After a long weekend away from home, it was nice to have something to look forward to. I sat down with a nice glass of scotch, and in one sitting read the forthcoming collection Dueling Minds from Cemetery Dance. A concept born from the mind of Brian James Freeman and years in the making, this interesting idea for a collection of stories is finally seeing the light of day. It all started from a painting by the acclaimed Alan M. Clark, featuring a night-scape with a hot air balloon floating skyward, leaves and bats floating upward beside it, along with a cemetery and church below. From here, the minds of the authors went forth to create their stories.

Brian Keene Purple Reign

In a quiet neighborhood a hot air balloon is seen by playing children, whereupon they hear explosions and a purple gas/liquid is released upon the town. This turns every living thing it touches into a violent murderous entity. How widespread is the problem? How will little Timothy weather the storm in his town?

This story was made in the classic Brian Keene style and really gets the story (and this collection) going. Events from start to finish, a smooth flowing story, killer purple gas, and a great ending. What more could you want?

Gary Braunbeck Bargain

A man rides back in a hot air balloon to see events of his past and present family. Why is he taking this journey? He has all he could want in wealth and his own company. What is his family going to find when they visit his home after he doesn't return their calls?

Having read quite a few Braunbeck novels, I knew it wasn't going to be a fast past wham bam story, but more of a delicately written homage to a man having it all, and it being more than he can handle. A good story overall.

Tom Piccirilli Between the Dark and the Daylight

A man trying to write his horror novel in the park is interrupted by a hot air balloon flying past him, with others trying to catch the ropes. He tries to help bring the balloon down as a little boy is inside, but alas cannot. He watches the balloon fly off into the distance after his ordeal, only to have the boys father accuse him of not saving his son. Why was the boy even in the balloon on his own? What happens to the boy after he floats away?

This is my first introduction to Tom Piccirilli, and I was very happy to meet him. The story feels like a novel when you're done, it packs a meaty punch in a short time. From a quiet moment of a man trying to write his story, to a balloon carrying people away who were trying to help only to have them fall to earth, to a psychotic father going after the author for his son floating away. Excellent little gem of a story.

Tim Lebbon Falling Off the World

A young girl is lifted away into the sky amongst others in hot air balloons. This is where she now stays, no way to get down, no where to go, and no idea what will happen next to her or the others.

Overall I found this to be a pretty slow story, not much to it, and it definitely didn't keep my attention how I'd hoped. I would say out of the grouping this was definitely my least favorite, but still an okay story.

Jenny Orosel That Which Binds

After her fathers funeral, Joan meets Ben and they quickly become friends coping with their past. Ben has a particular skeleton in his closet that doesn't want to let go, a past lover whom accidentally died at his hands from a hot air balloon. Why is Louise back, and what does she want from Ben? Can Joan save Ben from his past before it's too late?

Jenny Orosel is a name I haven't heard before. I tried finding her on the glorious internet, and couldn't find a lick of literary information. Who is this woman, because she needs to be writing more! This story was very well written, and kept the past and present stories going seamlessly to create a wonderful addition to this collection. Jenny, if you're out there, please write more for the masses!

Gerard Houarner The Breath of Bygone Spirits

A man is brought back to his hometown by his grandmother only to be confronted by his past and a town full of ghosts. Can he help the ghosts find peace for their spirits and help them move on?

This was the only story that didn't immediately cling to the hot air balloon idea, but instead waited until later to go another route, which you will see if you read this collection. The story was a little slow at first, but picked up into a very interesting take on spirits and how someone can help control them.

Overall, I'd have to say I thoroughly enjoyed having the chance to read this collection. The stories were very good, and the artwork by Alan M. Clark for the cover, and Erin S. Wells for the interior were fantastic. A great addition to the already wildly popular Signature Series from Cemetery Dance!

Review by Kyle Lybeck

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