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Weird Tales #364 Review

Featuring stories by Seanan McGuire, Dacre Stoker & Leverett Butts, Joe R. Lansdale, Marguerite Reed, Rena Mason, Tim Waggoner, Gabrielle Faust, Weston Ochse, Lee Murray, Marie Whittaker, and Gregory Frost, with dark poetry by Linda Addison and Alessandro Manzetti, Weird Tales #364 is an unthemed issue of horror stories ranging from flash to multi-page pieces.

Weird Tales #364

Weird Tales #364 | Edited by: Jonathan Maberry | Pub. Date: 2020-Dec-1 | Pages: 82 | ASIN:
B08R5QG42F | Language: English | Unstarred Review | Source: We received a copy from one the authors for review consideration

Weird Tales #364 Review

We’re going to go straight into brief thoughts on each story, and then wrap up overall thoughts at the end.

Too Late Now by Seanan McGuire – There’s just something about plant-based eco-fiction that makes a reader sit up and pay attention. From Death World by Harry Harrison (which, to be fair, isn’t just about plants trying to kill you, to the delightful, thought-inducing world of Sue Burke’s Semiosis, and of course the well-known Area X trilogy from Jeff VanderMeer, authors love to play in this particular garden and readers like this one are happy to sample the fruits.

McGuire strikes a particularly fun note with the line “it was dismissed as a particularly healthy spring, and if spring didn’t usually involve the bookshelves and museum exhibits bursting into bloom, well, that was nothing to worry about.” And the further the casual introduction to this new world goes, the more unsettling it becomes, but then the story flips, and, as it so often tends to do, becomes not about the Invaders but about how humans are the real monsters. This really works for some people, obviously, or it wouldn’t keep being a thing, but is almost always a disappointment for me.

Ellende by Gregory Frost – Frost has done a great job of creating a man so abhorrent in his every action and speech that as a reader the urge to reach inside the page and slap him upside his head is a veritable itch under the skin, but it makes the final line of the story so extremely satisfying. Even though the time period is not one that I usually enjoy, it was easy to get immersed in this quick tale.

The Legend of Lightning Lizzie by Marie Whittaker – A piece of flash that steps us through an urban legend. It was okay.

The Beguiled Grave by Marguerite Reed – Reed does a great job in setting the scene with all the senses, and the fight that happens early on is easy to visualize and barroom brawl dirty. I found myself both pitying and admiring the main character by turns, and I was interested in the story even though tales that lean toward fantasy are very hit or miss for me.

My biggest problem is this: There’s a tendency to large words that the average reader won’t be familiar with, though the basic meaning can be parsed in most cases. Having to stop and look up a few of these did take me out of the story repeatedly. Keeping the reader in the story is worth exchanging pretty words for simpler ones. Still though, I would read more from this author!

To the Marrow by Rena Mason – I might have liked this story, but it was damned hard to read and so I ended up skimming it. Why? Because of white text over whole pages of greens, yellows, purples. Because of large chunks of italics as well as of capslock. I blame none of this on the author, but I just couldn’t focus on this story long enough to read it with all the eyesore that was happening.  What I did read of it looked interesting.

Feathers by Tim Waggoner – This was a fun piece of flash and I nearly gagged when the character did. I think one of those where it’s more fun to not have an explanation because you’re forced to fill in the negative space yourself.

The Last War by Linda D. Addison – Still not a fan of text over colors, but at least in this one the colors are all darkish and complementary so it’s easier to read. This was a fun read filled with vivid imagery and I loved the lines

“The mistake lies in separating Gaia from the goddess of death,
in believing humans could destroy forever […]”

Last Days by Dacre Stoker and Leverett Butts – The original story was okay. This is okay. Really nothing more to say.

No One Ever Survives the Beach by Weston Ochse – This had me cackling from the moment I read the words Mount Covfefe (which should be enough to tell you what (and I use ‘what’ deliberately) is getting skewered. The choice of the banana slug in the illustration was perfect. This is a completely ridiculous work that you’ve got to read.

Hats by Joe R. Lansdale – This felt like it was written for a very young audience, with the inescapable feel of “This should be a (dark) picture book.” Simple idea, easy execution. Not a bad read, but jarring considering the more adult feel of the other stories.

Trailer Park Nightmare by Gabrielle Faust – The sort of flash that makes you cringe and imagine all the terror that’s bound to come after it. It cuts off at the perfect moment and is chock full of tentacly goodness. More, please.

The Good Wife by Lee Murray – We love Lee’s work. She always brings New Zealand flavor to her stories, and are very satisfying. This was no exception. Basically from the get-go I was rooting for the wife to not be the good wife and I felt so bad for as the story commenced. Luckily, the right people get what’s coming to them, but that’s all I’m going to say about that.

Content warnings:

animal death & human stillbirth

The Canal by Alessandra Manzetti – This was okay. Manzetti has a few lines that brim with imagery. I preferred Addison’s The Last War, but poetry is, I think, the most subjective of anything to read.

Overall, I wasn’t thrilled by Weird Tales #364 and based on my experience with this read, cannot say that I would willingly pick up another issue. While some of the stories were interesting, the layout was–to me–not reader friendly and there were more pieces that missed with me than hit.

Published inHorror Book ReviewsShort StoriesUnstarred Reviews

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