The Restless Dead, edited by Deborah Noyes, is a companion to her previous anthology, Gothic. So how does Dead stack up to its predecessor? Well, like I’ve said before, anthologies tend to be a mixed bag, and with Dead, like Gothic, being relatively short, it’s easier for the misses to seem to weigh heavier against the hits. Still, overall, I liked it.
The collection opens with “The Wrong Grave” by Kelly Link. Now, normally, I love Kelly Link. Love. She writes some of the best weird/whimsical fiction out there, and a lot of her stories really get under my skin and stay with me. However, “Grave” is not one of her best. That being said, it was still entertaining. I guess Ms. Link has just set the bar so high with her other work, that for one to be any less than stellar is somewhat disappointing.
Chris Wooding fairs better with the second story in the collection, the haunted house tale, “The House and the Locket.” Being set in Victorian era England (a favorite setting of mine, for both fiction and nonfiction reading) means this one got bonus points right off the bat. Being one of the few legitimately creepy stories in the book got it more points. “Locket” one had a neat little twist, and if anything, its only flaw was being too brief. I could have stayed in Wooding’s world a little bit longer and am now eagerly looking forward to reading his similarly Victorian London-set novel, The Haunting of Alaizabel Cray.
I loved Annette Curtis Klause as a teenager; Blood and Chocolate is an old favorite of mine. While I did enjoy her contribution, “Kissing Dead Boys,” I found the main character somewhat obnoxious, and the whole thing seemed like it was trying a little too hard to be edgy.
Marcus Sedgwick is always a fantastic writer, and “The Heart of Another,” his riff on the Edgar Allan Poe story, “The Tell-Tale Heart” is no exception. I simply do not understand why he is not as widely appreciated in the U.S. as in the U.K. where I’ve found his books to be much more readily available.
Herbie Brennan’s “The Necromancers” is actually the first thing I’ve read by this particular author. Although this story of a pesky undead grandfather and a missing inheritance was one of the more light-hearted stories of the bunch, I was impressed by Brennan’s style. I’ll definitely be checking out more of the prolific Irish author’s works in the near future.
Deborah Noyes’s own contribution, “No Visible Power” is a period piece ghost story with a neat little twist, although the ending comes a bit too abruptly, as our narrator’s fate is shoehorned into the last two sentences, coming across almost like an afterthought.
Libba Bray proves again why she is one of my favorite YA authors writing today (seriously, if you haven’t read A Great and Terrible Beauty and its sequels, stop what you’re doing right now and go read them. Right now. Seriously, why are you still here? I said go.) “Bad Things” concerns vengeful spirits and possible Satan worshiping and comes with a nasty little bite at the end.
“The Gray Boy’s Work” is really the only serious clunker in the bunch. I normally like stories with a fairy tale or fable like quality to them, but this one just really missed the mark. I think M.T. Anderson just tried too hard to make his story “different” here and failed hard.
I’m skipping reviewing Holly Black’s “The Poison Eaters,” for inclusion in an upcoming review of her short story collection of the same name, so please forgive my not including it here.
Finally, Nancy Etchemendy’s “Honey in the Wound” is a haunting, tragic tale set in a rural American town in the 1920s. It deals with loss and grief, and how sometimes letting go is the only healthy option. To say more would spoil the magic of this particular story. I’d never heard of Etchemendy before I picked up Restless Dead, but I definitely won’t forget her now.
Overall, this is another solid collection by Noyes. My one complaint is that I wish her collections were longer. I was left hungry for more at the end of Restless Dead, much like I was with Gothic. More and, possibly, longer works would fill that hunger and also give the few less than stellar entries less weight to bring the rest of the collection down.