CHOICES : EDITED BY CHRISTOPHER C. TEAGUE

I had such fun with my last real time review, I’ve decided to give this anthology from Pendragon Press the same treatment. 
Book Description

We all have them, and make them every day; sometimes, we make the wrong choice.
Six stories from Eric Brown, Paul Finch, Gary Fry, Andrew Humphrey, Stephen Volk and Richard Wright.
Choices is a major new anthology from the critically-acclaimed editor of Tourniquet Heart; sixty thousand words that will un-nerve and chill you to the bone, stories where…
… a parent’s nightmare comes true, yet there is salvation, but at what cost…
… a journey that begins with the first step of decision into the dark belly of London on the trail of revenge, where the uniformed streets become a prison…
… an interview appointment for a mundane job, gives a young woman the opportunity for her first hitch…
… a subtle tale of a cry for help on a bridge, a helping hand, and such a twist of fate…
… an innocuous meeting, a face on the news, and how the slightest clue if not divulged…
… a late-night radio talk show and the caller that will change the DJ’s life…

I have high hopes for this anthology, out of the six authors here I have read four of them previously and they really are gifted writers, hells bells one of them is Stephen Volk.  So sit tight folks I’ll have the first part up shortly.

Better late than never, here we go

The Last Kiss by Andrew Humphrey 

Say hello to John and Becky, stuck in a marriage that is slowly but surely sinking  in a quagmire of resentment, routine  and despair.  Both John and Becky are flawed, Becky, who keeps her house spotlessly clean, yet often goes days with washing herself, and John, whose extra marital affair with Helen is, to him justified because of Becky’s depression.

One night on the way home from a night out with his mate  Charlie, John comes a cross a jumper.  Faced with a choice of moving on or helping the jumper will change John’s life forever.

The last Kiss  is a very good start to the anthology.  Andrew Humphrey has created a  fascinating study into the breakdown of a marriage.  This is a moving story, that ramps up the tension in the finale of the story.  This is a subtle and emotional story with just the hint of the supernatural, just who and what is Luke, the jumper that John encounters, and how does he know so much about John.

If this is any indication as to the quality of the other five stories then this is going to be a great read.

Certain Faces by Stephen Volk. 

In some ways the story follows similar themes to Andrew Humphrey’s story, as its core is a marriage that is in decline.  Stella is a portrait artist, and her husband Gary is a builder.

Stella meets a group of students in a cafe, with the intention of using them as portrait models,  it turns it out that none of them are suitable and Stella after having a heated conversation with them leaves with the intention of never seeing them again.

However soon after her meeting, one of the students, Vicki disappears.  Even though Stella could have one of the last persons who saw Vicki, Stella keeps the meeting  a secret from the world at large, but more importantly from her husband Gary.

Certain Faces, is another excellent story from Stephen Volk, not that I expected any less.  Stephen is one of those authors who always sits in the reason to buy column when I am looking at an anthology.    Certain Faces, is  subtle, complex and compelling, that brilliantly leaves just as many questions unanswered as it does answer.  Did Stella, have anything to do with Vicki’s disappearance, and just who was Vicki and what did she represent.  Is Vicki a representation of something that was missing from Stella’s life, is her disappearance what causes the breakdown of Stella’s marriage, or is it just a mirror to the breakdown.

Either way this is an extremely well written story that will have you thinking about it long after you have finished reading it.

Kid by Paul Finch.

Kid is a disgraced  boxer, a man to whom violence comes far to easy.  Too quick to solve problems with his fists rather than his brain.  But when Kid gets a call from his ex wife he has to travel to Baker’s Wood.  But as everyone knows once you go to Baker’s Wood, you’ll never leave.

Three stories in and this anthology is still hitting all the marks.  Kid is a knock out story that masterfully melds  domestic urban horror, with an almost Gaiman like hidden London horror.  Finch has created an excellent location in Baker’s Wood, with it’s isolation from not only the world at large, but almost from time itself.  A decrepit and decaying location that in some ways mirrors the decay of Kid himself.  His life prior to travelling to Baker’s Wood was on a permanent decay cycle with no hope of reprieve.

One of the strongest elements of Kid, is the fact that despite the truly awful nature of the protagonist, he truly is vile, you can’t help but ending up rooting for him in his battle to escape this nightmare town.  By the time you have read this story, you’ll be looking at the strange dead end stret in your town with an all new view.

Hitch by Gary Fry

I have a hard time reading Gary’s writing, not because he is a bad author, on the contrary he is a very good author, I have a hard time reading him because he makes me think.  I don’t like to think, it normally gets me into all sorts of bother.  Hitch is another one of his stories that makes me think.

Louise has a job interview, and as a result a lot of choices to make.  If she gets the job she can get the freedom she thinks she wants, but it would also mean leaving the safety of her long term boyfriend Gavin.  On the way to the interview she misses the bus, thinking fate has stepped in to make the choice for her, she reigns herself to her life.  However when a stranger in a car pulls over and offers her a lift, Louise ignores a lifetime of behavioural choices and gets in the car.

Hitch is a powerful tale, Fry has done a great job in blurring the lines of responsibility, just who is the victim here, is it Louise, her father or the guy who picked her up.  This is an intelligent story, not that I would expect any less from Mr Fry,  that also manages to entertain greatly.

Memory of Joy by Eric Brown


Everybody is different and every story effects and reacts differently with different people.  This story was one of the hardest stories to read for me in a long long time.  When Ed accidentally runs over and kills his daughter Ella, his life if understandably ruined with grief.  When given the chance erase the guilt, but at the same time erase all memories of their daughter, Ed and his wife are face with a terrible choice. 
The reason this story was so difficult for me to read is that my daughter is called Ella, all the way through I couldn’t help but put myself into Ed’s place.  I started to read this story on the on bus back from work and had to put it aside, as tears had already stared to escape from my eyes.    By the time I had finished it there really was a box of tissues next to me.  
The question is though would this story have been as powerful and heart wrenching if Ed’s daughter had not been called Ella, truthfully yes I think it would.   Eric is talented writer, one I don’t think I have read before, but based on this story, he is one I’ll be looking out for in future.

Radio Trauma by Richard Wright


And now we come to the final story in this excellent collection.  I was looking forward to reading this from the get go as I was a big fan of Richard’s novel Cuckoo. In Radio Trauma, John Brosnan is an arrogant and out spoken radio phone in host.  When Keith, phones the show and and threatens to kill John’s wife live on air, it’s up to John and his sound engineer figure out his motives.  
Richard, delivers probably the most griping story of this anthology, this is a fast paced story that delivers a tense and ultimately satisfying story, that show by making the right choices you can become the better man.  
Choices is a fantastic anthology, that offers up some excellent variations on the themes of making choices and the consequences of making these choices.  Some may be subtle, and some may be more earth shattering, however all of them are  brillaint.  Make the right choice folks and get a copy of this book.

Pick up a copy by clicking the links below
 
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