Title: All in Fear
Authors: Roan Parrish, Kris Ripper, KJ Charles, Steve Berman, Avon Gale, and J.A. Rock
Publisher: Open Ink Press
Length: 245 Pages
Category: Horror, Dark Fantasy
At a Glance: All in Fear is a fantastic collection of dark and intriguing storytelling, with some lovely twists and some twisted lovelies, just in time to bring a little horror to the holidays.
Reviewed By: Lisa
Blurb: Horror wears many faces and its masks can be tantalizing. Some of the top names in queer fiction come together to spin their own versions of horror. Worlds rife with dark beauty and mystery, the familiar becoming terrible, creatures ethereal and alluring—and all bearing the gleam of love. Does hope lie along these grim passages or only doom? It will become clear. All in time—and all in fear.
Company by Roan Parrish
Nick Levy’s family is falling apart and he has no friends but at least he can escape into the world of his favorite comic book series, The Face of the Vampire. Naturally, when the vampire in question shows up one day, Nick is enthralled. After all, what could be better than his own personal fantasy made real? Except that Nick isn’t exactly sure whether Michel is real or not. And when the arrival of a new boy in school promises romance, Nick sees a side of Michel he never could have imagined. This Michel is cruel, jealous…and he’ll do anything to keep Nick for himself.
Love Me True by Kris Ripper
Palmer’s life is as good as it gets. Well, okay, so he hates his mind-numbing office job. But he’s found a hot, smart, incredibly kinky guy. The sex is explosive. The power play is off the hook. And if he gets his way, Jon will soon be his husband.
When Palmer asks, Jon says yes. For the first time ever, Palmer thinks things might be really good. Sure, bad things happen in the world—to other people. But this is all he needs: Jon at the end of the day, in their bed, arms around him.
How could he have possibly been so stupid?
The Price of Meat by KJ Charles
Johanna Oakley will do anything to save her beloved Arabella from the cruelty of Mr Fogg’s madhouse—but ‘anything’ turns out to be more than she bargained for when she finds herself working for a man suspected of worse than murder. As Johanna is plunged from the horror of Sawney Reynard’s barber shop into the foul, lawless labyrinth at the heart of London, can she or anyone get out alive?
His Mouth Will Taste of Chernobyl by Steve Berman
Joining Zeta Psi isn’t Steve’s dream, it’s his dad’s. Nevertheless his dad’s gift of the mysterious Bailey flask gets Steve an in to the frat house, and maybe his best shot at being accepted on campus. But the flask’s silver sheen may only be lighting his way into the darkness at the heart of the frat—and the darkness he’s learning is within himself. Steve wants to choose who he is, but choices are dropping like flies as he learns the true mystery of the Bailey flask. How does he give back a gift that’s also a curse?
Legion: A Love Story by Avon Gale
STAFF SERGEANT JASON ESSEX, YOU HAVE RECEIVED THE FOLLOWING ORDERS FROM THE UNITED STATES MARINE CORPS:
REPORT TO: CAIN INSTITUTE [ADDRESS REDACTED]
ACTIVE DUTY COMMITMENT: GUARD AN ENTITY CURRENTLY HELD IN AN ENCLOSURE AT THE CAIN INSTITUTE. RECORD DAILY MEASUREMENTS. KEEP ANY AND ALL PERSONS FROM ENTERING OR LEAVING THE FACILITY. ENSURE THE ENTITY REMAINS COMPLETELY INCARCERATED. OBSERVE THE ENTITY WITHOUT ENGAGING.
ADDITIONAL INSTRUCTIONS: THIS ASSIGNMENT WILL BE CARRIED OUT IN FULL ISOLATION. PLEASE BE ADVISED.
Beauties by J.A. Rock
When Dr. Lester Usole attends an event at AI developer Carnificiality, he’s introduced to Beauties: artificial beings designed to provide tailored sexual experiences for their human owners. Lester isn’t interested in sex—but he is fascinated by Ira, a Beauty too violent to be sold.
Lester convinces Carnificiality to give Ira to him. Lester has always wanted the chance to work with an adult AI, and around Lester, Ira isn’t violent. He’s strangely innocent, uncannily perceptive, and his company does much to ease Lester’s loneliness. Except something’s not quite right: Ira roams at night, even when Lester’s sure he’s locked Ira’s door.
Soon Lester is certain of only one thing: Ira has a secret. Something that will link their pasts and change the course of their future—if Lester is willing to face what’s on the inside.
Review: The appeal of horror for me has always been in the cerebral. The ominous places an author can take my imagination is one of the things I love about the genre; but then, that push one step further into a physical response—the chills and heart pumping adrenaline spikes—elevates the reading experience to another level. The irresistable appeal of the anthology All in Fear began with its contributing authors and ended with its deliciously frightening storytelling.
Each of the novellas in this collection share a common thread in that they are a reminder that life is fragile, fear is a reality and reality is sometimes terrifying, and sometimes, the monsters are human. There is a touching aspect to them too, though; a poignant spot within their darkness that brings with it an emotional connection to the characters. KJ Charles’ The Price of Meat and Steve Berman’s His Mouth Will Taste of Chernobyl come closest to what could be called a happy ending. Avon Gale’s Legion: A Love Story notches its way in there as well—if you stretch your definition of happy just a bit—but the absolute best part of all the stories is wading through some horribly good madness along the way.
There’s so much to whet the horror hungry appetite in this book, an abundance of dark themes to sink your teeth into. Roan Parrish’s covetous vampire in Company does not share well and his obsession with Nick Levy exacts a dear price from the boy. Kris Ripper’s Love Me True is a sinister and twisted love story that proves the course of true love never did run smooth, and, in fact, can be downright deadly. KJ Charles’ The Price of Meat pays homage to Sweeney Todd and gives new meaning to the saying “you are what you eat,” and does so in the author’s inimitable style. His Mouth Will Taste of Chernobyl, Steve Berman’s take on fraternities and hazing, adds a bit more malevolence and a helping of black magic to the collection.
Rounding things out is Legion: A Love Story, Avon Gale’s take on a military assignment that puts Marine Staff Sergeant Jason Essex in direct proximity with temptation and an entity that will go on to change his life forever–the only way to get rid of a temptation, after all, is to yield to it. And finally, J.A. Rock’s Beauties brings the anthology to a close, introducing artificial intelligence in a story that Mary Shelley might have appreciated for its Frankenstein-esque theme of man’s obsession with creating life without considering the ramifications of playing the God creator.
These ten-second-summaries are but a mere scratch on the surface of the deeper elements of each story, and there isn’t a single one I didn’t relish every word of; though I will say that Berman’s “Chernobyl” reads more like flash fiction than the others, which I feel offered more fully realized story arcs. Still, All in Fear is a fantastic collection of dark and intriguing storytelling, with some lovely twists and some twisted lovelies, just in time to bring a little horror to the holidays.
You can buy All in Fear here: