Epeolatry Book Review: Spawn: Weird Horror Tales about Pregnancy, Birth and Babies, ed. Deborah Sheldon


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Title: Spawn: Weird Horror Tales about Pregnancy, Birth and Babies
Author: Various, ed. Deborah Sheldon
Genre: Horror
Publisher: IFWG Publishing International
Release Date: 3rd May, 2021

Synopsis: A selection of the darkest Australian fiction. Spawn: Weird Horror Tales About Pregnancy, Birth and Babies taps into anxieties, painful memories, and nightmares. Here, your worst fears come true. Penned by established authors and fresh new voices, these stories range from the gothic and phantasmagorical, through the demonic and supernatural, to the dystopian and sci-fi. Prepare for a visceral, frightening read. Featuring work by: Geraldine Borella, Jack Dann, Rebecca De Visser, Jason Fischer, Rebecca Fraser, Gary Kemble, David Kuraria, Paul Mannering, Tracie McBride, Samantha Murray, Robyn O’Sullivan, Antoinette Rydyr, Deborah Sheldon, Charles Spiteri, H.K. Stubbs, Matt Tighe, J.M. Merryt, Kat Pekin, Mark Towse, Ash Tudor, Kaaron Warren, Janeen Webb, and Sean Williams.

I haven’t had many opportunities in recent years to get acquainted with the work of Australian horror writers, whose names (with the exception of editor Deborah Sheldon, Jack Dann, Kaaron Warren, and Sean Williams, who are among the contributors to the present anthology) are mostly unknown to me. Which is a shame because, as this book proves, there are many Australian authors deserving a wider recognition beyond their country’s borders.

The volume collects twenty-three stories addressing the unusual theme in a variety of angles, atmospheres, and tones. Commenting upon each single tale is clearly impossible, hence I will mention the ones which seem the more accomplished.

“A Good Big Brother” by Matt Tighe is a tense, apocalyptic story where people are transformed by a mysterious disease, and a young boy must learn how to protect his mother and his baby brother. 

“The Still Warm” by Paul Mannering is a powerful example of graphic horror portraying the horrible fate of a pregnant woman surviving a hanging and finding herself buried alive inside a coffin.

The unsettling “Beneath the Cliffs of Darknoon Bay” by Rebecca Fraser takes place in the lonesome atmosphere of a lighthouse and depicts how the sheer madness of a pregnant woman gets tragically loose.

Robyn O’ Sullivan’s “Expel the Darkness” is the vivid description of an ill-fated pregnancy ending with a terrifying labor at home, while Deborah Sheldon’s “Hair and Teeth” is a disquieting tale of medical horror featuring a woman with uterine troubles.

In the well-crafted “Mother Diamond” by Janeen Webb a woman is haunted in many ways by the spirit of her late, domineering mother.

Charles Spiteri contributes “The Remarkable Compass for Finding the Departed”, a gentle, sad but disturbing tale revolving around a restless stillborn child, while JM Merryt pens “Gravid”, a dark, subtly unnerving fairy tale (contrary to what the narrator declares…)

All in all, an interesting anthology of horror fiction, graced by some little gems apt to effectively entertain and disquiet the reader.

4/5 stars

Available from  Amazon.

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