cover image After Sundown

After Sundown

Edited by Mark Morris. Flame Tree, $14.95 trade paper (304p) ISBN 978-1-78758-455-6

Morris (New Fears, editor) brings together 20 horror shorts so wildly inconsistent the resulting anthology reads like two different books: one comprising beautifully written pieces that lean into the intuitive and fantastic, the other a clumsy mix of amateurish works riddled with genre clichés. The strongest tales include “Swanskin” by Alison Littlewood, a breathtaking fairy tale about swans who transform into women, told from the viewpoint of a young boy; “Bokeh” by Thana Niveau, about a single mother who frets over her daughter’s violent and fantastical flights of fancy during playtime; and “A Hotel in Germany” by Catriona Ward, about the parasitic relationship between a movie star and her assistant. Among the weakest are C.J. Tudor’s “Butterfly Island,” which relies on a macho, unconvincing narrative voice; Michael Marshall Smith’s “It Doesn’t Feel Right,” which delivers a preposterous twist ending; and “Murder Board,” a rare misfire from Grady Hendrix, which confuses rather than terrifies with one too many jumps around in time. The mix of big-name authors and newcomers is admirable, but the inconsistency of the tales and poor organization is often disorienting. Though there are gems here, many readers won’t want to put in the effort to find them. (Oct.)