Pike’s solid second collection bring back more nostalgia from my childhood and early teens. It’s an easy reminder why Pike was one of the reigning kings of teen horror back in the day. Tales of Terror 2 contains five stories, although not all of them are strictly horror. I’d say a better title might be Tales of the Strange, but that’s a minor quibble with an otherwise stellar collection.
“The Burning Witch,” is the first story in the book and definitely solid horror. In it, Pike brings back Marvin Summer, “Master of Murder” in a tale of witchcraft, reincarnation, and revenge. A bit of a downer for Summer fans, it’s still a strong lead off to the collection and was one of my favorites. This is also the bloodiest story in the collection.
“The Tomb of Time” was an interesting story that probably could have been fleshed out a little better. It was still enjoyable – I guess I just wished it was a little longer. It’s more science fiction than strict horror, although it still feels like classic Pike.
“Bamboo” is apparently one of Pike’s own favorites, and I really enjoyed it as well. It’s a tragic tale of three doomed friends and their elderly neighbor who subtly guides them along a path that will prepare for their futures. This is probably some of Pike’s finest writing, even if again, it’s not strictly horror.
“The Thin Line” is an all-too realistic terror tale, about a high school basket ball player, who, after losing everything, takes his frustration out on his team and coach in a very violent manner. I’m honestly not sure a story like this could get published today, with a school shooter as its main character. However, “Thin Line” is far from exploitative, as it thoughtfully explores the long lasting impacts of violence.
The final story, “The Tears of Theresa,” was a suspenseful tale of a kidnapped couple and the man who wants revenge on them. I was pretty sure from the beginning that there was a twist coming, but I was actually wrong about what it was, which is a nice surprise in this era of Shyamalan, Gone Girl, and company. The ending could have been a little bit better explained, but all in all it was a good story, and a fine end to the collection.