Collections of short stories are often difficult to rate. Especially when - like Blood on the Page Vol 1 - they contain a wide variety of an author's works, often dating from their very early, rougher days as a writer.
But this also means there's likely something for everyone who enjoys any type of genre the author dabbles in. And after finishing Keene's large short story collection, I cannot imagine how anyone would not find at least one or two golden nuggets amongst these works. And for me, as an unashamed Brian Keene fanboy? Well, it was pretty much a rich vein of gold from beginning to end.
That said, there are always going to be stories that fail to hit the mark. For me, they happened to be the ones that I read toward the end of this book (as I rarely read a collection in the order they're presented in; choosing instead to skip around finding stories that are of a length I can read in one sitting). So THE RESURRECTION AND THE LIFE, TWO HEADED ALIEN LOVE CHILD, JOHNSTOWN and PORTRAIT OF A MAGUS AS A WRITER (INTERPOLATING MAGIC REALISM) did very little for me. Their themes were either too on the nose, too abstract, or simply seemed out of place for such a collection. (I might also mention while outlining my criticisms that there was some shoddy formatting through my paperback edition of the book. Paragraphs too regularly stopped mid-way across the page and continued as if they were a new paragraph on the next line. There were also a few typos which were missed in the final copy edit. Minor quibbles, perhaps, but I am nothing if not balanced when I write a review... Usually.)
That's just four stories, however, and Blood on the Page contains no less than 29 pieces of short fiction. Some, like HALVES and BURYING BETSY are pure genius in set-up, execution and pay-off. Others, like FULL OF IT and RED WOOD are straight-forward monster/gore mash-ups that revel in their carnage. Still others are introspective and thought-provoking, with none being more so than A REVOLUTION OF ONE and I SING A NEW PSALM. But all of these (and most I have not named) are well-written and interesting enough to be memorable on their own, and really, what more can a reader ask from a collection of short stories?
So the long story short is: Fans of short stories are recommended to give Keen a try. Fans of Brian Keene shouldn't even need a direction as to what they need to rush to their computers to do.
4 Writers Exposing Aspects of Themselves (and Not in the Illegal Way) for Blood on the Page: The Complete Short Fiction of Brian Keene, Volume 1.