Blood Lite III: Aftertaste by Kevin J. Anderson
My rating: 2 of 5 stars
This anthology is supposed to be humorous horror. I have a message for Kevin J. Anderson: grossness is not nearly enough for humor. I hope volume two was funnier (I haven’t read it yet), but if it was as bad as this one, the series should have been a singleton.
The entire reason I skipped ahead to volume three is “I Was a Teenage Bigfoot” by Jim Butcher. Happily, it was worth reading. There was some humor, as is the case with all of the Dresden Files fiction. It wasn’t the funniest of Butcher’s stories, but the setup was good. Still, it’s a Dresden Files story, and that’s enough for a 4 out of 5.
I probably would have appreciated “Blood Red Greens” by Joel A. Sutherland much more if I played golf. As it is, I skimmed the description of the main characters’ golf game on the first day of the zombie apocalypse and read for everything else. Not bad, not great. I’ll give this one a 3 out of 5, acknowledging that I’m not the prime target audience.
“V Plates” by Kelley Armstrong has a clichéd; setup: Noah is tired of being twitted about his virginity and wants to “fix it,” so Nick agrees to take him to a brothel. (I thought there were supposed to be problems with control where young werewolves and sex were concerned? Maybe I’m confusing my mythologies.) Anyway, of course it can’t be that easy, so there’s trouble. The trouble is unfunny. This from an experienced author working with established characters who have potential? No. 1 out of 5.
Christopher Golden’s “Put on a Happy Face” is about clowns and wishes. I found absolutely nothing funny at all in it. In fact, it was horrific. It wasn’t badly written, though, so it gets a 3 out of 5.
“Devil’s Contract” by E.S. Magill has been done before. Maybe not in an anthology, so I suppose perhaps there are non-geeks who haven’t seen it done to death. But I’ve seen variations of it for years in various forms. Yawn. 2 out of 5.
Eric James Stone’s “Nine Tenths of the Law” was actually memorable enough that I didn’t have to look it up before writing this review. That puts it ahead of the crowd. It wasn’t really funny, though. There’s an ironic twist, but it didn’t make me laugh and, in fact, I half expected the ending. 2 out of 5.
“Scrumptious Bone Bread” by Jeff Strand was also memorable, but that’s just because it was excessively gross. It was also one of three stories to make fun of rednecks or country people, and I have a personal standard of one stereotyped story per anthology. 1 out of 5.
Mark Onspaugh’s “Let That Be a Lesson to You” was entirely forgettable. I just read the book today, so if I can’t remember it at all, that’s sad. 1 out of 5.
“Mint in Box” by Mike Baron was, on the other hand, memorable. It reminded me of the horror comics I used to borrow from my older cousin, Shannon. It was a dark, depressing cautionary tale — or, at least, that’s how I read it. I didn’t see any humor at all. 2 out of 5, because of the humor fail and the excessive nastiness.
J.G. Faherty’s “The Great Zombie Invasion of 1979” was the worst of the anti-country stories. Of course everybody out in the boondocks is a drunk, trigger-happy redneck! Gross, unfunny, goes on too long — 1 out of 5.
Stephen Dorato’s “Dating After the Apocalypse” fared a bit better. For one thing, I remember it and I’m not groaning. I didn’t ever laugh out loud or anything, but I did smile once or twice. That’s about as good as it gets in this collection. 3 out of 5.
“Typecast” by Jeff Ryan introduces us to a truly nasty casting director and her put-upon assistant as they go out for a coffee break while casting a serial killer. The casting director must ruthlessly “cast” everybody she sees, revealing much more about herself than anyone else. I have no trouble remembering the story but I didn’t find it very funny. Ironic, yes, but irony alone doesn’t create humor. 2 of 5.
I didn’t even notice Mike Resnick’s name before — odd. Anyway, his and Lezli Robyn’s story “Making the Cut” was a breath of fresh air. There was genuine, good-natured humor in it. I laughed. 5 out of 5.
“Acknowledgments” by Will Ludwigsen is written as, well, acknowledgments for a book. It’s more entertaining than most acknowledgement sections, but that isn’t saying much. 3 out of 5.
Heather Graham’s “Mannequin” is one I have no trouble remembering. It was creepy as hell, but totally not funny. I don’t know why it was chosen for this anthology. I can’t give her better than a 3 out of 5.
“Short Term” by Daniel Pyle is, again, highly memorable. It’s disturbing and unfunny to me. Serial killers just aren’t funny, even when they do have almost no short-term memory any more. 1 out of 5.
Nina Kiriki Hoffman’s “Distressed Travelers” is based on a highly original concept. I’d love to see what she did with it in another context. I could actually see the humor in this story, even if I didn’t get any big laughs. It was amusing. 4 out of 5.
“Bayou Brawl” by L.A. Banks has to take another poke at rednecks early on. It isn’t as bad as the other two, at least, but I was sensitized by the time I got to this story. Then it moves on and seems to be a poor excuse for setting up a love triangle between a human woman, a male werewolf, and a male vampire. Anita Blake’s been there and done that a few dozen times now, Banks — there’s no shock value in it any more. There wasn’t much humor in it unless you look at it on a meta-level (UFO versus terrestrial spookies) and even though — blah. 2 out of 5.
John Alfred Taylor’s “The Steeple People” gives us demons selling steeples with resident imps. Okay, that’s a little bit funny (to an irreligious person, anyway). The story didn’t live up to the setup, though. 3 out of 5.
“For Sale” by David Sakmyster is couched as a real estate flyer. I don’t think I’ve seen anything done quite like that before, but the property itself is a clicé. I’ll give Sakmyster 3 out of 5 for effort and originality.
Norman Prentiss’s “The Man Who Could Not Be Bothered to Die” was just gross. At least he avoided World of Warcraft jokes, but otherwise, there wasn’t any reason given for the main character to avoid dying and without one, I couldn’t believe it. 2 out of 5.
“The Last Demon” by Don D’Ammassa was actually somewhat cute. Ogerak the Off-putting escapes Hell and doesn’t find the mortal realms incredibly welcoming. 4 out of 5.
Adrian Ludens’ “Choose Your Own” is based on those “Choose Your Own…” stories that were apparently popular at one time (I missed out on them). You don’t actually chose your own path in the story, but the choices are there and it’s obvious which ones the main character made. I didn’t find it funny, but at least I cared what was happening, which is more than I can say for many of the stories in this collection. 3 out of 5.
“Smoke and Mirrorballs” by Chris Abbey is a parody of Dancing With the Stars, with Dracula, Van Helsing, The Mummy, and the like thrown in as contestants. It was mildly entertaining at the end, although the gratuitous gore wasn’t funny. 3 out of 5.
D.L. Snell’s “BRIANS!” takes a good swipe at Twilight as well as self-published authors. It was macabre yet funnier than most of the rest of the book. 4 out of 5.
“Still Life” by Ken Lillie-Paetz had too much set-up for a failed punchline. 1 out of 5.
Sherrilyn Kenyon’s “A Day in the Life” gives us an editor unrealistically celebrating the death of her biggest-selling author. I don’t care how difficult the author was, there’s just no way the editor would be celebrating the death of the author who made her career. There wasn’t any funny in it, but the failed suspension-of-belief check ruined the story anyway. 1 out of 5.
“Old MacDonald Had an Animal Farm” by Lisa Morton introduces us to an idiot. That’s the only way I can describe the main character. Okay, characters in stories make mistakes because that drives the plot. But there wasn’t any humor in his mistakes, nor in the rest of the plot. It was all dark and depressing. 1 out of 5.
Brad C. Hodson’s “Two for Transylvania” starts off okay, with Dracula and Van Helsing teaming up together to scam villagers. It’s a silly idea, but you go with it. It would make a decent skit. 3 out of 5.
“The Four Horsemen Reunion Tour: An Apocumentary” by Lucien Soulban wasn’t particularly funny or macabre or anything else. Of course, I find most rockumentaries somewhat boring, and it seemed like a good send-up of them, so it has that going for it. I’ll give it a 3 out of 5 for that alone.
Overall, I wouldn’t have read it if I weren’t determined to finish and review it. The things I do for you people! I certainly won’t be reading it again.
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