Slayer album art, Post Mortem doesn't rely on graphic or demonic excesses to frighten readers; there's hardly a broken bone or bloody wound or occult word in these entire 350 pages. None was an outright bomb but there are some ho-hum entries. Not all the stories even attempt horror; they can mostly be divided up between "hopeful" ghosts and "scary" ghosts. Although both Paul F. Olson and David B. Silva were editors of well-regarded '80s horror mags, Horrorstruck and The Horror Show respectively, I wasn't impressed with their metafictional introduction. Ditto Dean Koontz's afterward, which highlights exactly why I find him useless as any kind of horror authority. Koontz prefers, it seems, those "hopeful" ghost stories, the ones that confirm his belief that his spirit "will never die."
Next, "Timeskip," Charles de Lint's entry, is a modern urban fantasy with 20something protagonists; I know he's considered a pioneer in that subgenre, as his felicity with environs and character is obvious. Romantic ghosts promise meeting again. A similar encounter turns up in James Howard Kunstler's "Nine Gables," about a couple whose marriage is rekindled in the unlikeliest manner when they welcome guests into the titular inn they buy. From horror-writing couple the Tems, Steve Rasnic and Melanie, we get the terrific "Resettling." This is about the finest little haunted-house story I've read recently (after Michael Blumlein's "Keeping House"). It works every which way, a mature, insightful work that confronts family life's innumerable disappointments, with a true and bittersweet finale that oh-so-subtly upends ghost story protocol. The Tems really get - deliver - domestic horror.
Visiting ghosts also appear to those whose pasts are unfinished. Sometimes these shades bring closure, as in Silva's "Brothers" or P.W. Sinclair's "Getting Back," but just as often bring a horrific justice. "The Ring of Truth" from Borderlands editor Thomas F. Monteleone is a longish tale of Vietnam survivors and insane murderous machismo. Hate burned like the heart of a star, and not even death can keep that feeling contained. The abused wife of Janet Fox's "The Servitor" escapes to an abandoned house in the country. Surprise: it's not so abandoned, and what's there demands a debt for its services. A finely-tuned depiction of a woman's desperate attempts to save herself, the story's final lines are chillingly pitiless.
When I told a few close friends that I was going to Blanca, their reaction was about what I had expected. "Why?" they asked. "There's nothing to see in Blanca. Nothing to do except disappear." Sly smiles. "Watch out you don't disappear." "Maybe that's why I chose it," I said with a smile of my own. "It might be nice to disappear for a while."
Can there be any doubt the story will end the same way?
she died several years ago.
Last, the somewhat interesting "Haunted World" - what if all the people who ever lived on earth came back to haunt us - is told in a cliched good ol' boy voice, which completely undermines the premise. The bland, obvious style of Robert McCammon proves to me once again why I have little interest in reading any of his novels, despite their seeming endless popularity with fans of '80s horror.