Anticipatory chills begin before the first words of the story. The Foreword by Steve Alten, author of the highly acclaimed Meg series, and the introduction by Joshua Viola, the editor and author of this collection, set the tone for these suspenseful stories that invite a curious blend of laughter, fear, and satisfaction.
These twenty stories by fifteen authors reflect a diversity in plot, character, setting, style and tone Some of these stories have elements of gore and horror, others are creepy, while others are humorous, and even charming. They all do have one thing in common — they successfully create suspense and, for the most part, an element of surprise either with with a plot twist or with shock value.
Themes explored include that of humanity and inhumanity – as with Stephen Graham Jones’ The Man Who Saved Texas and Maria Acevedo’s Zou Gou whose vision of the future creates a disquieting insight into mankind. Karma can be delicious and/or dark as seen in J.V. Kyle’s Fangs and Warren Hammond’s Delicioso – depending on which side you are on.
There are stories that teeter on the edge of reality, sometimes stepping out enough to create a though provoking discomfort, as in The Projectionist, by Jason Heller with its metaphor about creating and watching one’s life. Other stories are have a creepiness to them because they are staked in the ordinary. The Brollochan by Steve Rasnic Tem is filled with vivid descriptions and language that creates an uneasiness about a grandmother’s tiresome and unheeded warnings.
Humor – dark or otherwise – also find its place in this collection as with Viola’s The Librarian, where a conscientious librarian insists on great customer service to the peculiar patron and Edward Bryant’s Marginal Ha’nt’s, where delightful and witty protagonist, Charon Keene is unimpressed by mediocre hauntings.
The stories do range in potency and punch but overall they are all well written to set the tone effectively and create strong characters. The organization of the stories creates an effective discomfort in itself, with intense stories placed next to lighter stories, making it unclear just what response will be elicited, which adds to the effective emotional roller coaster ride and anticipation during reading.
Filled with stories that tickle the funny bone and send tremors down your spine, Nightmares – Unhinged keeps you guessing, thinking and . . . unsettled.