Book Review: Behold!: Oddities, Curiosities and Undefinable Wonders

“The tales draw you in with the charm of a sideshow barker, promising your imagination things it has never seen before, and a few it may wish it could soon un-see.”

From the alluring foreword written by the astonishing Josh Malerman, to the table contents packed with writers who have true magic up their sleeves, to the otherworldly artwork, Behold!, truly is a thing of beauty and wonder. It’s an anthology of the strange and mystic, of darkness and prevailing light and it will knock your socks off. It’s uniquely split into three categories, Oddities, Curiosities, and Undefinable Wonders, pairing handfuls of stories in each, every category just as satisfying as the one before it. The tales draw you in with the charm of a sideshow barker, promising your imagination things it has never seen before, and a few it may wish it could soon un-see.

 

 

‘LaRue’s Dime Museum’ by Lisa Morton opens the show with a story about a woman named Julia who doesn’t seem to fit in this world. She purchases photographs from an antique shop of sideshow performers, freaks, but instead of revulsion she feels strangely drawn to them. The standards of beauty, what they mean in society, and to individuals, are challenged to show how damaging or dangerous they can be in a ‘Wildflower, Cactus, Rose’ by Brian Kirk. ‘The Baker of Millepox’ by Hal Bodner tells the story of a widow who becomes a baker. When he discovers his blood can bring good fortune to any who consume it he begins to give more and more of himself but the saintly baker can only spare so much.

Next comes a reprint by the great Clive Barker entitled, ‘Jacqueline Ess: Her Last Will And Testament’, a blood-soaked oddity that follows Jacqueline who after attempting suicide discovers a power within herself, one strong enough to turn a man inside out with just a thought. Her quest to learn how to control such a thing leads her down a pathway of pain and control. Stephanie M. Wytovich shares a short, horrid glimpse with the audience of mankind’s need to be shown the grotesque things usually hidden away in with ‘An Exhibition Of Mother And Monster’.

‘Madame Painte: For Sale’ by John Langan tells the eerie story of a haunted doll, a trope that would ordinarily seem overdone but not when Mr. Langan is behind them pen. It’s unique, addictive and truly horrifying. ‘Chivalry’ by Neil Gaiman takes our curious reader into an antique shop where an elderly woman finds the Holy Grail. When a knight seeks out the priceless artifact she learns the lengths he’ll go just to retrieve it. Mr. Warden is sent to survey the hospitality of the Mediterranean apartments and finds something dark lurking in ‘Fully Boarded’ by Ramsey Campbell.

Erinn L. Kemper twines the sorrowful story of one family being tormented by an unbelievable creature with the disappearance of Amelia Earhart in ‘In Amelia’s Wake’. ‘A Ware That Will Not Keep’ by John F.D. Taft is a haunting tale of revenge and survival as Phil’s grandfather unloads a deathbed confession and asks his grandson to prove his love by destroying something he made many years before. ‘Earl Pruitt’s Smoker’ by Patrick Freivald is about Jamie, a young beekeeper is drawn to an ancient hive smoker at an estate sale of a man who recently died. It calls to her, energizes her and gives hallucinations of becoming a bee, but are they really just her imagination?

Stephanie M. Wytovich brings her spellbinding magic once more in the form of ‘As A Guest At The Telekinetic Tea Party’Lucy A Snyder rounds out the Curiosities section with, ‘Hazlenuts and Yummy Mummies’, a trippy escapade into a convention and an author who accidentally consumes a hallucinogenic cookie, madness ensues, twisting and unfurling into a bittersweet tale.

‘The Shiny Fruit of Our Tomorrows’, by Brian Hodge displays his talent of drawing his reader into the darkness of life, in this story its hobos riding the rails, chasing after visions they see in the branches of the mirror tree. Kristi DeMeester’s ‘The Wakeful’ is writing that truly burrows into a person’s soul, and in Charlotte’s case, beneath her skin. ‘Knitter’ by Christopher Coake is a tragic love story filled with unimaginable loss, and monsters, very unique and terrifying monsters.

‘Through Gravel’ by Sarah Read is about the people of a subterranean world, the kindred, and their search for the safety and darkness of the places far away from the sunwalkers above. Imaginative and fairytale-like. ‘Hiraeth’ by Richard Thomas takes us into the heart of a young man, on the brink of devastation, a girl who attempts to heal him and the hidden holes inside of everyone.

Behold! was edited by Doug Murano, a man who knows how to put together stellar anthologies, and published by the mighty Crystal Lake Publishing. The years of nurturing the genre and striving to be the best in their field is undeniable in the quality of the writing and artwork. A must read for all those drawn to the dark and fantastic. Come one, come all, especially readers who seek things hidden in daylight, pry open your mind’s eye and…Behold!

                                                                                  MICHELLE GARZA

 

Publisher: Crystal Lake Publishing
Paperback: (288pp)
Release date: 28 July 2017

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