This book was provided for free by Skullgare Media in exchange for an honest review. Many thanks to them for the opportunity! It’s been a while since I had the chance to review a new anthology and when given the option of which title to choose it had to be Loathsome Voyages, how could it not be? Stories inspired by horror and speculative fiction’s greatest writers is right up my alley.
The book comes with a very handy content warning at the start which explains that due to the genres in the book all the stories are disturbing. There is explicit language, violence (implied and described in detail), and sexually graphic scenes. There is no sexual violence, although one story does involve an infestation to an area that men will find sensitive.
From these general warnings, you can gain a sense of the type of content they include. Here are some extra trigger warnings I wish to add based on my own personal experiences:
- One story (‘What We See In Reflections’) that discusses female mental health, especially hysteria. It’s set in the Victorian era and includes all the ignorance of the medical profession of that time. Another (‘The Curious Key Carelessly Left Behind‘) refers to an abusive relationship, and drug use is mentioned in ‘L’escritoire‘.
- If you’re not familiar with weird horror and speculative fiction then please be aware that these are stories about creatures and everything that goes bump in the night. So if you have a phobia of insects (one story, in particular, is features a spider, another is about an infestation) or strange creatures then this is not the book for you.
My review below does not contain any triggering information.
I can never turn down an anthology of horror short stories. To me they are one of the best ways to indulge and enjoy the genre, taking the scary story oral tradition and passing it on in book format. Loathsome Voyages offers a foray into the weird, the synopsis offering some tantalising tidbits that suggest it’s going to deliver. There are not many book summaries that I’ve read that start with ‘a blood-soaked writing desk’ that’s for sure. The other dark tales it mentions are what I would expect from this sort of an anthology, but a writing desk? Yep, that one has me curious.
While I’m not familiar with Fritz Leiber, I feel comfortable enough with both H.P. Lovecraft and Richard Matheson as well as other speculative and horror writers to adequately assess whether the writers of Loathsome Voyages emulate these great masters.
As a fan of Lovecraft and Victorian horror, Loathsome Voyages especially appealed to me. It delivered spectacularly with a selection of writers whose stories cover several centuries of history. From the 1800s to the present day, this anthology is filled with tales of creatures, beasts and worlds that shouldn’t exist.
Let’s take a closer look at these tales:
Dogtown By Anthony W. Harris
The first story in the anthology jumped right into the 1930s with an alternate spin on the lycanthrope mythos. Set in the period between World Wars, the story is the account of a man as he works on a project led by someone who grows increasingly erratic. Of course, what he imagines is happening and the reality of what he finds is too strange for him to even contemplate until it’s too late…
The Life Line By Chris Durston
This modern-day horror masterpiece by Chris Durston will remain in your thoughts long after you finish it and you’ll never look at a London Tube map the same way ever again. Even as I moved onto the following stories my thoughts kept returning to the end of this story trying to work out what I’d read, what images it had conjured up in mind. The Life Line is a fantastic blend of technology and anxieties of modern life with the delicious horror of something lurking beneath that Lovecraft perfected.
What We See In Reflections By Michael D. Nadeau
The entire premise of this story was fascinating, however, the story itself ended up being mediocre. It got bogged down in the setting up the scene, and then the climax felt very rushed. It could have been a really chilling story and in the end, it just fell flat for me.
Classified: Snow Wight By Gary A. Fagan
Absolutely brilliant. This was an intriguing urban fantasy story filled with incredible worldbuilding which was way too good for just a short story (Gary if you’re reading this; a D.A.R.T. series is needed STAT). It more than holds its own with some of the big bestselling urban fantasy authors and I would read a series based in this world in a heartbeat. It was easily one of the highlights of the anthology for me.
Pray, Love, Remember By J. L. Royce
As you might expect from a story punning on the name of a romantic book/film, there is some romance, however, this is an anthology of weird and horror stories remember. I found this one to be an interesting mix of several genres, and really enjoyed how science and magic were blended together. It’s a more subtle horror story, one that slithers under your skin and into your thoughts and will keep you coming back to it at random moments where you shudder at the memory – just like all good romantic horror stories.
The Curious Key Carelessly Left Behind By Mackenzie Littledale
I’ll be honest I wasn’t really sure what to think about this one. It wasn’t bad, it wasn’t good, it was different. My main thoughts after finishing it were ‘well that escalated quickly?!’. I think this one just wasn’t for me.
Below By Zach Friday
There’s one thing that puts me right off a story before I even begin to get into it and that’s present tense. My head just cannot get around it and while I could see where this story was going all I could see was present tense. Considering the extremely dark and tragic situation of the protagonist it was probably the worst choice for this type of story. I’m sure it was by design to get the reader to feel more in touch with the character, but there is such a thing as too much sensory and emotional overload. Not a fan of this one at all.
Widow’s Walk By C. M. Harris
This story had the feel of being part of a much bigger world and there were times when I felt as though I was missing information because of that fact. That wasn’t necessarily a bad thing; it added to the flavour of the story, giving it an air of mystery. It was an interesting story and like Classified: Snow Wight it had some great world-building in it. It’s not one for people who are afraid of spiders though, that’s for sure.
L’escritoire By C. D. Storiz
This is a story that proves you can literally make anything, even an inanimate object, the focus of a story if you have the creative chops for it. I’m still in love with how a desk was used as a centrepiece for a horror story. It’s a fantastic story, and honestly, I’m going to leave it at that. You really just need to read this one for yourself!
Electric Love By Michelle River
There is no easy way to say this. Yes, this is an anthology for weird, and I was fully prepared for all sorts of things that could entail including sexually graphic details as the content warning mentions. I’m not new to the genre and I’ve read my fair share of weird, however, this story was beyond what I was expecting from this anthology. I did my due diligence as a reviewer and read it, but my personal opinion is that it was out of place and context with the rest of the anthology’s content. Not because it was sexually graphic, rather it was the attitude of the piece.
Becoming A Man By Tim Mendees
If good old chilling Victorian-style horror is more your fare then look no further, this is what you’re looking for. I got some serious Arthur Machen and Lovecraftian vibes from this one as it’s all about old gods and things that people really shouldn’t go looking for, but naturally, always do. Boys, you might find this one a little bit… uncomfortable to read.
Fate, Fools & Firewater By Mark J. Schultis
For my notes on this, I literally wrote down ‘very clever’ and that neatly sums this story up. It’s very meta and everything is entwined within itself, but not to the point that it’s overdone. That’s the fine line with stories like this one; you have to have the magic touch to know when you’re giving the audience enough information without smothering them in complexities. There’s an element of humour in there too and I finished this one with a sly smile on my face. I think there’s probably a few more stories that the Bartender has to tell and it’d be interesting to hear them someday…
What To Expect When You’re Summoning A Demon By C. Vandyke
What To Expect When You’re Summoning A Demon is so funny yet so tragic. You feel bad for laughing at the events that transpire in this story and yet like watching someone do something silly and hurt themselves you still laugh while knowing how wrong it is. They’re in pain, suffering and maybe broken something, and yet you’re technically finding humour in their pain?! That’s how this story will make you feel because the reality of what the poor protagonist goes through is pure hell, and yet it’s written in such a quirky and humorous way that you cannot help but laugh. You’ll definitely be put off summoning a demon for life, that’s for sure.
Into The Maw Of Darkness By B. K. Bass
The final story of the anthology is Victorian horror at its best. Another story filled with chilling Lovecraftian goodness (or would that be darkness?) it’s all about the mystery of missing people and one man’s determination to find out what happened. It’s a tale we’ve all heard before and even though you know it’s not going to end well you’ll keep reading just as I did. That’s why we pick up books like Loathsome Voyages after all, isn’t it folks? There be monsters in the Maw of Darkness, but not quite what you were expecting 😉
For me, Loathsome Voyage lived up to the lofty goal of bringing fourteenth talented writers together to create an anthology that successfully captures the essence of horror and speculative fiction greats. While claiming direct inspiration from H.P. Lovecraft and Richard Matheson, I found myself noticing similarities to other horror authors I was familiar with; Arthur Machen, H. G. Wells, Rudyard Kipling and even some Arthur Conan Doyle. There is some wonderful urban fantasy in there too which is one of the many modern spin-offs from the original horror genre too. The sign of a good anthology is not only in the calibre of its writing but also in its editing and Loathsome Voyages has both. It has something for everyone and offers exactly what it says it offers… if you’re brave enough to read it.
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Over to you
Thanks for taking the time to read my review for Loathsome Voyages! It is just one of several anthologies and short story collections that Skullgate Media has available so if horror is not your thing then check out what else they have available. They’re also always on the lookout for new submissions so if you’re a writer do check them out 🙂
Which story from Loathsome Voyages sounds interesting to you?
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