Title: Death’s Realm | Editors: Anthony Rivera & Sharon Lawson | Publisher: Grey Matter Press | Pub. Date: 2015-1-6 | Pages: 318 | ASIN: B00R5ACYAW | Genre: Horror | Language: English | Triggers: Some stories contain mention of child death | Rating: 4 out of 5 | Source: Received a copy from Grey Matter Press for review consideration
There’s something that awaits you on the road ahead, lurking in the darkness at the intersection between the Here and the Hereafter.
It’s at the crossroads of this existence and the next, where the forces of the Living and the Dead converge in a terrifying place known as Death’s Realm. And it’s here where armies from either side of the veil wage an everlasting battle in the struggle for control.
This is a volume containing sixteen stories of those wars by award-winning modern masters of the horror and speculative fiction genres.
“OMNISCOPIC” by Rhoads Brazos – Mankind has forever sought proof of existence beyond death. This terrifying Lovecraftian tales proves that sometimes the secrets of the universe are better left undiscovered.
“SOME OTHER DAY” by John F.D. Taff – Following the death of his mother, a boy goes to great lengths to maintain a relationship with his grief-stricken father, no matter the cost to all of mankind.
“HAUNTER” by Hank Schwaeble – Matthew has found love again after a tragic loss, but the nightmares of the past threaten his new reality and seem determined to repeat themselves.
“BURIAL SUIT” by John C. Foster – An ex-con embarks on a dangerous journey to ensure his dead father’s soul finds safe passage to eternity, risking his own in the process.
“NINE” by Aaron Polson – An anthropologist’s obsession with a lost civilization becomes strangely intertwined with the bizarre behavior of her two young sons.
“PENUMBRA” by Jay Caselberg – Newly dead, a young man is determined to reach across the veil to the woman he left behind, refusing to let death stand in the way of their true love.
“FOXHOLE” by JG Faherty – As the only survivors of a military unit engaged in a jungle battle, soldiers and childhood buddies stop at nothing to protect each other from the unseen enemy that pursues them.
“DROWNING” by Gregory L. Norris – Edgard miraculously escaped death when he survived the sinking of Titanic. Having made a new life for himself in America, a terrifying force threatens to drag him back to the dark and icy waters of the North Atlantic.
“THE WEIGHT” by Jane Brooks – Experiencing debilitating pain that has her at the edge of consciousness, a woman struggles with the events of her past in order to remain alive.
“HARDER YOU FALL” by Brian Fatah Steele – The ability to talk to the dead has provided Madeline a lavish lifestyle. Now, desiring something more, she must find a way to escape the influence of her dark mentor.
“MIRRORWORLD” by Martin Rose – All Jude needed was the signature of a Satanist on divorce papers. What he got instead was an untimely death and a tortured hereafter, thanks to some dangerous black magic.
“MARCH HAYS” by Matthew Pegg – When WWII leaves him wounded, Sam finds himself in a familiar place, where pleasant memories of his youth are darkened by a terrifying specter.
“HIGH ART” by Karen Runge and Simon Dewar – Raymond is living the life he always dreamed of now that his wife is out of the picture. But he quickly begins to question whether divorce would have been less painful.
“A PIRATE’S RANSOM” by Jay O’Shea – Somali pirates discover a disabled, abandoned freighter adrift in the warm waters of the Arabian Sea, yet it is mysteriously covered in ice. They soon realize they should have let this opportunity pass them by.
“TO TOUCH THE DEAD” by Paul Michael Anderson – When our possessions are all that remain of our existence, future psychics from the People’s History Project are employed to catalog the energy we’ve left behind, with horrifying consequences.
“YOU ONLY DIE ONCE” by Stephen Graham Jones – There are no pearly gates or angels on high to welcome the dead into the afterlife. Instead there is only mysterious rooms, filthy shadows and terrifying beings.
Death’s Realm Review
Death’s Realm is one of the best horror anthologies I’ve read. There was no story I hated, and several that I loved. I think that the editors did a fantastic job with not only the selection of the stories, but also their placement. Too many times it seems like all the best stuff is at the beginning and the end of one of these books, with middle being a unimaginative slog. I also felt like the pacing and tension of Death’s Realm stories were consistent throughout. My favorite stories were Omniscopic, Some Other Day, Mirrorworld, and To Touch the Dead. I knew going into Omniscopic that I was in for a treat, having read Devil’s Trill by Rhoads Brazos in the past. I was familiar with only a few other writers in the anthology besides him.
Overall, I’m very pleased with Death’s Realm, and would definitely recommend it for people wanting a well-edited, excellently curated anthology. The fact that this one just happens to come from a small press is just a bonus.
For specific thoughts and ratings on the individual stories, please see below.
Omniscopic by Rhoads Brazos – I was simultaneously intrigued, disgusted, curious, and horrified. Holy crap. If something like knowing those little mites you can’t see are burrowing into your follicles, then this is the type of story you don’t want to read. Because you’ll itch, shiver, and shudder in repulsion for some time afterward. Trust me on this. Gah. 5/5
Some Other Day by John F.D. Taff – I had no idea where this one was going. None! So when I finally did clue in, it was at the very end, and I definitely had a “Holy crap!”moment. Grief and belief can do amazing things. 5/5
Haunter by Hank Schwaeble – This was a well-written tale of insanity, but the dead baby card just doesn’t ever do it for me. 4/5
Burial Suit by John C. Foster – My least favorite so far, but still rife with atmosphere and imagery that burns itself across your brain. I liked the noir-ish feel, and was surprised by the ending! 4/5
Nine by Aaron Polson – The first story in the series that has done nothing for me. I even reread it, and it just leaves me completely blank. Wasn’t a bad read, just wasn’t a good one. 3/5
Penumbra by Jay Caselberg – More interesting than the last one, but unlike the first few, I knew immediately where this was going so there was no real surprise. Did like the small twist at the end, though. 4/5
Foxhole by JG Faherty – See notes on previous story. Same thing. 4/5
Drowning by Gregory L. Norris – I liked this this one. It went kind of where I was epecting, but not exactly. The atmosphere was fantastic. A solid read. 4/5
The Weight by Jane Brooks – I don’t know what I think about this.It’s very well-written, and definitely made me sympathize with the main character, but at the same time, something about it just puts me off a little bit. 3/5
Harder You Fall by Brian Fatah Steele – While there were some predictable elements to this, I still really liked it. I definitely didn’t see the twist on the monster coming. 4/5
Mirrorworld by Martin Rose – Holy crap! This was disturbing and fascinating and well written and well done! I loved that ending! 5/5
March Hays by Matthew Pegg – I didn’t like this one as much. I guess the “oh, look, he/she was really here the whole time!” just gets old quick. Well-written, but boring nonetheless. 3/5
High Art by Karen Runge and Simon Dewar – There was a line in this that bugged me. “Even her snores were sensual somehow”. Snoring is a sign of a narrowing or obstruction of some part of the airway while you’re breathing. It is not sensual. It’s a sign of a medical issue. That aside – this was a delightfully twisted little tale that almost made my gorge rise. 4/5
A Pirate’s Ransom by Jay O’SHea – Eh, it was okay. Nothing more to say. 3/5
To Touch the Dead by Paul Michael Anderson – This reminded me a bit of Chris Chesler’s The Kalbrandt Institute Archives. It’s well-told and imagined. I wanted to know more even as I was perfectly content with what I was given. 5/5
You Only Die Once by Stephen Graham Jones – Well, this, the final entry into the Death’s Realm Anthology, leaves me with a solid case of “What in the world did I just read?” Its disturbing and imaginative and I think I’ll probably read it again before I write up my official review, just to see if I missed something I should have caught. 4/5