Anomalies & Curiosities Book Review
Category: Spooky Read
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Rating: 4/5 Stars
Let me preface this by saying I'm incredibly squeamish and therefore the perfect audience for medical horror. Horror isn't my usual genre, but I appreciate its tropes and purpose in literature.
Anthologies are always tricky to review, because you're dealing with so many different author voices and it's inevitable that people will like some tales better than others. That said, this anthology has clear, similar themes throughout that give the book a cohesive tone. Overall, it's dark, gritty, gory, filled with madness and despair, unreliable narrators, villains as protagonists—you know, good ol' fashioned horror.
Many of the tales deal with asylum inmates and crazed doctors, as one would expect of medical horror. So if you're at all a fan of Frankenstein, Silence of the Lambs, H.P. Lovecraft, or Ratcheted, you're sure to find an eerie tale in this anthology you'll like (er, be terrified by?).
A couple stories stand apart from these themes, and I enjoyed them all the more for their novelty. "Ill Wind" by R. A. Busby calls to mind a sinister Mark Twain, where all the humor has been replaced by ominous foreboding that simply oozes from the pages. I was also a huge fan of "Unveiling" by Brad Acevedo, which took a detour into dark fantasy and hinted at a post-apocalyptic world overrun by vampiric creatures that put 30 Days of Night to shame. Another tale, "The Cannibal and the Barber" by Spyder Collins, also exceeded my expectations with an oddly romantic twist to a gory tale (a bit a la Sweeney Todd).
However, it certainly would not be a collected whole without the similar themes holding it together. Two stories, "Transfusion" by David Andrews and "The Leeches Will Lead Us" by Jeremy Megargee, were just as disturbing as one would expect of tales drenched in blood. Both protagonists are doctors with quite uncanny notions of how to heal the world, and their disturbances are far more effective than the gore they're built on.
Continuing the theme of crazy doctors, we cannot leave out the protags of "Embryo" by Nick Petrou or "The Madness of Hope" by Roland Garrety. These doctors are insane on a sympathetic Jeckyll or Frankenstein level, made monstrous by love gone too far.
I also appreciate the number of stories that deal with female "hysteria" and mistreatment during the 1800s and even later. Cassandra Thompson's "Merciful," Marie Casey's "Shadows," and "Women in the White Cottage" by Rebecca Jones-Howe are chilling for their basis in reality and their subtle, insidious implications of a society that views women as less than human.
All in all, this is definitely a winner for the horror community, and (speaking as someone who prefers fantasy) a haunting plethora to dip your toes into if you're a non-horror fan wanting to explore darker themes. A caution to ye fellow squeamish readers: this anthology does not skimp on gore or human depravity, so make sure you're prepared for what you're about to dive into.
Interested in this book? You can snag a copy over on the Quill & Crow website—if you dare.