Nightscript: Volume III (edited by C.M. Muller) was published in September/October 2017.
Information about C.M. Muller:
C.M. Muller lives in St. Paul, Minnesota with his wife and two sons - and, of course, all those quaint and curious volumes of forgotten lore. He is related to the Norwegian writer Jonas Lie and draws much inspiration from that scrivener of old. His tales have appeared in Shadows & Tall Trees, Supernatural Tales, and Weirdbook.
Click here to visit his official website.
Information about Nightscript: Volume III:
An annual anthology of strange and darksome tales by twenty-three of the finest contemporary scribes. Simon Strantzas, Rowley Amato, Malcolm Devlin, M.K. Anderson, Charles Wilkinson, Daniel Braum, Christi Nogle, David Peak, Clint Smith, Amar Benchikha, Cory Cone, Inna Effress, Christian Riley, Adam Golaski, Jessica Phelps, Stephen J. Clark, Armel Dagorn, James Everington, Rebecca J. Allred, John Howard, David Surface, Julia Rust, M.R. Cosby.
A REVIEW OF NIGHTSCRIPT: VOLUME III (EDITED BY C.M. MULLER)
Nightscript: Volume III is a treasure trove of chilling goodness to readers who appreciate strange stories and literary strange fiction. The editor, C.M. Muller, has done his best to gather versatile stories that emphasise the diversity of dark fiction, concentrating especially on tales that can best be classified as literary strange fiction and modern weird fiction.
Nightscript: Volume III is one of the finest anthologies of its kind, because it contains excellent stories from talented authors, some of which are still a bit unknown to readers. It wonderfully demonstrates the writing styles of different authors, because they have done their best to write memorable strange stories.
This anthology can be recommended to experienced readers and also to newcomers, because it is accessible and many readers will enjoy its contens. It offers something for everybody, which is a good thing. If you are fascinated by dark tales, you won't be disappointed by this anthology, because it's filled with quality stories.
It warms my heart to see anthologies like this one published, because this kind of fiction has always been close to my heart. Weird fiction and literary strange fiction have captivated and stimulated my imagination for a long time, for there's nothing quite as compelling and thrilling as reading atmospheric and beautifully written dark stories. As much as I love other genres of speculative fiction, weird fiction will always have a special place in my heart. I firmly believe that readers who, for the very first time, begin to read this anthology will soon feel the same way about strange stories.
Based on this anthology, it's possible to predict that Nightscript anthologies will have a bright future ahead of them. If you haven't yet found the Nightscript anthology series, now would be a good time to start reading it, because each of the volumes contains compelling stories.
The contents are as follows:
The Flower Unfolds by Simon Strantzas
A Place With Trees by Rowley Amato
What Little Boys Are Made Of by Malcolm Devlin
Grizzly by M.K. Anderson
Might Be Mordiford by Charles Wilkinson
Palankar by Daniel Braum
The Gestures Remain by Christi Nogle
House of Abjection by David Peak
The Undertow, and They That Dwell Therein by Clint Smith
Downward by Amar Benchikha
The Familiar by Cory Cone
Liquid Air by Inna Effress
The Beasts Are Sleep by Adam Golaski
The Witch House by Jessica Phelps
On the Edge of Utterance by Stephen J. Clark
Homeward Bound Now, Paulino by Armel Dagorn
The Affair by James Everington
When Dark-Eyed Ophelia Sings by Rebecca J. Allred
We, the Rescued by John Howard
Twenty Miles and Running by Christian Riley
Something You Leave Behind by David Surface
Young Bride by Julia Rust
The Other Side of the Hill by M.R. Cosby
The contents of these stories range from quiet horror to disturbing horror. They offer chilling, memorable and unsettling glimpses into several themes and issues, because the authors write, among other things, about relationships, family matters and strange happenings. The authors explore these things in a subtle way, but also dare to make readers uncomfortable by making them face hard truths about life and its complexity.
One of the main reasons why these stories are good is that the authors explore and examine the characters' feelings and delve into their lives in a realistic way. The authors bring their characters to life by creating the characters' internal and external characteristics as flawlessly as possible, as well as showing their inner thinking and turmoil. This adds a good dose of realism to the stories and increases their allure.
The Flower Unfolds by Simon Strantzas:
- A strong story about Candice Lourdes who finds a botanical garden at the top of the Simpson Tower when she steps into the elevator to deliver files to another floor. She meets a man called Ben Stanley and can't stop thinking about him and the garden.
- The author writes excellently about Candice and how her life changes. Candice's days have been planned out and controlled, but when she finds the garden she feels unburdened.
- An atmospheric strange tale with a brilliant ending.
A Place With Trees by Rowley Amato:
- In this story, the protagonist notices a crack in his apartment's wall and covers it up with a lithograph, but the crack grows bigger and begins to haunt him...
- This story has fascinatingly harsh realism, because the author writes convincingly about how badly the supers can ignore tenants and their complaints.
- An excellent and intriguingly strange story.
What Little Boys Are Made Of by Malcolm Devlin:
- A touching yet darkly brutal story about Beatrice who is a daugher made of wax.
- I like the author's way of writing about Beatrice and what happens when she gets a brother that is made blood and bone, because the story has a wealth of underlying emotion and darkness.
- A beautifully written and memorable fairy tale-like story.
Grizzly by M.K. Anderson:
- A well written story about a girl called Griz who goes on a trip with her pap and grandma.
- It was interesting to read about Griz and her behavioural problems, because she could be violent.
- This story is something different and will fascinate many readers.
Might Be Mordiford by Charles Wilkinson:
- Norris hides in two rooms above the Post Office and General Stores and awaits word from his mates. Soon he notices that something strange is going on...
- An intriguing story with a well written ending.
Palankar by Daniel Braum:
- In this story, Jacob and his brother, Steve, visit the Palankar Reef where their father took them when they were teenagers.
- This is definitely one of the best stories I've ever read, because it's pure quality from start to finish.
- An excellent and well written story with plenty of depth.
The Gestures Remain by Christi Nogle:
- In this story, Janey and Cole arrive at Janey's grandparents' house in the desert.
- The author writes well about how Janey and Cole fix the house and how Cole acts when he arrives in house.
- This is an enjoyable and atmospheric story that gradually unfolds towards the intriguingly dark ending.
House of Abjection by David Peak:
- A family makes a nighttime drive to a mansion, which is known as a place of ill-repute and where several atrocities were supposedly committed. Now, the mansion has been turned into a tourist attraction and it has become a spooky haunted house.
- The author describes the happenings in the mansion in an excellent way and pays attention to how the family members feel about what is going on.
- There's something intriguingly dysfunctional about the relationships between the family members that intrigued me a lot.
- A fascinatingly spooky story.
The Undertow, and They That Dwell Therein by Clint Smith:
- Gwen and her family are on a family trip and on their way to a rental shack on the beach.
- There's intriguing tension between Gwen and her mother, Kathy. The author writes believably about how Gwen feels about Kathy's comments and doesn't shy away from emotional brutality in his depictions of their relationship. He also manages to create a realistic picture of what life is like for a single mother.
- This is one of the best stories in this anthology, because everything in it works perfectly.
- I found the ending of this story excellent and satisfyingly unsettling.
Downward by Amar Benchikha:
- The protagonist, who has bought vegetables and fruits at the market, heads home but is knocked nearly unconscious and taken captive.
- This story has been written in the second-person narrative mode. This seldom used narrative mode works well in this story and is an important part of its fascination.
- The author explores the captive's predicament in an effective way, because the reader is subjected to the captive's intimate thoughts (the author is not easy on the reader).
- A well written story that is something different and memorable.
The Familiar by Cory Cone:
- In this story, David returns to his home town after ten years. Soon he finds out terrible news about his parents.
- I liked the author's way of writing about how it feels for David to be back in the town after being away for many years.
- I enjoyed this story, because it's simultaneously nostalgic and unsettling. The final two sentences of this story are wonderfully chilling, because the protagonist remembers why he left the town.
Liquid Air by Inna Effress:
- An excellent story about Kris and her husband Wit, who plays with his dolls. Wit's dolls are as tall as young children, but have breasts and nipples.
- This story has fascinating elements of weirdness that impressed me a lot. I think that everyone who reads this story will agree with me when I say that it's impossible to forget the scene in which Wit talks to his dolls, because it's brilliantly disturbing.
- Inna Effress is an uknown author to me, but I will definitely keep an eye out for her stories, because I found this story strangely compelling and disturbing.
- This is one of the most memorable stories in this anthology. It will stick to your mind.
The Beasts Are Sleep by Adam Golaski:
- A story about Jessica, John and Paul who take a bus back to their campus. The bus breaks down and they decide to walk the rest of the way along a road that cuts through the woods.
- What happened to Jessica when she spent time with her cousin, Laura, has a distinct feel of unease to it.
- An atmospheric and creepy story about a bus trip that turns into a nightmare.
The Witch House by Jessica Phelps:
- A story about Ramona whose Aunt Elaine was thought to be a witch. Ramona travels to her aunt's house, which is in the middle of nowhere, because she needs the solitude and a change of scenery.
- What the author wrote about Aunt Elaine and her behaviour captivated me, because Aunt Elaine used to drain blood from feral cats, spoke in tongues and paraded naked around the woods.
- This story has an interesting ending.
On the Edge of Utterance by Stephen J. Clark:
- In this story, Isobel reminisces about her dead Uncle Ray and goes to his house to help her cousin, Jack, go through Ray's personal effects.
- The protagonist's relief over the death of her Uncle Ray is handled well, because Ray was not like everybody else and withdrew himself from the world. Ray was reclusive and kept to himself.
- I found myself being captivated by what the author wrote about the cousins, because their childhood was strange in Ray's house and they had secrets that they kept hidden.
- This is one of my favourite stories in this anthology, because the prose is excellent and the happenings are satisfyingly dark. This story is a masterpiece of literary strange fiction.
Homeward Bound Now, Paulino by Armel Dagorn:
- This is an interesting short story, because it tells of young man called Nelson (he's 18 years old) who works as a policeman's semi-official assistant in Tacurú-Pucú in Paraguay. When a body of a man called Paulino Duarto is found, Nelson is sent upriver on a boat with the body. Nelson must take the body to Paulino's wife.
- The rain adds an eerie atmosphere to this story.
- I enjoyed this story very much and I liked the ending.
The Affair by James Everington:
- A story about a married man called Neil who has an affair with a woman who looks almost exactly like his wife.
- It was interesting to read about how Neil felt about having a relationship with another woman, because he wondered how she could look like her wife. The author examines fluently what Neils goes through when he finds out that his wife is also seeing someone else.
- This is one of the best and most memorable stories in this anthology, because it's something different.
When Dark-Eyed Ophelia Sings by Rebecca J. Allred:
- In this story, Mira lifts the Ophelias (maidens that are empty vessels) from the sea into her boat. Because there are now fewer Ophelias than before, they can be sold at the temple marketplace for a good some of money. Mira decides that the Dark-Eyed Ophelia is not for sale and keeps her.
- I was captivated by how the Ophelias were used and what men did with them.
- There's something about this story that slightly reminds me of Angela Slatter's dark stories.
- This is a beautifully written and darkly compelling story with a strange fairy tale-like atmosphere. This is clearly one of the best stories in this anthology.
We, the Rescued by John Howard:
- A story about Sean, a gay man in his forties, who has moved to Berlin. He is introduced to Kai, who has also recently moved to Berlin. When Kai leaves for a few days to sort things out with his wife and daughter, Sean is left alone. Soon Sean meets a man called Heine about whom he knows nothing, but finds himself thinking about him and his warmth.
- John Howard excels at characterisation in this story. His vision of Sean and his life is wonderfully realistic and he writes well about Sean's feelings and fears. He deftly explores Sean's feelings toward Kai and Heine; and he writes almost heart-breakingly about how lonely Sean is when Kai leaves him alone before Christmas.
- The author's descriptions of Berlin are surprisingly evocative, and he writes fluently of how Sean feels about living in the city with Kai. It's uncanny how natural everything feels in this story.
- The mentions of Buxtehude and Bach intrigued me, because I enjoy classical music.
- This amazing story is one of my personal favourites in this anthology. If you enjoy literary stories, I can guarantee that you'll find this story splendid and wholly satisfying.
Twenty Miles and Running by Christian Riley:
- A story about Milo who has been raised by his grandpa, a man of many sorts and capabilities.
- The author's vision of Milo and his gang is surprisingly entertaining, because Milo and his men run up against something evil.
- This western story was a delightful surprise for me, because I didn't expect find anything like it in this anthology.
Something You Leave Behind by David Surface:
- A fascinating story about an estranged couple, Jack and Janet, who are driving along a highway and find themselves in Westville while they're looking for a place where they could eat something.
- The author writes deftly about the couple and what is happening to them. The conversation between Jack and Janet about how Jack has changed is thrilling.
- The mention of the Virginia Asylum for the Poor Insane adds a touch of foreboding strangeness to this story.
- This is one of those stories which immediately grabs your attention and won't let go until you've reached the ending.
Young Bride by Julia Rust:
- A story Jeannie and Johnny, who are married and expect their first baby.
- The author examines Jeannie and Johnny's marriage and Jeannie's fears about having a stillborn baby in a surprisingly honest and unflinching way.
- This story has quite an effective ending.
The Other Side of the Hill by M.R. Cosby:
- In this story, Bec and Wayne have travelled from Australia to England to visit Bec's father. Bec moved to Australia and met Wayne there. This is their first trip together.
- I enjoyed reading about what the author wrote about what happened to Bec and Wayne when they went for a hike, because he fluently created a sense of something foreboding.
- This is a satisfyingly strange tale, a perfect final story for this anthology.
"The Flower Unfolds" by Simon Strantzas is one of the best strange tales I've read this year. It's an excellent depiction of a woman whose dull life changes and who finds herself blossoming after she finds the garden at the top of the building where she works and meets a mysterious man. This story is fascinatingly strange and erotic with a hint of something hidden and forbidden. The author's beautiful prose highlights the happenings in a splendid way.
Malcolm Devlin's "What Little Boys Are Made Of" impressed me, because it's a fascinating fairy tale-like story about Beatrice and her brother Thomas. Because Beatrice is made of wax and Thomas is made of blood and bone, they're different from each other. The author writes excellently about what happens to them and how Beatrice notices changes in her family.
"Palankar" by Daniel Braum is an excellent and extremely well written story. The author's way of writing about Jacob's father and brother, Steven, feels realistic and also surprisingly touching. What has happened to Steven is tragic and is handled exceptionally well. This is without any kind of doubt one of the best strange stories of the year.
"The Undertow, and They That Dwell Therein" by Clint Smith is one of the finest depictions of a family trip I've ever read, because it has depth and the characterisation is flawless. The shark attacks mentioned in the news reports add fascination to this story. It was interesting to read about Gwen, her two children and her mother, because the author wrote about them in a realistic way and deftly explored Gwen's feelings and life within the context of a horror story.
"On the Edge of Utterance" by Stephen J. Clark is an atmospheric and well written story about Isobel and her cousin, Jack, who go through Jack's father's (Isobel's Uncle Ray) personal effects. The descriptions about the house and its insides are memorable, because Ray seems to have hoarded stuff inside the house, turning it into a labyrinth. When Jack and Isobel find a manuscript and begin to read about the Silent Land, the happenings become increasingly compelling and things are revealed about their past. This story is pure delight to everyone who loves strange and well written stories.
"We, the Rescued" by John Howard is also a masterpiece and deserves a special mention (to be precise, it's a literary masterpiece, because the prose is beautiful and the characterisation is excellent). I have to say that this story is one of my favourite stories in this anthology, because the author writes perfectly and captivatingly about Sean and his life and pays attention to his feelings. He manages to make Sean a real, three-dimensional person.
Before I write the final words of this review, I'll mention that the cover image (“Madonna” by Edvard Munch, 1895) fits this anthology perfectly, because it creates a sense of something eerie.
I enjoyed everything about this anthology and highly recommend it to readers who want to read captivating and well written strange stories. You won't find any bad stories in this anthology, because the editor has done his best to gather stories, which represent the best the genre has to offer to enthusiastic and open-minded readers. Whether you're a newcomer to this kind of fiction or a devoted fan, you'll find something to love in this anthology. These fantastic stories will chill and captivate readers in equal measure and beckons them to delve into a realm of the strange and unsettling.