I've finished Zombie Raccoons and Killer Bunnies, edited by Martin H. Greenberg & Kerrie Hughes and overall it was an OK anthology. A few stories stood out, and those I've denoted with bold titles. A few of the stories were disappointing, either with an ending that wasn't as satisfactory as I would have liked, or with an ending that just didn't make sense to me at all. There were some good chilling stories in here, along with some fun humorous takes on the theme, so a wide variety overall. If you like "creature of the night" stories, then you'll find a couple of good reads in here, but in the end I was a little disappointed overall.
Table of Contents:
Death Mask by Jody Lynn Nye: This was a zombie raccoon story, where the raccoons come up against a farmer who doesn't agree with the idea that you need to commune with nature. It was an OK story, but I had a hard time getting used to the voice of the farmer character, which threw me off.
BunRabs by Donald J. Bingle: And this was a killer bunny story . . . told from the POV of a chicken. *grin* The chicken's POV of the world in general is hilarious, especially their take on modern day conveniences (and how they use them) and the mythology they've developed about rabbits and how they incorporate some of our own traditions into their worldview. A fun story.
for lizzie by Anton Strout: A cute little story set in Anton's "Simon Canderous" universe, although it doesn't feature Simon as a character. The main character is an archivist, dealing with a certain lack of social skills when dealing with the opposite sex . . . along with a rather ferocious little book wyrm.
Faith in Our Fathers by Alexander B. Potters: The idea here is that young child who can heal with his hands in upset because his pet cats keep disappearing. His father tells him it's the fisher cats (who aren't fishers or cats) that keep taking them, so the boy decides he wants to find these fisher cats and goes in search of them. He finds something more instead. It was an interesting story, written well, but at the end I wanted more. I wanted the story to do more, especially since there was so much potential for more in what was presented in the story. With that said, though, this is the best story in the anthology so far.
Bone Whispers by Tim Waggoner: The creature in this story is a rather large and supernatural groundhog, haunting a cemetery. The story revolves around a man returning to the cemetery to confront the groundhog, who had a run-in with when he was twelve years old. I felt like this story needed a little more development, with the connection between the groundhog, the man, the boy, and the groundhog's hole (and the cemetery) fleshed out more. It had a creepy ending though.
Watching by Carrie Vaughn: And here we deal with pigeons. A man proposes to his girlfriend after taking her to Venice . . . only to have her say no. This sets the man's life onto a whole new track as he sets out to backpack across Europe, discovering pigeons the entire step of the way. Only the pigeons aren't exactly what they seem. The first half of the story was interesting, and the character drew me in, but then the story takes a hard sharp turn (perhaps even a hair-pin turn) in the middle and becomes a completely different kind of story altogether. This wasn't a bad thing and the ending itself makes you smile, in a sort of funny/gruesome kind of way.
The Things That Crawl by Richard Lee Byers: This story doesn't single out one particular type of creature, it sort of deals with snakes, lizards, alligators, etc, in general. And this is the most well developed story in the anthology. I connected to the main character, a detective who has an alcohol problem, so has been demoted and has relocated to the coast of Florida where, after a hurricane passes through, discovers that the local wildlife isn't behaving as usual. He picks up on this and puts the pieces together (he is a detective after all), but the conclusion is, of course, too supernatural for the average person to believe. He ends up being forced to deal with the situation himself. Again, a very well-written, cohesive story with a rounded plot, rounded character arc, and a beginning, middle, and end.
The White Bull of Tara by Fiona Patton: This is a story centered around the White Bull of Tara. It begins interestingly enough--fairy cows are breaking through from the fairy realm to munch on the Druids' garden and a pack of siblings/guards are tasked to stop the incursion. They figure out who's causing the problem, and why . . . and then the story just kind of dies. They don't really do much to stop the incursion from the fairy side, but the cows stop coming. Instead, the White Bull's rival comes through and has his way with the local herd. It just felt like the story fell apart to me, or skewed off in a different direction from the first two-thirds of the story, and so the ending didn't feel right.
Dead Poets by John A. Pitts: I don't think I understand this story at all. I REALLY, REALLY liked the idea introduced at the beginning: the main animal here is the shrike, a bird, which (I didn't know this before reading the story) apparently captures its prey and impales it on thorns on hedges and such around its nest. A cool factoid in and of itself. When, in the course of the story, the main characters finds that the shrike pestering her garden has started impaling pixies as well as rodents and such, the story jumped into a whole new level of interest for me. I seriously thought this would be the coolest story in the anthology . . . but then it completely fell apart near the end. Great setup, great idea, great animal . . . but nothing is done with it in my opinion. It kind of just trails off.
Super Squirrel to the Rescue by P.R. Frost: This story was cute, as the title suggests, with only a little touch of "evil creature from the night" to it. In this case, the evil creatures were crows, a whole murder of them, tormenting a neighborhood. Every attempt by the people to eliminate them was ignored and ridiculed with cawing. It required a rather supernatural squirrel to come to the rescue!
Her Black Mood by Brenda Cooper: This time, the creature of the night was much darker, a black toad created by the main character who can paint wooden carved creatures to life. However, she's in such a black mood due to her life that this toad, when she paints it alive, comes out rather evil, with teeth and a lust for blood. Brenda Cooper captures the black mood of the character perfectly (we've all felt like this at some point, I'm sure) and the toad comes across as evil indeed, but I felt the resolution of the story could have used a little more umph. It made sense (unlike some of the other stories in this anthology), but I felt that so much time was spent on creating the situation and background that there should have been a little more time spent on resolving it all. It took 10 pages for the setup and making the toad as evil as possible, but only 2 pages to resolve the entire situation. A little unbalanced, but definitely a good read.
Ninja Rats on Harleys by Elizabeth A. Vaughan: The title pretty much says it all. *grin* A fun little story with evil rats and possums, a heroic mouse, and two flatulent dogs. Oh, plus a few humans. An interesting and enjoyable read, with just the right amount of humor thrown into the danger. But again this story felt unfinished. Unlike some previous stories in the anthology though, this one felt complete in and of itself, but also felt like the start of something much bigger. At least, I felt like I could have flipped the page and started another chapter when I reached the end. A good story overall though. Definitely entertaining.
Bats in Thebayou by Steven H Silver: Alien bats, anyone? That's the main creature in this story (plus mosquitoes). Earth has been invaded by alien bats . . . we just don't know it yet. The story flips back and forth between an alien bat perspective and the human perspective of two campers in Thebayou. I'm not sure this was effective overall, since I was much more interested in the alien bat perspective and not interested at all in the human perspective. But again, the ending was unsatisfactory to me. And aside from the main creature being a bat, there wasn't much in the way of "creature of the night" feeling to this story.
Twilight Animals by Nina Kiriki Hoffman: This story was well-written, with a main character who could at this point in his life be labeled a "loser." He's hired to watch over his brother's house while his brother and family tour Europe for a month. Since this guy's in college, he decides to do some research on the neighborhood, ostensibly for a paper for school. Of course, he begins seeing things during his studies that just aren't natural, in this case, a peculiarly large possum population. The ending is also peculiarly reminiscent of another story in this anthology, which is kind of bizarre. But overall a good story.
The Ridges by Larry D. Sweazy: The last story is about foxes . . . sort of. I can't say much about the storyline without ruining it, so I'll just say that the storyline here was good and it didn't end the way I thought it would as I read it. I had the right idea, in general, but the author twisted it around into something different than what I'd expected by the end. Not really a "creature of the night" story in true form, although it certainly fit the theme of the anthology