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Chiral Mad 4 (M4D): An Anthology of Collaborations





  • Wide-ranging, multi-author concept (including artwork).


  • Not always “horror” by traditional definitions.

So, the conceit here was simple: two or more authors collaborate on what tend to be either very short or very long stories ranging through the creepy, weird, horror, and science fiction.

Anyone who has ever written anything of this sort knows this concept can go south, and fast. The execution in this is overall quite good, in that the stories combine authors who would not normally “sound” like the end result, or who might not mesh stylistically, or who might even apply very different approaches such as poetry and prose. Several (short but) memorable collaborations create a sort of graphical novel or comic book panel for several pages. Not really my thing, but, the illustrations are superb, and for being brief, the stories in those are catchy.

In the end, this comes down to the average of the stories’ quality. Some were great. Some were not as great. A high point in the first half was “Golden Sun” which tasks four different authors to provide four family members’ viewpoints of the same Lovecraft-type event, each voice amplifying or explaining the previous passes. As with several others, this is a quite long “short” story, and in quality and length, is worth the cost of admission on its own.

That said, there are a few slow spots. The opener is a fine story, but only fine, and quite long. When the word “beat” (as in, “she took a beat”) hit several times in the first few pages, I soldiered on… but only because if Steve Barnard can watch the movies he reviews here, I can surely read some words. And I was glad I did, because aside from that, the story was not bad, and again, there are some great ones throughout. Still, this sense of wishing things moved a bit faster, or noticing a tic here or there, was recurrent enough to mention in a couple of the entries.

Adjusting for price, however, this anthology is a ton of reading for not much money (as of this review, Kindle Unlimited is also available). While I don’t advocate reading something simply because it’s free, this is well above junk status, and there are several memorable stories peppered throughout. There are also several “big names” scattered in here, e.g. Brian Keene and Jack Ketchum.

Final thought: I normally don’t tend to actively seek (or avoid) “diversity” in reading for its own sake, but several of the better stories in this anthology were authored, or include as a contributing author, a female and/or minority perspective, which was reflected in engaging characters, situations, plots, and so forth. When you have something near 20 stories to plow through, this type of diversity is very welcome.

For the voracious reader, this is a great long weekend read (and since it’s stories, and lots of them, it can be a nice week-or-two palate cleanser if you’re the type to switch among several books at once).


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