Crystal Lake Publishing’s Tales from the Lake Vol. 3 edited by Monique Snyman, carries an intended theme, legends. This in itself is tempting the fates of unoriginality. The world influences everybody and sometimes before an author knows it, they’ve rehashed or bitten free a chunk, chewed it and regurgitated the sum of well-trodden tale. For the most part, the authors of this collection did a good job of steering toward originality.
Fully original or not, a good number of these stories were somewhat banal and predictable. One of the early stories seemed to grab onto a scene from the film adaptation of The Body Snatchers (Invasion of the Body Snatchers, post film success) and write an entire story around it, skimming away what made that gaping Sutherland scream so terrifying. Another story read like a cheesy Die Hard novelization spruced up with supernatural abilities.
Rather than focus on the mediocre to ok stories, I’ll explain why this collection is really worth reading.
Twice this collection dips into the realm of inspired and unusual monsters, using two widely differing platforms: Rodent in the Red Room by Matt Hayward has a wonderful pulpy, cornball, though done quite well, vibe while The Monster from Biscayne Bay by Roxanne Dent takes a straight line at a formidable creature and the peer-pressure platform that most can relate to, even if it a fairly normal jump-point. Both these stories carry their weight with strong characters and enjoyable monsters.
The Pigmalion Pig by Mark Allen Gunnells and The Song at the Edge of the Unfinished Road by Jack Bates deal from vivid fantasy leanings and dark hopelessness that oozes with the horror of settlement and contemplation. The no-good-tomorrow is a mainstay of terrors built on permanence and done very well in both of the above instances.
Now, if it is somehow possible that two Cinderellas exist at this particular ball, dancing and awing in equal measures, they are the stories Red Scream with Little Smile by Paul Edmonds and Maybelle by Mere Joyce.
Edmonds’ story is completely enthralling, demanding investment in the scenario and the grimness of the scene. So much so that the follow through of conclusion feels like watching a jury read a righteous verdict to a team of slimy, high-priced defense lawyers and their scumbag client. Enthusiastically impressed.
Joyce’s story is like a quiet friend when a storm has cut away the power. There, holding your hand, reassuring you that all can be well… or at very least comeuppance is awaiting and offered with a style and imagery that casts a shadow over all others within the collection.
This collection is equal parts ok, good and great, with a sparse sprinkling of ugh. Edmonds and Joyce are worth the price of admission on their own.