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Chiral Mad
Edited by Michael Bailey
Review by Mario Guslandi
Written Backwards Trade Paperback  ISBN/ITEM#: 9781479152438
Date: 11 October 2012 List Price $15.00 Amazon US / Amazon UK / Book Trailer / Publisher's Website / Show Official Info /

This anthology of psychological horror has three distinct features. First of all the title is extremely puzzling, unless you know ( I didn't) that in chemistry the word chirality describes an asymmetry of the molecules or more exactly a state where an object is not identical to its mirror image or cannot be superposed onto itself. Not clear enough? Never mind. The second peculiar aspect is that all the writers contributing either original stories or reprints, are not receiving any royalties because all profit from sales go directly to Down syndrome charities. Last, but not least, the average quality of the included tales is extremely high.

Needless to say not all of the twenty-eight stories assembled by editor Michael Bailey are memorable, some are, as in any anthology, just run-of-the-mill material, but most are quite remarkable and many are really outstanding. Furthermore, to confirm the continuous good health of the horror genre, the best contributions are not always those written by famous authors (and here we have plenty) but are often coming from the pens of either newcomers or less known writers.

Andrew Hook's "The Perfection of Symmetry" is the effective, insightful portrait of a perfect young model prisoner of her own success, while Chris Hertz's "There are Embers" is an intriguing piece featuring a serial arsonist whose identity is finally discovered.

Monica J. O'Rourke contributes "Five Adjectives", a perceptive tale depicting the horror of living in a hellish family with a domineering father and Patrick Lacey provides "Send Your End", a very disturbing tale about the terrible fascination exerted by a website where suicides upload the video of their death.

In "Enchanted Combustion" by Amanda Ottino the school problems and the disquieting secret of a young Down Syndrome girl are portrayed with a delicate touch while in the Kafkaesque "Cubicle Farm" a loser working on the phone as a debt collector gets suddenly endowed with a terrible, inhuman power.

Patrick O'Neill's "Alderway" is an accomplished and atmospheric Jamesian pastiche whereas Jeff Strand's "A Flawed Fantasy" is a fine example of erotic horror (which could have fittingly been included in a volume of the mythical Hot Blood. anthologies) and David Hearn's "Brighter Her Aura Grows" the captivating report of an overwhelming obsession apt to obscure all other aspects of reality.

Finally, there is a quartet of superb tales which really stand out: "Some Pictures in an Album" by Gary Mc Mahon is a superb story based on a bunch of odd, disturbing photographs collected in an old family album; "Not the Child" by Julie Stipes is a marvelous piece where a pregnant woman fights to save her unborn child from a deadly fairy; "Amid the Walking Wounded" by Jack Ketchum is an enticing tale where a medical emergency brings about more unsettling events; and "The Shoe Tree" by Pat R Steiner is a very dark, sinister story, blending crime and horror, about missing little girls in a small town community.

By purchasing this book not only will you help a worthy charity, but you will do yourself a great favor by securing many hours of excellent, fascinating reading.

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