“Fear is universal – a shared human experience that provokes awe, curiosity and terror. It feeds our anxieties, elevating our heartbeats and driving the instinct to survive. But what are we afraid of – and why?”
Backing the Kickstarter for The Anatomy of Fear was one of the easiest and best decisions I have made all year. I mean, when twelve indie authors with such incredible talent come together to write a horror/fantasy anthology that explores the human mind and the emotion of fear in all their terrifying beauty, how can you resist?
What makes this anthology stand out to me is the fact that each story is inspired by a specific body part through which the author presents their unique answer to that universal question: “What do we fear – and why?”.
And because all of these authors have such strong voices and wild (and disturbing) imaginations, this anthology offers a range of incredibly diverse yet equally bone-chilling stories. Murder mysteries, witch trials, vampirism, eldritch horrors, cursed body parts, domestic abuse, cannibalism, mental illness, and demonic cults; these are just a few of the thrilling things you will find in this utterly gripping and exciting anthology.
Fantasy is a genre where I feel at home, but when it comes to horror I still feel like I am mostly stumbling around in the dark. However, the blending of these two genres here was absolutely brilliantly done and kept me on my toes the entire way through. These authors will invite you into a wide scope of utterly immersive fantasy settings of all kinds of flavours and vibes. We’ve got western fantasy, Norse-inspired fantasy, gothic fantasy, military fantasy, steampunk fantasy, urban fantasy, and some altogether more enthralling and unique worlds that will fill you with equal parts wonder and dread.
Most of these stories are not the type of horror that will have you jumping out of your seat, but more the type of horrifyingly human horror that will mess with your mind and creep under your skin. Messy and raw human emotions (with the biggest focus on fear, of course) lie at the heart of these stories and are explored in the most visceral and painfully realistic ways. They all slowly build up tension and suspense, suddenly stab a knife into your heart, and then twist it just a little deeper to make sure it hurts just right. I personally think the stories got progressively more messed up the further into the anthology we got, but it will honestly depend on your own life experiences and personal fears which stories will unsettle and disturb you the most.
Now, short stories are a notoriously difficult beast to tackle and not all authors are up to the task, but these authors understood the assignment and executed their visions to perfection. Within just a few pages, these incredibly talented storytellers managed to establish intriguing worlds, complex characters, mesmerising atmosphere, and a deep emotional investment of the highest quality. It’s almost a general consensus at this point that anthologies will always have hits and misses, but I think The Anatomy of Fear is here to debunk that notion. Of course I had favourites, but there truly wasn’t a single story that I would rank below 4 stars, making this one of the strongest anthologies I have ever read.
My personal favourites were:
– EYE: An Eye for an Eye by Lee C. Conley
The atmosphere, the dialogue, the sense of impending doom; simply brilliant storytelling!
– LIVER by Jacob Sannox
Mesmerising world building, hard-hitting social commentary and some truly nauseating twists and turns.
– TEETH: Baby Teeth by Krystle Matar
It’s Matar, one of my all-time favourite authors, doing what she does best: writing about painful and dysfucntional familial relationships, capturing gut wrenching raw human emotion, and absolutely destroying me emotionally. What more is there to say? LOVED it.
– SKIN: My Mother Took Her Skin Off Each Night by Zamil Akhtar
Easily the scariest story for me. Loved the unreliable narrator and the way that the author captured the panic, fear and descent into madness of the protagonist. What a banger to end on!
I could gush for hours and hours about what is so brilliant about each of these stories, but I’d really rather you just go explore this absolute gem of an anthology for yourself. The Anatomy of Fear exemplifies what genres like fantasy and horror do best: examining the true depravities of humanity and horrors of life from a safe(r) distance through a wondrous speculative lens.
These visceral stories will creep under your skin, chill you to your bones, take you on a rollercoaster of emotions, and haunt your mind for days to come. I absolutely loved this and can’t recommend it highly enough!
Contributing authors: Trudie Skies, Tim Hardie, L.L. MacRae, Bjørn Larssen, Lee C. Conley, Jacob Sannox, Krystle Matar, B.A. Bellec, Sean Crow, H.L. Tinsley, Ryan Howse, Zamil Akhtar. Edited by Sarah Chorn, foreword by P.L. Stuart, and illustrated by Dawn Larder.
This review is based on the Kickstarter edition.