The anthology is a brilliant mix of diverse stories about vampires and vampiric entities. As with any collection, some of the stories drew me in more effectively than others and, in Slay, there are some absolute gems.
I had two favourite stories in this collection. The first was the beautiful and poignant Encounters by K. R. S. McEntire, which starts with the unforgettable line - “My husband had been dead for twenty years when I saw him at the airport.” Who could resist an opening like that? Not me. I was hooked immediately. The second was a futuristic story. It might sound like a wild claim, but Message in a Vessel by V.G. Harrison reminded me of Octavia Butler’s storytelling in style and characterisation. If these two tales weren’t enough to encourage you to sink your fangs into the pulsing vein of this book, there were plenty of other excellent stories.
I loved Desiccant by Craig Laurance Gidney. The description of place was rich and evocative and the story was imaginative and new with a fabulous protagonist and a strange antagonist. I thought The Retiree by Steven Van Patten was a simple yet exquisite tale, and Diary of a Mad Black Vampire by Dicey Grenor was brilliantly funny yet chilling. The Dance by L. Marie Wood was a gorgeous, erotically charged short story. Asi’s Horror and Delight by Sumiko Saulson was filled with magical creatures and their frequently amusing interrelationships. This cautionary tale against attempting to trick gods was another highlight of this great collection, and Bloodline by Milton J. Davis was a futuristic science-based vampire tale with a fantastic protagonist.
Other interesting works included - Love Hangover by Sheree Renée Thomas; a story of narcissism and theft that felt like a distillation of the 20th century music industry, Snake Hill Blues by John Linwood Grant where hoodoo took on a blood-walker, In Egypt's Shadows by Vonnie Winslow Crist was a beautiful story of eternal love, Shadow of Violence by Balogun Ojetade; an action-packed tale, Rampage by Miranda J. Riley was yet another unique and strong tale, and No God But Hunger by Steve Van Samson describes brilliantly and evocatively a terrifying and intense world of predators. A cornucopia of places and dialects gave flavour to many of the tales, and as a collection, complete with illustrations, it felt like a fascinating stroll through vampire legends and myths.
Strangely, some of the stories, while action-packed or interesting, felt incomplete as though they were excerpts from longer stories, including Gritty Corners by Jessica Cage, and Unfleamed by Penelope Flynn.
In all it’s an anthology I would recommend checking out. Many of the authors were unfamiliar to me before reading the collection, but there are some whose other work I intend to search out and consume. 4.8*/5