Edited by John Skipp, Psychos is a collection of short horror stories that cover every kind of disturbing and then some. Serial killers? Check. Creepy babies? Check. Stories that mess with your head from first word to the last? Check.
Horror comes in every imaginable form in Psychos – there is plenty of gore but there is subtlety too. John Skipp’s introduction to the collection is entertaining and informative – be sure not to skip it. I also really enjoyed Skipp’s small introductions before each story, almost as much as the stories themselves. The stories explore a wide variety of subjects, making this collection a comprehensive, if highly disturbing, study of human condition. Expect the unexpected at every turn of a page.
The opening story, “Classical Scenes of Farewell” by Jim Shepard, is a gripping start, with its dark medieval atmosphere that breathes with cold. It is one of the more graphic and atmospheric in the collection, and Shepard’s vivid language helps a great deal. I found “The Small Assassin” by Ray Bradbury to be one of the most chilling pieces in the collection – right up to its unnerving last sentence. Neil Gaiman’s “Feminine Endings” stood out with its understated uneasiness and poetic language.
“The Most Dangerous Game” by Richard Connell is an intense action story – and a frighteningly believable look at the mind of an ultimate hunter. Amelia Beamer takes the topic even further in “The Meaning of Life”, providing an extremely disturbing insight into a mind of a killer. There is also place for a bit of comedy – “Murder for Beginners” by Mercedes M. Yardley is humorous, in the graveyard sort of way. “At Eventide” with its unique story and Kathe Koja’s incredible command of language is a fitting, atmospheric ending for the collection.
These are but a few examples of what is in store if you decide to pick Psychos up. Also, do take John Skipp’s warning for one of the Appendixes seriously – it is every bit as disturbing and unforgettable as promised.
Psychos is out now.