Book review: Dark Cities – Anthology


Christopher Golden has assembled some A-grade writers for this anthology of speculative tales that sees horrors lurking deep within the city streets. I do like a themed anthology, and when authors such as Tim Lebbon, Jonathan Maberry, Joe R. Lansdale Kealan Patrick Burke and Seanan McGuire are included, it’s safe to say that I’m keen to explore the dark places their characters inhabit . I jumped around a little with this anthology, reading stories in a completely random order. I Don’t know why I did this as I don’t usually, but after the first couple of entries I started story hopping!

The first story is odd. No other way to describe it. Scott Smith’s novelette features talking dogs, beastiality and buckets of blood as a one night stand turns into something much more sinister. Hugely original and weird, I dug it to Hell and the anthology is off to a fine start. Tim Lebbon is one of my favourite writers and his story about a city that assimilates those that wander during the evening is both clever and unnerving. This is one of my absolute favourites in the anthology. It’s brilliant and very unusual.

A couple of bumps in the road with Helen Marshall’s story being one and Ramsey Campbell’s the other. Both didn’t really do much for me at all. Well-written? yes! but ultimately left me feeling a little deflated after a strong start. Similarly with the Lansdale story…it was just okay for me, I was expecting a little more I think and it didn’t set the pulse racing at all. So I continued, enjoying tales by M.R. Carey and Scott Seigler. The Seigler tale in particular is dark and kind of depressing, but very original and I liked it a lot. Grit by Jonathan Maberry is great, I mean can this guy write a bad short story? It follows a supernatural path with a fixer-type asked to investigate a disappearance. This guy uses the blood of the victims as ink for his tattoos, which in turn provides a sort of psychic link to them. Very dark, dirty and grimy, I loved it.

Elsewhere, Paul Tremblay’s The Society of the Monsterhood is pretty good but it was The Maw by Nathan Ballingrud that really worked for me with its desolate imagery and morbid atmosphere. Strong stories by Kealan Patrick Burke (another writer that never fails to deliver), Christopher Golden (who also edited the book) and Seanan McGuire follow. The final entry by Nick Cutter is stellar. It’s called The Crack and tells of a frustrated parent that can’t take anymore of his infant child’s crying. Why does the child only cry when he is alone in his room? Is it something to do with the malevolent crack in the wall and the strange noises? The crack in the wall grows ever bigger and so does the father’s frustrations in this uncomfortable but excellent story. This is a great tale to finish the anthology on. Horror should make you feel uneasy and the father’s thoughts about his child make for difficult reading. Top marks!

Overall, the calibre of the writers on offer means this ought to be a great read, and it is to a large extent. A couple of stories didn’t set my world on fire, but when it’s good, it’s very, very good indeed. Lebbon, MaBerry, Ballingrud and Cutter go home with top honours, but you may enjoy some of the other stories more. Mileage always varies with anthologies. As the title suggest, Dark Cities is pretty grim reading and may not be for everyone. There are many different voices and styles here that worked well for me and I have no reservation in recommending this book whatsoever.

4/5 poorly lit streets from the Grim Reader.

Pick up a copy from here.



5 Comments Add yours

  1. I have a copy of this for review. May need to get to it soon!


  2. Shane Keene says:

    Great review, Adrian. I’m only a couple stories in, oddly, doing the same thing as you and bouncing around the book. Something I never do but, for some reason, felt compelled to do with this. I haven’t read “Grit” but I can tell from your description that the protagonist is the same as the main character in “Mystic,” which was the first story in Peel Back the Skin. Loved it. I’m starting to get a sense that maybe Maberry’s gearing up to write a novel based on the same character.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I think you may be right there, my friend!


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