Halloween: Magic, Mystery, and the Macabre wasn't a wholly successful anthology for me, with stories definitely heavy on the skip-it (as opposed to read-it) side, but still worth reading for the favorite author high-points. I think Paula Guran strayed a bit too far from the traditional exploration of Halloween for my tastes, but I can't fault her for trying to do something different.
The first four stories in the anthology did nothing for me - although The Mummy's Heart by Norman Partridge had its moments - and had me seriously considering whether to keep reading, or just skim ahead to the authors that interested me. Fortunately, Lesser Fires by Steve Rasnic Tem & Melanie Tem was solid, and pretty much what I had hoped to see from them.
As for Long Way Home: A Pine Deep Story by Jonathan Maberry, it's been a while since I've read any Maberry - the last Pine Deep novel, in fact - so it was nice to reconnect with a story that perfectly captured the thrills and chills of that trilogy . . . and which convinced me to keep reading.
After another skip-it that had me doubting that decision, The Halloween Men by Maria V. Snyder turned out to be the only story in the collection that genuinely surprised me with its approach to the season. Having Halloween be the one day of the year were we don't wear masks was a neat idea, but it's Snyder's execution that makes the story work so well.
Pumpkin Head Escapes by Lawrence Connolly was a great follow-up, a surprisingly strong tale that didn't play out quite as I expected, but was followed by several more stories of the skip-it variety before getting to Quadruple Whammy by Chelsea Quinn Yarbro, which was not at all what I expected from her, but thoroughly enjoyable and a story that convinced me, once again, to keep reading.
We, the Fortunate Bereaved by Brian Hodge and Trick or Treat by Nancy Kilpatrick were two stories I had high hopes for going into the anthology, and I'm glad to say they delivered, while All Souls Day by Barbara Roden was an interesting enough tale, but a little weak for the penultimate tale.
Fortunately, And When You Called Us We Came To You by John Shirley proved to be a fantastic end to the anthology. If it doesn't have you humming the Silver Shamrock song from Halloween III under your breath as the spirits of the ancestors wreak havoc upon a slave labor Halloween mask mask factory . . . well, you're just not my kind of trick-or-treat partner.
All-in-all, not nearly as creepy or as scary as I had hoped, with a few too many stories trying to be 'cute' or 'clever' in tying themselves to the holiday, but Halloween: Magic, Mystery, and the Macabre still had its moments.Originally reviewed at Beauty in Ruins