Disclaimer: Review copy purchased online
Description: Master short story author Lucy A. Snyder is back with a dozen chilling, thought-provoking tales of Lovecraftian horror, dark science fiction, and weird fantasy. Her previous two collections received Bram Stoker Awards and this one offers the same high-caliber, trope-twisting prose. Snyder effortlessly creates memorable monsters, richly imagined worlds and diverse, unforgettable characters.
Open this book and you’ll find a garden of stories as dark and heady as black roses that will delight fans of complex, intelligent speculative fiction.
“That Which Does Not Kill You” reveals a protagonist who wakes up with her chest carved out. It would be difficult to describe the rest of this story except to say that this isn’t the first time the protagonist has faced such a plight, and although I was not quite sure what to expect from the ending, it ended a lot differently and on a more uplifting note than I would have predicted. This story was an excellent way to start off this collection.
Next, we move on to “Sunset on Mott Island,” which I remembered reading in another anthology, and remembered that it left me reeling from the impact the first time. It is a great story.
“The Gentleman Caller” is a fantastic story as well, telling the tale of a character with a disability who is wheelchair-bound. Without giving away the shock of her profession, let’s just say it’s pretty much the last thing you’d expect from someone like her. The story only gets more interesting as it goes on, and it takes so many unexpected and inventive directions that you’ll be breathless by the end. The protagonist has some very interesting pathways to face, and the story’s message seems a testament to that old saying about how just because the grass seems greener on the other side, does not always mean that is true. Meanwhile, “Executive Functions” is a wonderful Lovecraftian revenge fantasy for anyone who has ever had a horrid, testosterone-fueled boss.
My favourite short story of this collection is, without a doubt, “The Yellow Death.” While it’s true that we’ve very much more than been there and done that with apocalyptic horror short stories, and even more so with vampires, Snyder manages to make both seem fresh in this story that originally appeared in the phenomenally good vampire anthology, Seize the Night, edited by horror legend Christopher Golden. A sinister twist starts off this alternating timeline story, flashing forward between past and present, and basically, if you miss Theo from The Haunting of Hill House, you’ll love this compelling tale.
The next stories, including “Santa Muerte,” “Dark of the Moon,” “Fraeternal,” and “Blossoms Blackened Like Dead Stars” take on a decidedly more science fiction bent to their horror for those who enjoy that in their short stories, while “A Noble Endeavour” marked another standout in the collection for me, chronicling the story of a female slave with an artificial leg whose owner demands that she assist Doctor Bronson, only he’s not the kind of doctor you might think. Things get creepier and more unsettling as the story goes on until we veer into an innovative Lovecraftian direction.
Overall, this marks another strong offering from Lucy Snyder on the short fiction spectrum with a horror collection that more than delivers on a quality of unparalleled excellence. There’s something in here for readers with diverging tastes, and even a high fantasy tale that demonstrates the breadth of the author’s talents. Do yourself a favour and pick up Garden of Eldritch Delights.