Review: 'Trick or Treat', edited by Ianus J. Wolf
This is Rabbit Valley’s Halloween 2013 theme anthology, “something for the adults to enjoy”. It presents eleven new stories; five scary horror “tricks” and six “delectable romantic and erotic” “treats”. The book’s fine wraparound cover is by Stephanie "Ifus" Johnson.
Ianus J. Wolf says in his introduction that this is the first of Rabbit Valley’s planned annual Halloween anthologies, to mix furry horror and adult erotica, so there will be more to come for those who like it.
Halloween just isn’t Halloween without both the scary and the sweet.
The two sections are each introduced by the two EC Comics-style ‘horror hosts’ shown on the cover, Trick the wolf and Treat the cat. The “tricks” all come first, to leave you with a pleasant taste. They are “Hellhound” by Renee Carter Hall, “Son of the Blood Moon” by Bill “Hafoc” Rogers, “Slough” by Ray “Stormcatcher” Curtone, “Unrealty” by Rechan, and “Wild Night” by Tarl “Voice” Hoch.
Las Vegas, NV, Rabbit Valley, September 2013, trade paperback $20.00 (313 pages).
All five are well-written, but they seem rather lightweight. The blurb describes these as “fun horror stories”, and their mood is mostly eerie, not really scary. Except for “Hellhound”, which is my favorite and, in my opinion, the best of the lot. A confused puppy in a pound is adopted as a pet dog by Laura, who has just separated from an abusive husband. As the puppy grows, he remembers that he is really a Hellhound, banished by his sadistic supernatural Master to be reborn as a natural dog, to bond with his loving human owner, and then to savagely tear that human apart when the Master orders it. Will Chance, the dog, bond so thoroughly with Laura that he can resist the power of the Master?
“Slough” is unique in my experience, a furry story featuring Carter, a snakeman who morphs into a different kind of snake every time he sheds his skin. Black racer, water moccasin, garden snake, rattlesnake – he can never know whether he will be a harmless variety or a poisonous snake with a really bad temper next. Lexine, his mink girlfriend, tries to help him stabilize into a safe snake permanently. The Halloween connection seems slight, but it is definitely supernatural, and has a successful surprise ending for the reader. However, as I have said about Eddie Drueding’s Arraborough that also features anthropomorphic snakes, I have never been able to visualize a snake walking upright, wearing clothes, sitting at a table, holding a newspaper, rattling his tail and so on.
“Unrealty” is funny-animal furry, but it does feature a truly eerie setting. Jake Blake is a recently-divorced realtor (hence the pun in the title) who has moved (his ex-wife got their house) into the only-completed show-model house in his new housing subdivision under construction. On a dark Halloween night, he is taking his six-year-old daughter out trick-or-treating when he realizes that he has forgotten his cell phone back home, so he makes a side trip there to get it, and is dumbfounded to find all of the other half-built homes under construction are suddenly finished and wired for electricity, with – WHAT? – people living in them, all ready for Halloween night. There is no real reason (other than that this is a furry anthology) for Jake and his daughter to be anthropomorphic otters rather than humans, and while “Unrealty” avoids the stereotypical built-upon-an-abandoned-graveyard explanation, it doesn’t give ANY explanation!The unfinished housing subdivision is just suddenly finished and full of spooks. This reader was disappointed by the WTF conclusion.
“Treats” presents six stories: “The Witch Doctor” by Huskyteer, “The Pharaoh’s Throne” by NightEyes DaySpring, “The Things We Do For Love” by Naomi Bellina, “Phobophilia” by Whyte Yoté, “The Magic of Desire” by Roland Jovaik and “Once a Year” by Ianus J. Wolf.
These are all funny-animal stories where the characters are just animal-headed humans. There are two winners here; “The Witch Doctor” and “Phobophilia”. The first is the sweetest story in the anthology, and I mean that in a good way. Lots of tender loving and no sex. Marty Doubleclaw (Shiba Inu dog) is a divorced young father whose only interest is in making sure that his young son Luke enjoys himself when it’s his turn to take custody of the boy. Marty has a slight accident on Halloween that sends him and Luke to the hospital, and a sympathetic young wolf nurse persuades them to spend the evening serving in the children’s ward’s Halloween party. Marty learns to stop holding himself in and get on with life to be a proper father for Luke, and for his own good.
“Phobophilia” is the most imaginative story here. It is definitely not set on human-inhabited Earth, but on another planet of anthropomorphized animals, in this story mostly wolves. The main characters are an ethereal galactic being that feeds on fear, and a teenage wolf superhero fan. Whyte Yoté has some clever names for his furry world’s comic book characters: Hugh Mann, the Justice Pack, El Super Lobo, Lead Dog, Malamute Marvel, Poison Dapple (a pony) and FabulOso (“a gigantic brown bear in a luchador costume”). The action is all M/M erotica, but the setting is convincingly a furry world even if it is really just Earth with funny animals.
The other four stories are mostly just stories about adult funny animals having lots of graphic sex at mixed-species all-adult Halloween parties.
It is close enough to Halloween 2014 that Rabbit Valley is already announcing “Trick or Treat, Volume 2”.
This time, we want your stories of Halloweens from yesteryear, stretching all the way back to the earliest beginnings of Samhain, or even to primitive harvest festivals that would eventually become the holiday we know. Can you give me a scary story from American colonial times that make me shiver? Can you craft a medieval European All Hallows' romance that will make me quiver? An 80's story that will put me in mind of childhood Halloweens, or a 50's and 60's story of Mischief Night gone wrong (or right)? A Victorian tale of restrained passions set loose on that one night? Or even something that spans several ages? I want to see them all!
This is an old announcement; Volume 2 is already closed out. But you can start writing now if you have any good ideas for Volume 3.