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on April 01, 2011 :
I'll tell you the truth...I'm a bit of a fiction snob. When I buy a book from an ebook site like this and from an "unknown" author, I generally expect something on the quality of the thinly veiled fanfic that seems to abound everywhere. In the horror genre it gets worse, as everyone seems intent on emulating Charlaine Harris or Stephanie Meyer...and even the originals of those don't interest me.
I'm happy to say that in this case, I'm wrong. "Halloween Sky" is an anthology of stories of such surprising breadth, depth and quality that I'm tempted to say I haven't seen the like since Charles Grant's original "Shadows" collections.
Plainly put, these stories are good. They are, by turns, entertaining, disturbing, frightening, amusing and titillating. There's fantastical weirdness in there worthy of Clark Ashton Smith; there's black humour worthy of Gahan Wilson; there's splatter worthy of Skipp & Spector. It's a mixed bag, no doubt, so all in all the best way to describe the stories as a whole is to say that they're good.
The quality of the writing is not just serviceable, as so much writing from developing authors seems to be, but it's professional. Morris seems to have no trouble shifting the narrative voice to meet the form of the story, and the characters are well-drawn, engaging (if not always sympathetic) and consistent with the worlds they inhabit. The stories themselves generally avoid the tropes of the genre, developing bizarre and thus fascinating new territory...and where the book does dip into the standbys, as with the truly excellent zombie story that closes out the volume, it does so in a new and intriguing way so that you never have a sense of literary redundancy.
The book's not perfect...there's one story in there that I thought was below the standard of the rest of the book, and without which the book would have been much improved. In a few spots the stories are predictable...but predictable in the sense of a freight train speeding down the track, making them no less intense when the inevitable and foreseeable end arrives.
For the experienced reader, I would put the quality of these stories among anything written by Bentley Little or Richard Laymon, and taking aim at Robert Bloch and Richard Matheson territory. The author's notes at the end of each story are almost as interesting and make you wonder just how much of the author's experience, as in the opening tale, "Halloween Sky" come from life.
For anyone who enjoys the short story form in horror...the best form for the genre, in my opinion...this book is a treat. At the price, you'll find the value returned many times.
(reviewed within a week of purchase)