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  • Writer's pictureBP Gregory

What Are We Reading?: Ashley Franz Holzmann Presents Vices and Virtues, A Horror Anthology


4/5 Life Lessons

Give me the short version:

Clever fables with a sting in the tail, for helping you find where you went wrong in life.

I was fortunate enough to be offered a free copy in exchange for an honest review, although I might have picked Vices and Virtues up anyway on random encounter: love that cover!

Mr Holzmann curates and contributes to this assembly of short stories, all charmingly modeled around a particular vice or virtue. Flying under the flag of a horror anthology, the tales actually run the gamut of sci-fi, horror, and urban fantasy, the scope both broadened and held together by the overarching theme. Before I go further I have to confess that my preference runs to densely layered metaphor – that said, not everyone wants their brain bent backward every time they crack a cover. The prevailing style of a lot of the Vices and Virtues stories is clean and straightforward with a moral twist, and I foresee the collection gathering a strong following. Some of my favourites: I particularly enjoyed L Chan’s futuristic medical riff on that classic old Poe with Heart Full of Love. Adam Gray’s deep-dive into an addled mind with Constance was fascinating; I was also drawn in and intrigued by the slow boil modern nihilism of editor Mr Holzmann’s Dammit, Janet. Manen Lyset offers a more classic, and very engaging coming of age spook story in The Sand Quarry. A standout treat was Kristopher J Patten’s Sesshoseki, Japanese crime noir oozing with strong characterisation and illuminated by socio-political context. Then he hits you harder with second story Biserka, staggering through a wild shipping container and the scorched memories of a war deserter. On a finishing note, even though I was sent a free copy I’ve put in my advance order anyhow to send another paid order this anthology’s way (release date 1 October 17).

My favourite bit:

“Even then, though, he couldn’t shake the image of the ship cleaving in two like the Titanic, leaving long, thin strands of jagged metal exposed on both ends like caramel inside a broken candy bar. The cold, blue death of seawater would flood into both halves and pull them down, sinking like anchors.”

– Biserka, Kristopher J Patten.

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