Autodidact: self-taught


Arcane II Anthology Review

by V. L. Craven

Arcane II Anthology cover

Title and editor: Arcane II: Twenty Weird and Unsettling Stories edited by Nathan Shumate

Genre: Weird Fiction

List of Stories and Authors:

“Fire and Flesh” by Michael Fletcher
“With You” by Ian Welke
“Tree Hugger” by Gef Fox
“Convention of Ekphrasis” by Libby Cudmore and Matthew Quinn Martin
“90-Day Limit” by Philip M. Roberts
“Hurricane Drunk” by Harry Markov
“Lakeshore Drive” by Joanna Parypinski
“Orpheus and Eurydice” by Miranda Ciccone
“Fate’s Mask” by Steve Toase
“Palace of Rats” by Anna Sykora
“The Pianist’s Wife” by Nicole M. Taylor
“Nightcrawlers” by Jean Graham
“In the Paint” by Michael Haynes
“Beneath the Surface” by Milo James Fowler
“The Beatification of Thomas Small, or How to Make a Saint” by Priya Sharma
“What It Means to Love” by Andrew Bourelle
“His City” by Craig Pay
“The Dubious Apotheosis of Baskin Gough” by Patrick S. McGinnity
“Triptych” by Adele Gardner
“The House That Wept Puddin’” by Eric Dimbleby
“The Last Laugh” by Brooke Miller

What led you to pick up the book? I’ve been reading Arthur Machen and Algernon Blackwood–classic weird fiction writers–and wanted to see what modern authors were doing. This seemed like a good place to start.

What stories did you like most? There was a nice mix of styles and time periods so it’s difficult to compare, but ‘The Pianist’s Wife’ by Nicole M. Taylor was a wonderful Victorian ghost story and was my absolute favourite. Followed closely by ‘The Beatification of Thomas Small, or How to Make a Saint’ by Priya Sharma, which was set during the Inquisition. It was excellently written and gave some insight into the psychology of Inquisitors. ‘Lakeshore Drive’ by Joanna Parypinski will tickle fans of the Inferno like myself. ‘Hurricane Drunk’ by Harry Markov was an interesting take on the Baba Yaga tale.

Were there any stories you disliked?  I’ve never been all that interested in what happens after humans nuke the hell out of each other, but even those stories were well done. Nothing was badly written and I didn’t feel like skipping any stories.

Overall rating: 9/10. The only quibble I had was the number of typos, which wasn’t an enormous amount, but enough that I noticed and it took me out of the story (ies) for a moment. If that sort of thing doesn’t bother you, it’s 10/10.

Further thoughts:  Shumate did an excellent job in terms of the ordering of the stories–there was a certain flow from one to the next even though the selections had such varied themes and time periods. This drew the collection together very well and isn’t the easiest thing to do.

On the subject of varied themes: there really was something for everyone from monsters to psychological torment to sci-fi-ish fantasy to post-apocalyptic survivor stories. It’d be a great introduction to weird fiction for someone because of the variety of themes. It’s also the sort of book I will probably re-read at some point.

And I loved the cover art, which was done by Nihil , who will be getting his own post soon. Cover art absolutely matters and this choice was excellent.

Halfway through Arcane II I went to the Cold Fusion Media site and got the five issues of Arkham Tales that were available for free. Because I need more of this fiction in my life and I trust Cold Fusion Media to choose good work. I had to go for the freebies at this point, because being unemployed really cuts into the book-buying budget, but I’ll definitely be picking up the first Arcane anthology and Shumate’s novella The Demon Cross .

I received a copy of this book to review, but was under no obligation to give a good review.

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