Dark Stars edited by John F.D. Taff

Review by Brennan LaFaro

Horror is having a moment. So says Josh Malerman, in one of the most memorable forewords a horror anthology has contained in recent memory.


Dark Forces, edited by Kirby McCauley, was a formative anthology for many modern writers. It showcased huge horror authors of its day, some of whom were already household names and some of whom would become so. Dark Forces showed that horror was to be taken seriously as a genre, no longer a red-headed stepchild to be hidden in the darkest corner of the bookstore.


With Dark Stars, John F.D. Taff takes the idea a step further and, because horror is having a moment, Taff sets out to show the versatility of this genre. What better place to start than with Caroline Kepnes, an author who most know for writing psychological thrillers, but the material contained in her novels, and certainly the material on display in “The Attentionist” put elements of the genre on display at their base. Ramsey Campbell’s entry follows, and how incredible to feature a story from one of the original contributors to Dark Forces. Campbell’s story serves as a torch passed from one generation to the next.


One of this anthology’s many strengths is the adherence to the novelette form. The authors are not constrained to wordcount and in many cases (Langan, Llewellyn, and Malerman come to mind) the story is allowed to spread its wings and thrives for the opportunity. While I won’t go through story by story, rest assured that John Taff has assembled a collection with no misses. Every story has something to add to the conversation, a moment.


As with any group of stories, some will resonate stronger with a reader than others. Some of my favorites contained within were Alma Katsu’s “The Familiar’s Assistant”, John F.D. Taff’s “Swim in the Blood of a Curious Dream”, Josh Malerman’s “Mrs. Addison’s Nest”, John Langan’s “Enough for Hunger and Enough for Hate”, and “Trinity River’s Blues” by Chesya Burke.


It’s not hard to imagine horror writers in twenty years, thirty years, citing this anthology as the book that opened up a world of possibilities for what horror can do, how it can affect, and how deep it can cut.


Horror is having a moment. It’s hard not to agree with Mr. Malerman.

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