other stories plumb the depths of readers’ fears in different ways. There are ghost stories, weird people of the sea, murderous toys, and super-humans, among other things. Rather than go the safe and typical route, the authors use such fantastical concepts as a starting point in exploring fears that lurk deep beneath the surface. Whatever raises the hairs on the back of your neck, or has you jumping at the slightest sound, chances are that something here will hit close to home. Tales from the Lake Vol. 1 is a collection of tales well worth diving into.