The first collection of short stories by a number of DarkFuse authors and edited by Shane Ryan Stanley sure looks good on paper. But then just about everything form DarkFuse does. So the critical question becomes: Does the collection deliver the goods?
It starts reasonably well. Genre veteran William Meikle contributes SHE SLEEPS IN THE DEPTHS, a Lovecraftian-pastiche that takes a good amount of its page count to get going, but ends with a very satisfying conclusion. 3 stars.
The second tale by Michael Penkas was BETTER SEEN AND NOT HEARD. The author was completely new to me so I had no idea what to expect, and was therefore pleasantly surprised by this tale of a child caught between an abusive mother and the thing living in his closet. Penkas vividly conjures up the types of nightmares that I certainly indulged in during my younger days. 4 stars.
DarkFuse #1 then hits its most significant lull with an overly descriptive and extremely odd version of the apocalypse, courtesy of William R. Eakin. Entitled CARRION FOUL, the story details some kind of plague that turns human kind into a bird hybrid, but I found nothing horrific or even engaging about this one and just wanted it to end pages before it did. 1.5 stars.
JAWS OF LIFE by E.G. Smith was a fairly straight forward thriller that the reader will have no trouble picking what is going to happen well before it does. However, it also happens to be well-written with a decent central character. 3 stars.
NETHERVIEW by Gary McMahon was shaping to be the pick of the bunch as a couple go off plan to check out a remote housing development. They soon find themselves trapped with something stalking them, and then ... Nothing. The story just ends. Cruelly. So, 2.5 stars.
But DarkFuse #1 saves its best for last with the excellent CHILDREN OF THE HORNED GOD by Christopher Fullbright. The story of a man who loses his wife to some kind of devil-like beast not far from their home and then sets out for revenge a year later is a great premise, but where Fullbright goes with this one is truly memorable. 4 stars.
So, in the end, DarkFuse #1 is a bit of a mixed bag. But averaging out the individual stories makes for a logical and easily derived final tally of ...
3 Reasons to Pull The Covers Over Your Head for DarkFuse #1.