Behold! Oddities, Curiosities and Unidefinable Wonders is Crystal Lake Publishing’s BIG anthology for 2017. It features an all-star cast of writers from all over the world, including Neil Gaiman, Bentley Little, Lisa Morton, and Clive Barker to name a few. Last year saw Crystal Lake and editor Doug Murano compile Gutted: Beautiful Horror Stories; an incredibly well-balanced, thoughtful collection that featured some breathtaking tales. I had high hopes for this anthology due to the familiar cast and the editing skills of Murano. I love the books I’ve read from Crystal Lake Publishing so far this year, unfortunately, this book didn’t quite hit the mark for me, with more than a few of the tales washing over me, leaving me feeling underwhelmed.
I think a lot of people will like this, due in part to its all-star cast and the tales by Barker and Gaiman are both very good. Barker’s novelette, in particular, I thought was great: very visceral, gruesome and well-written. I have never read any of the Books of Blood but this story made me want to change that. I also loved the opening story by Lisa Morton. The tale of a woman who finds a couple of old photographs in an antique store. She begins to see some of the odd characters from the photos in her everyday life and things get a bit weird, it is very cool and I really enjoyed it. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder with Brian Kirk’s tale, Wildflower, Cactus, Rose, another very good entry. I need to check out more of Kirk’s work. I’ve never read anything by Hal Bodner before but his tale of a baker that literally puts a little bit of himself into everything he creates was also pretty interesting and humorous. The first of two poems by Stephanie M. Wytovich goes through the looking-glass at the freaks and monsters of a carnival bizarre. Very good indeed and it breaks up the anthology nicely.
Elsewhere, John F.D. Taff blew me away with his story about a Golem and a Nazi POW camp. Yes! you read that right. This is a touching tale that only Taff can write and I absolutely loved it! The anthology finishes on a high with Hiraeth, by Richard Thomas- an author whose stories I always look forward to reading.
Unfortunately, too many of the other stories did little for me, there were a few I felt plodded along, incorporating supernatural elements, but didn’t really reflect the anthologies theme enough or set my pulse racing. So, all in all, a bit of a mixed bag for me. I do think that fans of weird fiction will enjoy this perhaps more so than fans of traditional horror stories, and I think I will be amongst the minority with this review, but for this reader, BEHOLD! Oddities, Curiosities and Unidefinable Wonders is a solid but unspectacular book. Each story does contain great artwork from Luke Spooner and there are some treasures to be found, so pick up a copy and make up your own mind.
A middling 3/5 thrift store purchases from the Grim Reader.
Pick up a copy from here.