Book Review: Blood Lite III: Aftertaste edited by Kevin J. Anderson

Blood Lite III: AftertasteBlood 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 clich&eacuted; 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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