Anthologies are generally a mixed bag, and reader reaction will vary depending on the authors involved, the stories selected, and the vagaries of personal taste. Horror Library, Volume 5 has some outstanding stories, but, for the most part, this particular installment of the anthology series didn’t work for me.

On the plus side, there were a few standouts, which included:

Pat MacEwen’s “Blown”, a gripping character study that follows a crime-scene analyst trying to come to grips with the horrors he’s witnessed on the job.

Ian Withrow’s clever “Jerrod Stiehl Goes Home”, which fuses Lovecraftian horror with classroom violence.

Sanford Allen’s creepy “Noise”, which wonderfully evokes echoes of Robert W. Chambers'”The King In Yellow”.

Michael Arnzen’s grotesque, disturbing “Pillars of Light”, which finds a group of television storm-chasers confronting a man who believes he’s the second-coming of Jesus Christ.

The always-reliable Jeff Strand’s contribution, “Bath Time” is exactly what you would expect from horror’s reigning clown prince. I can’t recall ever reading a Strand story that I didn’t love, and this is no exception.

“The Happiness Toy”, by Ray Garton, is an E.C.-type story about a homely girl, her vile, elderly mother, and the ultimate sex toy. Ray really outdid himself with this one….

P. Gardner Goldsmith’s “Gourd” also has an E.C. vibe to it, as a foul-tempered woman finds that her seemingly hapless date might just be part of something far bigger, and more evil, than she can possibly fathom.

Seven outstanding stories may seem like a pretty good ratio, and it probably is, but in an anthology that contains thirty stories, it just wasn’t enough. There’s a handful of other stories that lean more towards being good, but don’t quite make it (Particularly Bentley Little’s “Notes For An Article On Bainbridge Farm”, which is interesting, but too slight to really make an impression.), but the majority of the remainder of the stories were fairly tough to get through.

If you’re OK with cherry-picking, Horror Library, Volume 5 may have enough to make you feel like you’ve gotten your money’s worth. If you’re one of those readers who demand that every story be a gem….you’d probably be better off looking elsewhere.

About Dan Reilly