SINS OF THE SIRENS - 2008
by John Everson
There are shades and levels of Horror Thriller, but even with that said, there are some stories that just aren't dark enough to be Horror Thriller, yet clearly are too dark for drama. Into this category is the nebulous notion of dark fiction and since that form of literature exists, is often written by Goth-y Horror writers in a relatively optimistic mood*, and as it has its place among us, I feel I must make comment. That and John Everson asked me if I would review his book!
(*as opposed to full blown drunk, philosophical as hell, and happily related to every freaking person on the face of the earth. I've been to those conventions: I know!)
SINS OF THE SIRENS features Loren Rhoads, Maria Alexander, Mehitobel Wilson, and Christa Faust. I'll be covering their work in that order.
ANGEL'S LAIR is a love story between immortals: the Angel out of Heaven, Azariel, and Lorelei the succubus. Actually, mytho' speaking, Lorelei wasn't a succubus (Italian) but a German Rhine Maiden who lured sailors to their death along the Rhine river and right at the junction of the river where the jutting 120 meter promontory that still bears her name, exists to this day. Anyway, she is here in Roman myth form which should also make her a transsexual, since Lorelei is really a male demon come to tempt men in the guise of a woman, have sex with them and drain them of their souls (and according to later myth, their sperm as well - thus the Roman Catholic religion accused deformed babies of being demon spawn and the Mothers as witches). He/She was big on the killing fields of Roman battles where she/he nipped from dying soldier to dying soldier, rutting on them before they died. Later on, s/he entered the dreams of pious monks: the bane of nocturnal emissions. Succubi get around. In Rhoads' case though, Lorelei is all woman and out to make an angel fall. What this really is though, is a dark fantasy tale of romance.
In STILL LIFE WITH BROKEN GLASS, Sherry is a Junior at college who is so narcissistic that she feels murderous, smoldering outrage at anyone who doesn't place her on a pedestal. Her problem is, she hooked up with a guy who shares her sense of self: Jacob is totally all about him, and you can see where this story is leading in the first two pages. The addition of a third character, Lily, and her own curious personality, is the only thing that gives interest to what could have been a self-rightous and monotonous tale.
SOUND OF IMPACT is strict drama involving a woman contemplating infidelity with an old flame. There is nothing dark about this tale, though it is still good.
LAST BORN is the last of Loren's tales and the best. I'll admit it was more than dark desire, it is a solid horror thriller departure from Loren's previous tales. Though this book is not supposed to be a Horror Thriller anthology, I appreciated this story the most because it was.
Maria Alexander enters the room to tell her tales and takes the rest of the antho to decidedly dark territory. If this book was a swimming pool at night, then where Rhoads sat on the steps, Maria walks through the shallows toward the deep end.
PINNED tells the tale of Alyssa, a woman who leaps into the arms of her best friend's ex on the very same day they broke up. Alyssa is into pain. Getting cut, punctured, and sliced by sharp objects is the only thing that gets her off. Folks with less repressed ideas about sex; those who enjoy sex for the pleasure it is, are considered vanilla by Alyssa's taste and that opinion means they're somehow less than she is. But Pinned is more than a tale about sexual proclivities with accessories. There is magic, both good and evil here. There are broken hearts and betrayal and a sex magic that is neither good or bad that can be used as a tool for vengeance.
THE DARK RIVER IN HIS FLESH takes us back to 1800/1900 England and all of the repression and filth of London at that time. Richard Brooke mourns the death of his lover, Lillian. But being a stalwart citizen of London, he cannot tell anyone of his grief, for Lillian was also Mrs. Algernon Simms, and their relationship was adulterous. Thus, with his sin, guilt, secrets, and grief, he is ripe picking for those who would collect souls.
THE LAST WORD - Albert has a book that he writes in. And sometimes the book writes back. And what it writes is advice. But it is up to Albert to follow that advice or his own counsel. His choices make the tale.
Swimming in the deep end of this nighttime pool is Mehitobel Wilson. I've long admired her work on the very rare occasions when I've had the chance to read it (easier to find Osama bin Laden!). I've never had the opportunity to review her work for this website but now I do.
HEAVY HANDS is the tale of Jason, who has so isolated himself from human contact that he imagines the feel of loving hands on his body even when they aren't there. Or is it his imagination?
CLOSE is the tale of another man who has intentionally isolated himself from human contact. The difference between Thad and Jason is, Thad is a voyeur who enjoys pushing the edge, to get as close as he can, to spy on other people having sex. This is the kind of person Thad is, and maybe a little more.
THE WILD is a third tale that continues the theme of people who purposefully isolate themselves from others. Cath left the big city for the small town easiness of Savannah, Georgia. Cath misses the person she used to be, tough, outspoken, strong. But since she caught something, she left the big city to come to a place where she can start a new life: A different life. What she is really doing is screwing herself down toward psychological nothingness where death is the only outlet. But inside her remains a bit of the Cath from the old days: A Cath who misses The Wild.
We leave Mehitobel with PARTING JANE, the tale of a young girl who was born to be a living spare parts machine for her sickly sister.
If Mehitobel was swimming in the dark deep end, Christa Faust is walking along its bottom. Its all Horror from here on in.
LOVE, LA LLORONA is about Maxine. An outgoing, extroverted party girl who has hooked herself up with a computer geek, who is smaller than herself, in every way. On this day, Maxine has bought a cheap DVD movie from one of the outdoor stalls of Mexico City. The movie is pretty lame by any standard, and yet...
FIREBIRD - Ivy discovers that the death of her heroin lover, Nita, is more complicated than it seems. Nita didn't die by the bite, but by something much worse. Something secretive. It is called the Firebird. Nobody knows what it is, not even the people who dispense it. But it is the ultimate drug short of death, if you can survive it.
TIGHTER - Persephone does the show in Las Vegas. She gets tied up in her show, and amazingly escapes. She also likes getting tied up in real life, but there she still escapes. So she goes looking for the one who can keep her from escaping. One who knows how to tie her up, Tighter.
In truth, I enjoyed all of these stories. I have to admit though that editor John Everson definitely saved the strongest for last. Rhoads and Alexander traveled well written, but safe waters, where Wilson and Faust took chances on flying leaps of imagination, dangerous and unsafe. Especially unsafe with their choices of endings, which I never expected all the way to the end.
I also have to admit that John was looking for Tales of Dark Desire, which was largely delivered. Wilson and Faust went beyond Dark Desire into Thrills and Horror and twisted though logical endings. I may have been expected to review SINS OF THE SIRENS only on the merits of Dark Fantasy - but this is a Horror Thriller website, not a Dark Fantasy website. John knew that going in so...
All told this anthology is cool as sharp glass and as hot as pain. If you don't recognize yourself in at least some of these tales, maybe you need to get out more.
This review copyright 2008 E.C.McMullen Jr.
Return to Story Time