The Library of the Dead

by Various Authors, Michael Bailey (Ed.)

I prefer it this way, on nights such as this, when it is just the ashes, the rain, and I … and the tales the ashes tell. -Gary A. Braunbeck

Winner of the 2015 Bram Stoker award for Best Anthology, The Library of the Dead is a themed anthology centering on a specialized graveyard in Oakland where the ashes of extraordinary people are interred, most in urns resembling golden books on a shelf.

Michael Bailey writes the container story “The Librarian” where a specter gives a tour of the library to a mysterious man, and it consists of six parts spread throughout the anthology. The bulk of the book consists of stories about particular urns on display.

There’s a catch-phrase among reviewers that’s a bit overused in anthology write-ups: ‘with the variety of stories, there’s something for everyone.’ Not to worry here—this ain’t that kind of anthology, bruv. The stories vary, but if you dislike one, you’re probably going to dislike them all; if you like one, you’re probably going to like them all, and that’s either an impossible achievement or devilish luck.

Immediately below are a few of those that stood out among their excellent peers. Even so, Burke killed it, and so did Sangiovanni and Keene and Ochse.  Following is the standard link to the full story list if you’re on the fence or just want to know a bit more about the contents.

“I’m Getting Closer” – J.F. Gonzales – Sarah and Jessica are heading home at their parents’ requests when Jessica tells Sarah a story about a stalker who’s preying on young girls in the area, hacking into their phones. The two part company, and Siri starts acting up on Sarah’s iPhone.

Expertly crafted, basic horror story, and scary stuff. This is how it’s done.

“Fault Lines” – Christopher Golden & Tim Lebbon – Jane is on a successful archeological expedition, one that’s uncovered an ancient, mythic artifact, when she receives word that her child at home is sick. She rushes back, but the importance and power of the artifact makes for a perilous trip.

One of the longest in the bunch, this is a damned-near perfect story. Hat’s off.

“Tears of the Dragon” – Michael McBride – An old man, highly respected in the medical field, has died and is passing on a last message to his friends and followers—he’s not who they think he was. He recounts a horrific story of incarceration in a kill camp during WWII.

Another knockout of a story; be careful when jumping to conclusions.

full story list

Interestingly, while this book doesn’t share the same overall rating as anthologies like Ellison’s Dangerous Visions or collections like McCammon’s Blue World, the final rating came in very close to those books. A few points higher and this anthology would be listed alongside the greatest ever written, which is a bit eyebrow-raising. It’s that good.

Bottom-lining it, this is not a risky purchase.

“The good ones are here, in The Library of the Dead. If a story is not good, well, those stories are kept elsewhere.” -Michael Bailey

4 stars

 

The Library of the Dead
Various Authors, Michael Bailey (Ed.)
Illustrated by GAK
Dark Regions Press

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