Written by: Matt Molgaard
Reviewing anthologies has become somewhat of a challenge, and the challenge lay in the unpredictability of the focal package. Some collections seem to miss the mark, sputter and fall, facedown in the gutters of disappointments. Some flirt with meeting expectations, hindered by the occasional letdown, and some surpass all hope one could muster in holding a novel cluttered with tales manufactured by foreign talents. It’s a crap-shoot, but I’ve learned to hope for the best, and as they say, expect the worst.
The fifth edition of the Sanitarium collection reaches for greatness, and just about comes in contact. In truth, it’s one of the stronger collections I’ve encountered in recent memory, but that’s not to say that the book is without fault. Some sketchy prose ensures this one be omitted from the ranks of truly elite collections, however the creativity within these pages offers an interesting counter to any questionable writing style the reader may collide with.
There are some fascinating creations to absorb here, with works from Rob White (who offers up “Objects”, a creepy tale that leads readers on a frightening car ride that incorporates some urban legend influence and a taste of the… psychedelic, if you will) and Nathaniel Brehmer (who takes the reading audience 35,000 feet into the vast skies with “Time Zones” a terrific tale that echoes elements of Richard Matheson’s amazing “Nightmare at 20,000 Feet”, but infuses a completely unique spin).
JB Sanders brings “Witch Locks” to the collection, and while it’s a tad predictable, it’s jarring on numerous levels, as family betrayal works as the story’s focal conflict. The story paints menace in crimson, and the details – of what can only be called a crime against all that is pure – form a tight knot in the belly.
Among other standout’s are Larry Hinkle’s “The Quantum Dead”, which takes your typical post-apocalyptic zombie tale and contorts the details until the reader realizes he’s been sucked into an undulating narrative crammed with prodigious revelations. Faith Marlow’s “The Dream Journal” also serves to catch readers off-guard; this is by all accounts a documented bout with night terrors… until the story’s abating pages blindside the reader with a grim reality that exists far beyond the realm of sleep.
I found myself nit-picking minute quirks in just about every single one of these stories, but in a sense, that falls on my personal preference in regards to writing style rather than what could be labeled outright errors. These stories aren’t technically… wrong, they’re just crafted on a path I’ve not thoroughly beaten. Ironically, the minor idiosyncrasies showcased in the works of these authors almost make this collection even more endearing than your typical horror anthology.