‘Screams from the Dark’: an anthology that left me with VERY mixed feelings

October 27, 2022

TITLE: Screams from the Dark: 29 Tales of Monsters and the Monstrous
EDITOR: Ellen Datlow
GENRE: Horror
PAGES: 479pg
PUBLISHER: Tor Nightfire

From werewolves and vampires, to demons and aliens, the monster is one of the most recognizable figures in horror. But what makes something, or someone, monstrous?

Award-winning and up-and-coming authors like Richard Kadrey, Cassandra Khaw, Indrapramit Das, Priya Sharma, and more attempt to answer this question. These all-new stories range from traditional to modern, from mainstream to literary, from familiar monsters to the unknown … and unimaginable.

This chilling collection has something to please—and terrify—everyone, so lock your doors, hide under your covers, and try not to scream.

Contributors include: Ian Rogers, Fran Wilde, Gemma Files, Daryl Gregory, Priya Sharma, Brian Hodge, Joyce Carol Oates, Indrapramit Das, Siobhan Carroll, Richard Kadrey, Norman Partridge, Garry Kilworth, Caitlín R. Kiernan, Chikodili Emelumadu, Glen Hirshberg, A. C. Wise, Stephen Graham Jones, Kaaron Warren, Livia Llewellyn, Carole Johnstone, Margo Lanagan, Joe R. Lansdale, Brian Evenson, Nathan Ballingrud, Cassandra Khaw, Laird Barron, Kristi DeMeester, Jeffrey Ford, and John Langan.

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I’m sad to say what a relief it was to finally finish this anthology, but it felt like it dragged on for years, and that has nothing to do with the page count.

While there were a few stories I really loved, absolute diamonds in the rough, I mostly strongly disliked this collection. I’ve read a lot of Ellen Datlow’s edited anthologies over the years and I usually love them, so I’m not sure why this one didn’t connect with me. I finally had to commit myself to a goal of reading at least one story per day just to finally finish it, and even allowed myself to DNF a few of the pieces (which I almost never do with short story collections!).

That said, I’d like to focus on the silver lining of the 5-star reads that I adored and highly recommend:

• Wet Red Grin — Gemma Files:
The magic and monstrosity in this story had me on the very edge of my seat. Something about vicious elderly folks will always chill me to my core (perhaps because of the idea that someone who has had so many decades to hone their hatred might wield it much more powerfully?), and this was a brilliant example of it.

• The Virgin Jimmy Peck — Daryl Gregory:
I snickered throughout this entire story, loving the bizarre, campy direction it took all the while. If you liked the film ‘Satanic Panic’, I highly recommend this short story.

Children of the Night — Stephen Graham Jones:
I’m forever a sucker for SGJ’s short stories and this was delightful. I don’t think Stephen gets enough love for the level of ridiculousness and dark humor he infuses some of his shorts with, and this was maybe the most comical of his work I’ve read yet. Bigfoot hunters are a wild bunch.

What is Meat with No God? — Cassandra Khaw:
Cass is another author I was already smitten with before this collection, and I was so eager to reach their contribution. Khaw’s writing style is so distinctive and unique, and this is easily the oddest thing I’ve read from them yet, but as I expected, it’s also full of so much heart and lore. I would eagerly read an entire novella about the body and how it came into being.

Burial — Kristi DeMeester:
I have an exceptional fondness for stories of abuse survivors of all kinds, getting their power back and moving on with their lives, and this was a very eerie, unique, and witchy play on that theme. Mara’s love for her little sister and devotion to the idea of finding a happier life for them, mingled with the genuinely unsettling thing that Mara’s rage conjures up… I loved every moment.

Unfortunately, only 5 stories out of 29 received 5 stars from me. While a few more were still very enjoyable (honorable mentions to Here Comes Your Man by Indrapramit Das, Crick Crack Rattle Tap by A.C. Wise, and The Smell of Waiting by Kaaron Warren), this means that 21 out of 29 stories ranged from slightly boring to entirely unlikeable for me. Given that I gave 3/4 of the collection 3 stars or less (and several stories only 1 star), I can’t recommend this anthology as a whole or justify giving it a higher rating than 2 stars overall.

Thank you to the publisher for the review copy! All thoughts are honest and my own.

content warnings →

violence, murder, gore, child death, parent/caretaker death, grief, parental abuse, sexual assault, PTSD, fatphobia, ableism, and more

representation →


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More about Destiny @ Howling Libraries

Just a horror aficionado/geek girl trying to juggle motherhood, reading, blogging, gaming, and everyday life.

    1. I’ve had mixed results with some of the Datlow anthologies so I understand.

    1. Oh shoot, I’m sorry this didn’t work out. But all 5 of the stories you loved are favorite authors of mine, so it’s tempting to grab this anyway.

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