Arterial Bloom, the Mercedes M. Yardley edited anthology out now from Crystal Lake Publishing, is something of an anomaly as modern anthologies go, as it doesn’t adhere to any particular theme or sub-genre, and has no real glue to hold these stories together other than Yardley herself. This could have resulted in anything from a creative triumph of conflicting styles and voices that work as a cohesive whole, to a disjointed mess that feels jarring and disorganized. I’m happy to note that Arterial Bloom steers far closer to the former than the latter.
This is due in part to the fantastic line-up of authors that have contributed. There are some big horror names present, with Todd Keisling, Kelli Owen, John Boden and Armand Rosamilia all providing the usual strong work that their fans have come to expect. Arterial Bloom also features a lot of new and up-and-coming writers and there is a nice balance here of the excitement of reading something new from an author you know, and the thrill of discovering somebody new.
A lot of the credit for the success of the anthology must go to Yardley herself, as what really makes Arterial Bloom work is how well all the stories complement each other. It must have been an incredible amount of work to edit a collection of disparate shorts from different authors and still leaving the overall piece flow so well together. I often dip in and out of anthologies, reading a few stories at a time, but Arterial Bloom worked so much better when read in as few sittings as possible.
The shorts on offer lean towards the literary, with many of them being very poetic and lyrical in their delivery. Arterial Bloom is not necessarily an easy read and many of the stories demand your full attention, lest you miss important meanings or subtexts hidden within the prose, but it is rewarding to read stories that don’t necessarily offer up an easy explanation.
There are a lot of great stories on offer, but some of my personal highlights included”
- “In the Loop” by Ken Liu—A melancholy short about a young girl who loses her troubled father whose time as a drone pilot for the U.S. Army left him with severe PTSD. Her desire to help people like her father leads to some uncomfortable truths and hard life lessons.
- “The Darker Side of Grief” by Naching T. Cassa—The title says as much as it needs to without giving away spoilers, but the lead characters made this story for me. Equal parts haunting and hopeful with a strong premise.
- “The Making of Mary” by Steven Price—Setting aside the social issues this story addresses, this short surprised me by being more of a high concept fantasy love story than the expected horror short, but it was so unique and so beautifully written that it was one that stuck with me after I put the book down
A strong collection featuring some talented writers. Yardley is the real MVP of Arterial Bloom however, managing to pull together a beautifully interconnected anthology that delivers as a unified whole.
Arterial Bloom Edited by Mercedes M. Yardley
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Edited by the Bram Stoker Award-winning writer Mercedes M. Yardley, Arterial Bloom is a literary experience featuring 16 stories from some of the most compelling dark authors writing today.
DescriptionLush. Brutal. Beautiful. Visceral. Crystal Lake Publishing proudly presents Arterial Bloom, an artful juxtaposition of the magnificence and macabre that exist within mankind. Each tale in this collection is resplendent with beauty, teeth, and heart. Edited by the Bram Stoker Award-winning writer Mercedes M. Yardley, Arterial Bloom is a literary experience featuring 16 stories from some of the most compelling dark authors writing today. With a foreword by HWA Lifetime Achievement Award Recipient Linda D. Addison, you are invited to step inside and let the grim flowers wind themselves comfortably around your bones. The line-up includes: The Stone Door by Jimmy Bernard Dog (Does Not) Eat Dog by Grant Longstaff Kudzu Stories by Linda J. Marshall Dead Letters by Christopher Barzak The Darker Side of Grief by Naching T. Kassa Welcome to My Autumn by Daniel Crow Still Life by Kelli Owen Three Masks by Armand Rosamilia Doodlebug by John Boden Happy Pills by Todd Keisling What Remained of Her by Jennifer Loring Blue Was Her Favorite Color by Dino Parenti In the Loop by Ken Liu The Making of Mary by Steven Pirie Mouths Filled with Sea Water by Jonathan Cosgrove Rotten by Carina Bissett