Cemetery Dance recently released the fifth installment of its fantastic Shivers series. The book runs the gamut from subtle horror that sneaks up on the reader to stories that have all the subtlety of a swift kick in the nuts. In my humble opinion, this is why the Shivers series has enjoyed so much success over the years – there’s something for everyone.

SHIVERS V starts off with a bang as Norman Prentiss describes a too-perfect family in “The Albright Sextuplets”; you’ll never be able to see TLC’s Jon and Kate Plus 8 in the same way again. Robert Morrish breathes new life into the oft-used cave spelunking horror with his story entitled “Each Step I Take Is In Darkness”. Scott Nicholson’s protagonist shows how far he’ll go to protect his property in “Good Fences”. Ronald Kelly’s “Cumberland Furnace” – one of the more subtle stories in the book, as well as one of the most powerful – tells the story of a tyrant who ran a business using slaves, and the eerie things that still happen on the property. Brian Freeman shows us a nasty streak in “One More Day”, a tale of torture that takes the reader right up to “the line” without actually crossing it…allowing the reader’s imagination to fill in the bloody details. Other standouts include Rick Hautala’s “True Glass”, in which a man is able to see people’s true natures via a supernatural piece of glass; Kealan Patrick Burke’s “The Acquaintance”, about a man’s homecoming going terribly awry; and two pieces of poetry by Robin Furth. But, perhaps the biggest surprise was Chet Williamson’s “Marley’s Cat”, a retelling of Dickens’ A CHRISTMAS CAROL through the eyes of Jacob Marley’s feline friend. There is no horror in this tale, and it might seem out of place to some, but Williamson delivers an enjoyable fantasy that not only deserves a place in the anthology but also very nearly steals the show.

As is the case with anthologies, some stories are stronger than others. But, perhaps the biggest disappointment in SHIVERS V is that two of the book’s strongest contributors – Stewart O’Nan (“Summer of ‘77”) and Al Sarrantonio (“Cookies”) – turned in the weakest stories of the lot. Their entries were incomprehensible and probably should have been left out of the finished product. Authors of their caliber should be able to come up with better stories than they produced for this book.

SHIVERS V is another winner -- a book that every horror fan should own. It easily earns an 8 out of 10 for its combination of great authors, powerful stories, and cheap price tag. It is available as a trade paperback from Cemetery Dance at the low price of $20. Now go get yourself a copy….and enjoy.

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