(More Frightening Than Fiction can be found at Lulu).
They say you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover, but the temptation here is almost overwhelming. Let’s look at the back cover for example. Run-on sentences? Check. Grammar errors? Check. Paranoid ramblings about e-piracy? Check. With prose this bad on the outside, what should we expect from the inside?
According to the rambling and grammatically-challenged introduction written by Nicky, this anthology contains seven true stories. It also says “Horror doesn't always consist of thinking zombies or oversexed vampires,…” and that the stories “are either designed to entertain or scare the reader who ever reads them because nothing is more frightening than a true story.” The editor’s private issues with other writers? Check. More grammatical problems? Check. Typical Nicky. No surprises here.
The overall layout of this book is poor. The line spacing changed multiple times within each story. The headers on the pages consist of the title of the book on the left page and “Edited by Nickolaus A. Pacione” on the facing page. Most anthologies have either the author’s name and title of the story or the name of the anthology and the title of the story as headers. The lack of experience and/or ego of the editor has gotten in the way of readability of the book.
On to the actual stories…
“Reflex Arc” by Aaron Gudmunson was the best story in the anthology. The narrator has an encounter with a bat when he is very young and develops an irrational fear of bats that has humorous consequences. There is some good description, particularly in the beginning when the narrator is writing about his childhood in Belize, and wonderful turns of phrase in this story, and the narrator has a sense of humor that comes through in the telling of his various adult encounters with bats. I wouldn’t call this a horror story, but I enjoyed it.
My only complaint is that the prose is sometimes overwritten (more on that below, because other stories are far worse.) For example, one sentence reads, “Obviously, laundry was a necessity and since attempts at persuading my roommates to undertake the task in my stead proved unsuccessful, I was forced to execute it myself.” The editor in me wants to clean that up to, “Obviously, laundry was a necessity and since attempts at persuading my roommates to do it for me proved unsuccessful, I was forced to do it myself.” Clean, simple, straightforward. And far more in keeping with the tone of the story.
I think this story has potential to be published commercially, with a little editing help to fix the fancy-when-simple-will-do writing. It’s a shame that it got sucked into the black hole of publishing, AKA Nickolaus Pacione.
Two other stories clearly described the sequence of events, but unlike, “Reflex Arc”, lacked a voice that made the story stand out. In “4410” by David Probert, the narrator and his girlfriend encounter a hostile ghost in a motel room. The sequence of events is straightforward, and I understand how something like that would be scary, but the writing doesn’t pique my interest. “Face Your Fears” by J. Daniel Steffens relates the narrator’s interactions with a ghost in his childhood home. The story is okay, slightly overwritten, but ultimately dry. It consists of simple recitation of the events with little or no emotion expressed by the narrator. Both of these stories have potential but I didn’t get a sense of the narrator at all. These stories could have been written by my next-door neighbor or the UPS man.
The rest of the stories had more serious problems. Two of the stories fell flat because they are about people doing stupid things that endanger their health and the hallucinations/actions that follow. In “The Second World” by Larry Sells, several of the narrator’s friends take the narrator out drinking to celebrate his twenty-fifth birthday. The narrator, apparently lacking even a modicum of self-control, drinks enough to land in the hospital with alcohol poisoning, and there he has a hallucination about hunting vampires and werewolves. Not scary at all. This story is also overwritten. Large and/or pretentious words and complex sentence structures are used when more simple, direct language would have been more appropriate.
“Pernicious Guiles” by Alterra Von Feuers also involves narrator stupidity. In this story, after the narrator is struck in the leg by flying debris while mowing the lawn, she behaves like the patient from hell at the hospital, insults a doctor by calling him a “fag”, and deliberately overdoses on pain medication. Hallucinations follow, and the cliff-hanger ending hints at a very nasty fate for the narrator’s leg. This story also could have used some serious editing. Misspelled and incorrect words, such as “stint” instead of “stent”, abound. Of course, since the editor of this anthology is functionally illiterate, this story didn’t even have a chance.
“My Family History” by Shanna K. Dines does not involve narrator stupidity, but the writing is extremely weak. This story also reads more like fiction than non-fiction. One of the characters meets a gruesome fate that I don’t believe could really happen, either scientifically or medically. The time line of the story is confusing. At one point early in the story, a little girl bearing a pie goes to visit her neighbor. Further action takes place, but about 2000 words later, the story returns to the little girl with the pie. Huh? Apparently the rest of the action was all back story with no transition from the present to the past. The POV is often muddled, with awkward jumps within a scene. Not an easy or engaging read.
And that brings us to the worst of the bunch – “Apt #2W” by Nicky. This story is just awful. In addition to numerous grammatical errors, a rambling time line, repetitive statements, and repeated comparisons of events to TV shows and Nicky to famous horror writers, this story just plain isn’t scary. The occupants of the apartment, including Nicky, freak out when a light bulb explodes. Later Nicky claims, just as he was falling asleep around five a.m., to have heard a voice telling his roommate to wake up. He thinks it was an EVP, or electronic voice phenomenon. Why he thinks it was an EVP and not a real person, he never explains. And that’s all that happens in 2200 words. The rest is rehash and more rehash.
Overall score: Thumbs down. One engaging story out of seven is too few for me to be able to recommend this book.
This review has been posted to my Xanga account and at Lulu.