Book review – Dark Bits edited by Jacob Haddon
Dark Bits from Apokrupha Press, is a collection of 52 (+1!) horror flash fictions, including my story ‘Photograph (V)’.
When I started reading this collection, I was keeping note of my particular favourite stories as I went along – until I noticed that I’d quickly filled a page with titles. Because there are so many stories in this anthology, there’s bound to be something to please all readers – it runs the full gamut of horror, from bizarro and body horror through ghost stories to unsettling tales so subtle and barely supernatural that you’re hard-pressed to put a finger on exactly why they unnerve you.
There’s a lot of domesticity – dark shadows falling upon the suburban lives of heterosexual husbands and wives (saying that, my own story also features suburban mundanity…) and most frequently, protagonists facing life after a family member has died. It would have been nice to see a wider variation of theme across the anthology as a whole, but that’s about the biggest nit-pick I can offer for a book that is on the whole so strong.
A few of the stories fall a bit flat for me personally, some relying a heavily on shock value – although this of course, is just down to my personal taste. A couple, similarly, don’t really go anywhere. But these are few and far between in what is a very entertaining collection. And now I’m going to list a few of my personal favourites (which will contain spoilers!)
There’s not enough good vampire fiction out nowadays, now that it’s fallen out of fashion, but ‘The Delivery’ is cute and funny and ‘A Straightforward procedure’ is another effective new angle on the vampire myth.
‘The Long Haul’ is beautifully written, with a sadness that reminds me a little of some of Roald Dahl’s airforce stories. ‘Crab Feast’ is a well written, well characterised and believably grim vignette with a twist I didn’t immediately see coming. ‘The Ones that Shine’ is very nasty, truly creepy, but so nicely written I was quite taken in. ‘Their favourite thing’ is brilliantly written, imaginative and vivid – an excellent concept. ‘The lying dead’ has a strong character voice, powerful message and a great last line. ‘AM radio’ is eerie and atmospheric, with shades of a modern Lovecraft tale. ‘That’s showbusiness’ is clever, imaginative sci-fi with a cracking final line. ‘Lost’ is one of those only vaguely-horror-tinged, real-life tales that even so manage to make the reader very anxious. ‘Promise kept’ is subtle, nicely written and quite touching – I didn’t guess the twist until the punch-line was delivered.
I’m very much looking forward to the next Apokrupha release after reading ‘Dark Bits’, which you can buy here.