Epeolatry Book Review: Arterial Bloom, ed. Mercedes M. Yardley
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Title: Arterial Bloom
Author: Various, ed. Mercedes M. Yardley
Publisher: Crystal Lake Publishing
Release Date: 3rd April, 2020
Synopsis: Crystal Lake Publishing proudly presents Arterial Bloom, an artful juxtaposition of the magnificence and macabre that exist within mankind. Each tale in this collection is resplendent with beauty, teeth, and heart.
Edited by the Bram Stoker Award-winning writer Mercedes M. Yardley, Arterial Bloom is a literary experience featuring 16 stories from some of the most compelling dark authors writing today.
With a foreword by HWA Lifetime Achievement Award Recipient Linda D. Addison, you are invited to step inside and let the grim flowers wind themselves comfortably around your bones.
There’s just something about an anthology. While a novel pilots a long, deliberate ribbon of highway, an anthology is all side streets and dark alleys. A good anthology offers myriad opportunities to get lost, to disappear into a new tale. Arterial Bloom mostly delivers on that front.
Arterial Bloom is a deep dive into the macabre heart of humanity. It is a collection free of an overarching theme, and the tales are as diverse as the writers who pen them. In this collection there’s everything from body horror to post-apocalypse to the delightfully and cosmically weird. This is a large palette of styles and subjects, and the diversity helps to keep the book fresh. You never know what you’re in for with each new blood-soaked tale.
Like any anthology, there are hits and misses. Some of the stories, although crafted well, tread worn and overly-familiar ground. Instead of surprising me, they rehashed standard apocalyptic tropes and horror clichés. Despite the overused plot and themes, the writing was, generally, solid enough to pull me through.
The biggest issue I have with Arterial Bloom is the too-frequent embrace of the current trend of ambiguity. Ambiguity can be a fantastic device, but it’s a difficult trick to pull off. If you don’t stick the landing, the ambiguous intention becomes muddled and confused. A few of Arterial Bloom’s stories lead to a narrative which got lost in the weeds of style over substance. Leaving aspects of the plot up to my imagination is fine. Substituting vagueness and labyrinthian prose for a structured and coherent plot is a horse of another color. When you sacrifice the telling of a focused story on the altar of a stylistic trend, you’ve done a disservice to your own talents as a writer.
Though a solid collection of tales overall, several stories stood out. “The Darker Side of Grief” by Naching T. Kassa is a taut, tense slice of supernatural action where I learned there’s nothing more terrifying than a mother’s love. “Welcome to Autumn” by Daniel Crow is a surreal and strange tale of an artist with an otherworldly secret. I’ll admit I saw where it was headed, but that still didn’t keep me from enjoying the ending. “Happy Pills” by Todd Keisling features a medical experiment run to madness. I’m not normally a fan of body horror, but this story is executed well enough that it swept me along for the ride. “Mouths Filled With Seawater” by Jonathan Cosgrove is as a creeping example of ambiguity done right. “Blue Was Her Favorite Color” by Dino Parenti is a hallucinatory puzzle, and the dark highlight of the collection for me.
Arterial Bloom is a good anthology collection, with enough terrifying and bloody tales to keep you reading well past the midnight hour. So what if it was a bit uneven; this is common of many anthologies, and doesn’t detract from this satisfying stable of dark horror from a diverse collection of authors.
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Justin Tappan has been a fan of horror since childhood. He grew up watching monster movie double features on Saturday afternoons, and started reading Stephen King when he was too young to be reading Stephen King.
Justin Tappan is an author, featured in the anthology Bitter Sweet. He writes in many genres, but his true love is horror. He lives in Camp Hill, Pennsylvania.