Book Review: Midnight Echo Issue 17 edited by Greg Chapman

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Title: Midnight Echo Issue 17

Author: Various – edited by Greg Chapman

Release date: August 20, 2022

I’m a huge fan of Greg Chapman. Seriously – he’s ultra talented. Look at his artwork. Look at his written output. Heck, just go read ‘Netherkind.’ You’ll be a fan for life. I’m honored, as I’ll actually have two of my own books coming shortly with covers done by Greg!

So, when Greg reached out to see if I’d be keen to read the latest edition of Midnight Echo, which is the Magazine of the Australasian Horror Writers Association (AHWA), I agreed immediately. I was interested to see what Greg compiled within as Guest Editor. The bonus here is that, within the horror community, folks residing over in the geographical location have been killing it and when you look at the Table of Contents and see the names listed, you know you’ll be in for a good time.

This one featured 15 entries made up of short stories and poetry and the final two stories were included after winning prestigious writing contests!

What I liked: Even though this bad boy states ‘magazine’ on the cover, for all intents and purposes, this is an anthology. The difference here is that it has a statement from the current AHWA President (an author you’ll be familiar with), a note from Greg on editing and within there is artwork and some advertisements. Nothing that distracts or takes away from the reading, but that is the only thing that truly separates this from a traditional anthology.

Each story is solid and the poetry worked really well. The standouts for me were;

‘Feathers’ by Chris Mason. What starts out as a simple ‘expecting mom getting the baby’s room ready’ story morphs and transforms into a horrendously dark piece that has such a brutal ending.

‘The Fruits of Labour’ by Mark Towse. We follow an author who buys an estate in order to sequester himself and write his next novel. But the orchard trees grow fruit, and this writer does enjoy the taste. This goes to a number of places you’ll not expect, but wow was it unflinching.

‘The Tub’ by J. Ashley-Smith. WHAT THE?!?! Two friends are sneaking behind an old business when they discover an old, abandoned tub. You know the kind? Sitting on legs and deep. Well, you’ve never come across a tub this deep before. Loved this one and so, so unnerving.

‘Visitation Rites’ by Matthew R. Davis. I gotta be honest, I loved this story, but I don’t know if I fully liked the reality of the story. It’s hard to say and remain spoiler free. Essentially, this is a unique take on estranged parenting and protecting youth from the truth. Dark and heart-wrenching.

The absolute highlight for me though was the story ‘La Belle Morte Sans Merci’ by Kat Clay. This was just superb from start to finish. It follows a photographer in the 1800’s who becomes obsessed with human decay and trying to capture it on film. They become addicted to it and to the search to find it. Just a phenomenal body horror story and the lengths those will go for satisfaction.

What I didn’t like: As with every grouping of stories – whether a single author collection, or a mixed group in an anthology, some stories just may not connect with the reader. I found I enjoyed everything within, even if a few didn’t hit the boxes for me personally as a reader, but I often suspect those will be other readers favorites!

Why you should buy this: Chapman has put together a really amazing group of stories here. It starts on such a high and never really does back off of let down. I was a bit saddened to see there wasn’t a new short story from Greg himself.

Overall, a truly phenomenal effort of storytelling by a great group of writers. The AHWA should be proud of the work that has been put out here and for those who’ve either never grabbed an edition of Midnight Echo before, or haven’t read any of these authors, this would be a really solid place to dive in.

5/5

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