Dream City Blues (edited by Mark Howard Jones) was published by theEXAGGERATEDpress in December 2017.

Information about Mark Howard Jones:

Mark Howard Jones comes from a town in south Wales where it once rained fish. A former BBC journalist, he is editor of the anthology Cthulhu Cymraeg: Lovecraftian Tales from Wales and author of the collections Songs from Spider Street and Brightest Black. He lives in Cardiff.

Click here to visit his official website.

Information about Dream City Blues:

THE CITY HAS TWO FACES

Our long-cherished dream of Utopia is always just out of reach. We are doomed to know what we want but never to reach it. Inside this book are stories of cities filled with dreams that have become nightmares.

THE CITY WEARS MANY MASKS

From shining towers to filthy back alleys; from bright sunlit parks to dingy, cramped basements; this misguided tour through our dream cities is beset with dangerous pitfalls.

Here are 11 diverse visions of cities that are unsettling, horrific, outlandish and bizarre in turn. Come and visit... but don't forget your return ticket.

Great fiction from Allen Ashley, Parker Weston, Stephen Oram, Rhys Hughes, Ken Poyner, Kirsty C Crimmond, Adam Marks, Bob Lock, Toti O'Brien, Tony Lee, Sean Gill, and poetry from Matt Merritt.

A REVIEW OF DREAM CITY BLUES (EDITED BY MARK HOWARD JONES)

Dream City Blues (edited by Mark Howard Jones) is one of the best and most captivating anthologies published during the recent years. I consider it to be a gem of an anthology, not to be missed by speculative fiction readers, because it features eleven memorable visions of various cities that will astound and terrify readers in equal measure.

The editor, Mark Howard Jones, has done his best to gather stories that are diverse, thought-provoking and beautifully written, because each of the stories in this anthology is excellent and deserves to be read and enjoyed by those who love atmospheric and well written speculative fiction. The stories feature fascinatingly bizarre, controversial and horrific elements that set them apart from normal science fiction stories.

Dream City Blues is an original and unique anthology consisting of stories about cities which are filled with hopes and dreams that have become frighteningly strange and nightmarish and have been marred by darkness. Readers will be able to find dystopian and utopian elements in an enthralling format in this anthology.

This anthology contains the following eleven stories and a poem:

- Chasing Shadows by Allen Ashley
- The All-Seeing Sound Supreme by Parker Weston
- The Downward Spiral of the Disenfranchised Consumer by Stephen Oram
- The Burning Nose by Rhys Hughes
- The Next Colony by Ken Poyner
- The City on the Hill by Kirsty C. Crimmond
- Cameras in London by Adam Marks
- A Man of Honour by Bob Lock
- The Accompanist by Toti O'Brien
- Kone Wars by Tony Lee
- The Movie by Sean Gill
- Six Ways to Navigate the City by Matt Merritt (a poem)

I was captivated by all of these amazing stories and found them fascinating, original and well written. Their thought-provoking nature and compellingly strange atmosphere appealed to me.

One of the most noticeable things about these stories is that the editor has paid attention to high quality, because there's no filler material. Each of the stories represents the best the genre has to offer for quality-oriented readers. The contents of these stories range from science fiction and noir detective fiction to horror and literary strange fiction.

Here's more information about the stories and my thoughts about them:

Chasing Shadows by Allen Ashley:

- A story about Kevin who lives and works in a futuristic society.
- It was fascinating to read about Kevin and what happens to him, because the author doesn't explain everything, but lets his readers figure out a few things for themselves. I like the author's way of leaving certain things vague on purpose.
- The sex scenes are intriguingly realistic and effective, because the author doesn't shy away from sexually explicit material.
- It's fantastic that the author has created a dystopic vision of a city where things are not exactly normal, but where darkness, unease, despair and strangeness can be found lurking beneath the seemingly normal surface, because it makes the story compelling.
- This is a fascinating and haunting literary science fiction story that will stick to readers' minds.

The All-Seeing Sound Supreme by Parker Weston:

- In this story, the protagonist becomes fascinated by an artist called 'Cannonball' Moncur and his unique music.
- This short story is definitely one of the best music-related stories I've ever had the pleasure of reading, because it's something different and mesmerising.
- An intriguingly futuristic - and terrifying - exploration of music and its power.

The Downward Spiral of the Disenfranchised Consumer by Stephen Oram:

- In this story, Mr. Ness notices that he is not suitable as a customer, when he tries to buy milk and bread.
- This is a sharp and stinging social satire about what has happened when Universal Basic Income gives everyone an income and pays for itself by reducing bureaucracy and welfare costs.
- An excellent story with an important message.

The Burning Nose by Rhys Hughes:

- A story about the Mateek Brothers, Orto and Matty, who are seeking utopia.
- This delightfully weird short story is one of the most memorable stories Rhys Hughes has ever written, because it tells of what has happened to Pinocchio and what kind of fate awaits him in the hands of the brothers.
- I was impressed by this story and its freshness.

The Next Colony by Ken Poyner:

- In this story, the protagonist has received a confirmation about being able to travel to a new colony on a planet called Lenore 5 and is excited about it.
- The author writes excellently about how the protagonist feels about Earth and how dirty and crowded it has become.
- This story offers readers an interesting vision of how the idea of moving to a new and strange planet feels like for a person who has gotten emigration papers and is ready for a change of scenery.

The City on the Hill by Kirsty C. Crimmond:

- A story about a caravan of people who flee from a devastating plague and search for the safety of a fabled city in the mountains.
- This story has interesting echoes of Edgar Allan Poe's "The Masque of the Red Death".
- An excellent and well written horror-flavoured story that will impress those who love Gothic stories.

Cameras in London by Adam Marks:

- A fascinating story about Kim who does remote diagnostic work and maintenance on the traffic cameras in London. While doing her work, Kim notices that there a few cameras that are in odd places.
- The author has created a surprisingly realistic vision about Kim and her life, because Kim is a three-dimensional character.
- This story has an interesting and well written ending.

A Man of Honour by Bob Lock:

- In this story, Paul Crabtree, who is the Senior Security Advisor for Mamma's Spit Inc, visits a private detective to commission him to investigate a problem they have at the moment. He wants the detective to find a very important adept who has gone missing.
- This is an enjoyable noir detective story with science fiction elements.
- It was fun to read about how the detective and his gun interacted with each other, because it offered plenty of entertainment.

The Accompanist by Toti O'Brien:

- In this story, the protagonist tells about her male companion and what he does in a captivating way.
- This atmospheric little story has a strangely erotic and mesmerising undertone.
- The author's fluent writing style makes this story work well.

Kone Wars by Tony Lee:

- An excellent and entertaining story about the varicoloured structures called Kones that are a highly unusual form of weird extra-terrestial life.
- I think it's great that the author has come up with a different kind of a view of extra-terrestial life, because it makes this story enjoyable.
- I enjoyed this story and was satisfied with the ending, because it fits the story well.

The Movie by Sean Gill:

- A story about a man, who is on the rooftop, when another man tells him that a movie is about to begin. Soon the man gets to witness an unusual spectacle unfolding on the street below the building.
- It was fascinating for me to read about what the man sees, because the sight is intriguingly weird and outlandish.
- I was deeply impressed by this story, because it's an excellent strange fiction story with a satisfyingly unsettling ending.

Six Ways to Navigate the City by Matt Merritt (a poem):

- An excellent poem that has - according to the introduction by the editor - given birth to the idea of this anthology.
- This is one of the most thought-provoking poems I've read recently.

I consider Allen Ashley's "Chasing Shadows" to be one of the highlights of this anthology, because it's a thought-provoking reading experience for intelligent readers who are capable of reading between the lines. I was impressed by this story, because it has slipstream-ish elements that make it unique.

Rhys Hughes' "The Burning Nose" is another highlight, because the author has come up with an intriguing and disturbing story about what happens to Pinocchio whose nose grows when he lies about things. This story surprised me, because I never would've imagined that somebody could write about Pinocchio is such a fresh and unexpected way.

Kirsty C. Crimmond's "The City on the Hill" is a well written account of people who have abandoned cities of the plain and are searching for a place where they could be safe from the plague that has killed many people. I was fascinated by this story, because the author writes well about how the people desperately search for the city on the hill and what happens when they find what they're looking for, because a cruel fate awaits them. The ending of this story is simply excellent and will please dark fantasy and horror readers.

Tony Lee's "Kone Wars" is one of my favourite stories in this anthology, because it's something a bit different. It was enjoyable to read about the Kones, for they were distinctly different from normal kind of alien threat. I have to confess that Tony Lee is a bit unknown  author to me, because I definitely have to read more of his stories, because I enjoyed this story.

I believe that Sean Gill's "The Movie" will be of interest to everyone who has ever read modern strange fiction. Because I love strange fiction and literary weird fiction, I found myself fascinated by this story and its eerie atmosphere. There's something about this story that reminds me a bit of Joel Lane and Alexander Zelenyj.

One of the main reasons why I love these stories is that the author write excellent prose. I was fully satisfied with the authors' writing styles and the quality of their prose. With their beautiful prose, the authors invite readers to explore and visit various cities and their wonders and strangeness in a mesmerising way and offer memorable and rewarding reading experiences.

Before I write the final words of this review, I have to mention that the cover art by David Rix looks great. I like it, because it adds an artistic and slightly surreal touch of class to it.

If you yearn to read quality speculative fiction and expect originality from what you're about to read, I strongly urge you to seek out Dream City Blues and take a look at its amazing contents, because it's something different and unique. This anthology is not your normal kind of a science fiction anthology, but something far more compelling due to the literary and captivating nature of the stories.

Highly recommended!

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