Saturday 6 June 2015

Recommendation: Darkest Minds

Darkest Minds is the latest anthology from Dark Minds Press, and it collects together stories that are all based on the idea of crossing boundaries, whether real or metaphorical. Anyone who's read much of my work will known that's a theme that resonates very strongly with me - and indeed, it's proved fertile ground for the horror genre as a whole. As such, I had high hopes for this anthology and I wasn't disappointed.

There are twelve stories, and the editors (Ross Warren & Anthony Watson) have done a good job in making sure their selections aren't receptive - a common flaw of themed anthologies. So Darkest Minds includes stories ranging from 'traditional' horror such as Tracy Fahey's fine depiction of modern day travellers, Walking The Borderlines, to more experimental pieces like Andrew Hook's equally fine Bothersome. There's social commentary on the plight of refugees (Robert Mammone's tale of the same name) and people living under modern austerity in Tom Johnstone's Under Occupation, which proves an interesting companion piece to the Horror Uncut anthology that Johnstone edited.

There aren't any stinkers among these stories, and every reader is likely to have their favourites. A few of my top picks were by authors I was pretty sure beforehand weren't going to disappoint: Mark West's Time Waits... (a typical West everyman protagonist plunged into a very surreal situation indeed); Gary Fry's A Catalyst (an unusually low-key but affecting tale); and Stephen Bacon's It Came From The Ground (a compelling exploration of war-zone journalism, child soldiers, and big scary monsters).

But I was especially pleased that two stories that completely blew me away were by authors I've read very little of: Ralph Robert Moore's note-perfect The 18 - a story about doppelgangers and love and individualism - and David Surface's haunting The Sea In Darkness Calls which used the liminal space of the seashore to great effect. One thing I love about anthologies is when they give me new authors to seek out further stories by, and Darkest Minds certainly did that.

Overall, Darkest Minds presents twelve stories that are never less than interesting, and at their best provide so the best horror and dark fiction likely to be released this year. Dark Minds may not be as well known as some small presses, but on this evidence they deserve to be.

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