Orphans of Bliss edited by Mark Matthews

Review by Brennan LaFaro

Following on the heels of Garden of Fiends and Lullabies for Suffering, Mark Matthews presents the third and final installment in his series of Addiction Horror anthologies. I’ve shouted my love for Lullabies since its release, and both eagerly anticipated this volume, while also worrying it might not live up to my lofty expectations.

Fear not, because this entry truly stands up to the precedent set by the books before it. Matthews eschews the novella-length stories this time around in favor of a well-rounded group of authors at their very best. At their root, these anthologies have always felt very grounded in the human experience, presenting addiction as an illness that befalls a three-dimensional character, rather than an evil character trait. The stories included within continue that tradition of fully-fleshed out characters under extraordinary duress.

Frequent contributors Kealan Patrick Burke and John F.D. Taff are back. Burke introduces the group of stories in style with “You Wait For It, Like It Waits For You”. Taff’s contribution, “Huddled Masses, Yearning to Breathe Free” is among the strongest and most memorable stories in the anthology, proving once more his mastery of short fiction. While the anthology contains no weak links, some of my favorites included Samantha Kolesnik’s “Buyer’s Remorse”, Christa Carmen’s “Through the Looking Glass and Straight Into Hell”, and Josh Malerman’s “A Solid Black Lighthouse on a Pier in the Cryptic”.

Appropriately, the collection ends with Mark Matthews “My Soul’s Bliss”. This grandmaster of ceremonies closes the door softly and tenderly on his way out, placing the cap on a necessary and heartrending series. Readers of Garden and Lullabies will find a lot to peak their interest within these pages. Readers unfamiliar with Matthews’ work will find top-tier stories from some of the most exciting names in modern horror.

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