Fresh off of one of the best religious horror anthologies out there (Dark Faith), Apex brings us a collection of stories based around the big pig himself, and I couldn't be happier. These tales sprawl across the past, present and a disturbing future under the reign of a Yeatsian Second Coming where the rough beast slouching to Bethlehem has hoofed feet and a squat, flat snout. The whole is a merger of brutal dark fantasy, olde timey religion and an occasional bit of science fiction that left my pants uncomfortably moist.
Some high points include S. Clayton Rhodes' "The Messiah of Mincemeat", which intercuts its story of burgeoning violence and retribution with recipes that show the dark underpinnings of our oh-so-civilized eating habits. and Conrad Zero wax Serling with "The Free Poor" and "Big Game". Then there is "Abattoir Blues", by Geoffrey W. Cole, a tale of hypocrisy and capitalization of religion that makes no bones of its comments on more traditional faiths. But Maxwell Peterson's "Daughter of God" takes the cake, working the style and tone of the oral tradition so closely associated with these old gods to marvelous effect.
However, not all of the stories came thundering down from the mountaintop. Opener "The Secrets of Fatima", by human ball of destruction Steven L. Shrewsbury, has its fair share of well portrayed sex and violence, but comes across as too random and scattershot to have any lasting effect. Similarly, Michael Keyton's "Bad Meat", while carrying a respectable Books of Blood-era Barker atmosphere, lacked the emotional center necessary for the viscera to properly bleed.
While there are a few stories here that fall flat, the overall effect of this collection is quite powerful and there is no doubt that it meets the high standards that come with the name. If you spend a night or two with this little friend, I doubt you'll look at pork the same way again.
Anton Cancre is one of those rotting, pus-filled thingies on the underside of humanity that your mother always warned you about. He has oozed symbolic word-farms onto the pages of Shroud, Sex and Murder and Horrorbound magazines as well as The Terror at Miskatonic Falls, an upcoming poetry anthology by Shroud Publishing and continues to vomit his oh-so-astute literary opinions, random thoughts and nonsense at antoncancre.blogspot.com. No, he won't babysit you pet shoggoth this weekend. Stop asking.