When I first opened the package containing the book, I was greeted by this really great cover hiding all sorts of wicked mutation fun inside. Rainstorm Press put together a really good-looking book, but I was curious as to if the tales would stand up to the theme. Almost all of the tales fit really nicely, but as with most anthologies there were some that stretched the story to fit the anthology. Don’t get me wrong, as a writer I have done the same thing. At some point we all have to make a deadline or just to sell that story we love but haven’t found a home for yet.
Editor Kelly Dunn assembled a great collection. Out of the eleven stories, there was only one that didn’t do anything for me. Four stories really jumped out at me as my favorites in the book and I will give them a little shout out here.
Opening the book is Ed Kurtz’s “Angel and Grace”. The story reminded me of Edward Lee’s tales of the backwoods only in a very toned down manner. A man showing up claiming to be a relative of a deceased man finds more than he bargained for in the East Texas wilds. When he is introduced to the conjoined twins Angel and Grace he finds his deception might cost him everything. This was my favorite story and set a good tone for the rest of the book.
Second, I enjoyed “Swanson” by Jarret Keene. An old, rich businessman who has secluded himself in a hotel in Vegas has an old military robot his company built reprogrammed to serve as a butler and gopher. The way the human employees in the old man’s inner circle treated and regarded the robot made for an interesting read, but this is the tale that I felt forced the mutation angle in. The story would have been fine without it. However, it’s still one of the best in the book.
JT Rowland’s “Compatible Donor” is next on the highlight reel. Mark can regrow and regenerate lost tissue and organs which makes him the most sought after man on the organ black market. It doesn’t matter what blood type or anything, Mark can match them with whatever organ he sells. When the rent is due, he can just sell a liver or a heart, but someone else has taken notice and has his own plan for Mark. It keeps you wondering until the end and it is an exquisite ending, in a truly tasteless way. When Mark finds out his fate, I laughed, I cried, and I laughed again.
Finishing out my top four is the closing story, “The Transmutation” by Charles Austin Muir. One friend stricken by cancer disappears leaving the other to sort out the mystery of what happened to him. Taking on a writing career, he becomes obsessed with a new nihilistic author and his very familiar take on the world. His journey takes him to a secret place where nobody leaves unchanged and the truth can set you free.
Overall, the entire book is a good read and I highly recommend it. A super book from Kelly Dunn and Rainstorm Press – 4 out of 5 Tombstones.