Book Review: Tales from the Lake Volume 5, edited by Kenneth W. Cain


Tales from the Lake Volume 5
edited by Kenneth W. Cain
Crystal Lake Publishing
November 2018
254 Pages

Review copy received from publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Crystal Lake Publishing is set to publish its most recent Tales from the Lake anthology this coming Friday, now up to Volume Number 5, and this one has some seriously fantastic offerings.

“From the Mouths of Plague-Mongers” by Stephanie M. Wytovich marks an emphatic, strong, and memorable way to open the anthology, and an unconventional choice given that it’s a poem.

“Umbilicus” by Lucy Taylor presented a story that, at the outset, I thought was about the promise of one character getting revenge on someone else but it became clear later on that it was about a father determined to find his missing child. It’s clear from the get-go that someone isn’t telling the truth, or at least not the complete truth as to what’s going on. The story ends on a note with the protagonist facing a horrid, unthinkable decision and has a note of the reader being left to figure out what happens for themselves.

“The Weeds and the Wildness Yet” by Robert Stahl is about a man struggling with the grief of his wife passing away and the family who tries to keep him grounded. Let’s just say that you’ll never look at a garden the same after reading this one.

In “The Color of Loss and Love” by Jason Sizemore, the Apex Magazine editor presents a story of a couple in what seems to be a post-apocalyptic setting with the husband communicating through a radio, or at least attempting to. They feel a responsibility to venture out to help a couple who are expecting a child. The husband, Francis, insists on constantly seeing monsters but his wife, Martha, claims he’s imagining things while encouraging him at the same time.

I quite enjoyed “A Dream Most Ancient and Alone” by Allison Pang about underwater horror with a ‘mudmaid’ who develops an odd friendship with a girl from camp that turns into much more.

“The Flutter of Silent Wings” by Gene O’Neill  seems like an homage to Shirley Jackson, which I found to be an interesting read.

One of my other favourite stories was “In the Family” by Lucy A. Snyder, which is told with an interesting narrative technique–it’s a character talking at the outset but without any quoted dialogue, and they’re talking so fast that I pictured it in my head like someone on fast-forward. As the story goes on and we learn more details, things become profoundly disturbing and the climax continues to build, revealing a Whatever Happened to Baby Jane type of scenario at the outset with a rivalry between twin sisters.  The main character definitely takes the reader on a ride and just when you think it can’t possibly get more disturbing, the gut punches land hard and fast making this one of the most memorable stories of this anthology.

Another favourite for me was “Dead Bodies Don’t Scream” by Michelle Ann King in which a girl forces her uncle to save her sister with magic, but things go awry. Really, really awry, with a horrible ending. It takes what you as the reader would expect from the ending and then finds a clever way to subvert that.

Once again, we get a fantastic double dose of Stephanie M. Wytovich, this time in the form of her short story “The Monster Told Me to.” The language, as ever, is bold and evocative. Bria returns to a town she hates and the feeling is mutual, but this time she seems sure that she’ll escape for good. It’s one of those surrealist stories where you’re not really sure what’s happened or if the character is imagining it (sort of). This is another tale with some hard gut punches that are difficult to take in but ultimately memorable.

Other tales I enjoyed included “The Loudest Silence” by Meghan Arcuri, which pretty much captures the mind of an anxious person to a tee and starts with an unnerving continuous beeping noise. It’s a short piece but it packs a huge wallop.

Overall, Tales from the Lake Volume 5 presents another solid anthology offering to continue this series from Crystal Lake Publishing, and it’s well worth checking out for horror readers.

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