Blood Lite, edited by Kevin J. Anderson
October 19, 2008
This anthology from the Horror Writer’s Association may not be to the taste of every urban fantasy fan, but I enjoyed it for the most part. Blood Lite is a collection of humorous horror stories, so some of them get a bit cheesy. Short descriptions of each are below.
- “The Ungrateful Dead” by Kelley Armstrong
A new Jamie Vegas story? Armstrong’s No Humans Involved turned Jamie from a ho-hum sidekick to one of my favorite Otherworld characters, so I was happy to see her at the center of another tale. When Savannah talks Jamie into checking out the request of an annoyingly demanding ghost, they run into an unexpected problem. An okay story, but the ending seemed a bit mean-spirited for Jamie. (Sorry, I couldn’t resist.)
- “Mr. Bear” by Joe R. Lansdale
A chance meeting with a much-loved icon gets an average guy in way over his head. Saying much more about this story would spoil it, so I’ll just say that it takes reality and twists it in a way that’s very, very weird. If you know Lansdale, you’ll know what I mean. If not, then I’d suggest watching some adaptations of his work. Incident On and Off a Mountain Road is for horror fans, and Bubba Ho-Tep is for anyone intrigued by the idea of Elvis and JFK saving their retirement home from a mummy.
- “Hell in a Handbasket” by Lucien Soulban
A baby is found at the gates of Hell, but the demons who want to eat it face surprising consequences. This story is okay, but not especially memorable.
- “The Eldritch Pastiche from Beyond the Shadow of Horror” by Christopher Welch
If you’re a Lovecraft nerd like me, then this will be one of your favorites. It’s about a writer who goes to a support group to kick his habit of writing derivative Mythos-related garbage. I think even those who aren’t down with the Elder Gods should get the funny, but they probably won’t connect with it quite as much as those of us who are less than fond of the copycats.
- “Elvis Presley and the Bloodsucker Blues” by Mat Venne
Venne presents a different view of the last days of Elvis. What if he had become a vampire? His wealth and clout would have enabled him to live a fairly normal life. I’m just about over Elvis references in horror stories (with the exception of Bubba from the Southern Vampire series), but despite that I liked this story fine.
- “No Problem” by Don D’Ammassa
A descendant of Frankenstein starts experimenting after finding one of his ancestor’s journals. This story works because of the straightforward style and the main character’s calm reactions. I didn’t see the ending coming.
- “Old School” by Mark Onspaugh
A good (if not especially original) idea, but it could have been handled better. There were a few sentences that were awkward, and that really stands out considering that the story is only three pages.
- “The Sound of Blunder” by J.A Konrath and F. Paul Wilson
Two thugs have to raise a lot of money quickly, so they decide to try robbing the Arkham, Pennsylvania Museum of Natural History and Baseball Cards. They find a mysterious book, but end up learning that changing the world could be easier than changing their fate. There are some funny aspects, but it’s too uneven. Some of the jokes fall flat, and the ending was better in concept than in execution.
- “An Evening With Al Gore” by Charlaine Harris
A wealthy environmentalist couple try to reform a group of polluters by inviting them to a party that includes a screening of An Inconvenient Truth. The twist isn’t exactly a surprise, but it’s no less satisfying for that. In case any fans are curious, no characters from Harris’s other novels are included.
- “Dear Prudence” by Steven Savile
A man drafts several versions of a note to his wife. This is probably the darkest of the stories.
- “A Good Psycho Is Hard to Find” by Will Ludwigsen
You know how a slasher movie tends to end with the survivors standing around, just happy to have survived? Have you ever wondered what happens to them later, how they cope with regular life after their experience? Well apparently I’m not the only one who gets curious about that type of thing. This story is about a couple that has a surprising reaction to defeating the chainsaw murderer that stalked their camp. It’s one of my favorites of the anthology.
- “High Kicks and Misdemeanors” by Janet Berliner
I normally like both strangeness and killer animals, but this story is a bit too random and contrived. It’s about a man who stumbles into a secret involving one of his relatives, the government, and a group of murderous ostriches.
- “PR Problems” by Eric James Stone
When a serial killer stalks the town, a ghoul who is obsessed with the reputation and status of his species runs into unexpected excitement. I liked the main character, he was spontaneous enough to surprise me a few times.
- “Where Angels Fear to Tread” by Sherrilyn Kenyon
A man receives an inheritence with strings attached. This feels more like an introduction to a character than a self-contained short story, and that’s a thing that tends to annoy me in anthologies. Thankfully this is the only story in the collection that sets off that particular pet peeve. Aside from that, it seems a bit out of pace with the horror/humor theme.
- “A Very Special Girl” by Mike Resnick
A zombie presents his unique new girlfriend with something that isn’t his to give, so a bookie and his crew go to retrieve it. I liked the style of this story a lot.
- “Love Seat Solitaire” by D.L. Snell
Three guys play video games in a haunted apartment. It’s overly crude and full of pointless, awkward (and mostly dated) pop culture references. Yes, I am a nerd, but it takes more than randomly name-dropping Nintendo or Ghostbusters to make me laugh.
- “I Know Who You Ate Last Summer” by Nancy Holder
This story is about a pair of paranoid cannibals in Hollywood. It’s a great idea and mostly well done, but a little too vague at times.
- “Bitches of the Night” by Nancy Kilpatrick
The three undead wives of a vampire cause problems. This one is okay, but I was less than thrilled with the idea that becoming a vampire eventually turns every woman into a stereotypical empty-headed harpy.
- “The Bell… FROM HELL!!!” by Jeff Strand
A mild-mannered guy gets tired of his co-workers questioning the magical properties of his bell. Kind of cute.
- “Dead Hand” by Sharyn Crumb
When a NASCAR team is in trouble, the mechanic finds them an old-fashioned driver who has trouble adjusting to the current realities of the racing world. It was written well enough that I enjoyed it despite my total lack of interest in the subject.
- “Day Off” by Jim Butcher
Poor Harry Dresden can’t keep one of his rare days off from turning into a fast-paced meltdown. Between friends in trouble, an enthusiastic apprentice, and a group of vengeful incompetents, how will he be ready for his date on time? I loved the gamer nerd references because they were integrated well. This is one of the best stories of the lot. People who haven’t read any Dresden Files books may not like it as much as I did, but the only possible response to that is, “Why the hell aren’t you reading the Dresden Files books?”