Ashes and Entropy (edited by Robert S. Wilson)

Ashes and Entropy
By Laird Barron, Damien Angelica Walters, John Langan, Nadia Bulkin, Jon Padgett, Kristi DeMeester, Matthew M. Bartlett, Lucy A. Snyder

Publisher: Nightscape Press | Release Date: Dec. 11, 2018 | Pages: 384

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

There’s something terrifying about the unknown. It can be anything, hidden anywhere, and have an agenda that we can’t understand. In Ashes and Entropy, edited by Robert S. Wilson, we find ourselves appreciating this fear while trying to search for what is just outside of our vision. Twenty-two amazing authors take us on a journey into cosmic horror and neo noir giving us one of the best anthologies to come along in a very long time. Every story is stellar as they explore new and exciting ways to haunt us.

The unknown can encompass a lot when it comes to storytelling. We could go from something as simple as what is in the basement all the way up to some ancient cosmic god that is the size of a solar system. I believe this is what makes Ashes and Entropy truly stand out – it doesn’t matter how small the unknown might seem, when you have to face it down it is terrifying. A child could come up to you in an alley asking for food, pretty harmless, right? But in Max Booth III’s “Scraps” it becomes a gang of children asking, not leaving you alone, following you home. Or you could be looking for a fix, like in Tim Waggoner’s “The Gray Room,” and find yourself experiencing the death of the universe. It’s all scary when you are no longer in control and there’s something much bigger finding a use for you.

A number of the authors present here are known for their exploration into cosmic horror. Laird Barron, John Langan, Jon Padgett just to name a few. But they don’t rest on their laurels, instead finding new avenues to explore and play in. And this isn’t to say the other authors don’t also write cosmic horror, they must obviously dabble in it, because the stories in here feel like a masterclass on how to write in this genre. I think I just associate different types of stories with some of them. Which, personally works for me, because when I finished Jessica McHugh or Kristi DeMeester’s stories, for instance, I was blown away at how powerful and frightening they were. It almost feels like watching a friend play with your toys and see them do something completely different. Basically, I believe all of the authors could be put on Barron, Langan, and Padgett’s level when it comes to cosmic horror.

We also get 22 beautiful illustrations from Luke Spooner. I loved seeing what he pulled from the author’s vision to create hauntingly beautiful pieces of art. Each one covers a full color page, seriously making me wish I could order a few for my wall. In fact, I’d like to say the production value for the book itself is amazing. I don’t normally talk about the physical book because most of the time I’m reading a review on a Kindle. But, I was lucky enough to participate in the Kickstarter campaign and received a copy. Nightscape Press offered multiple covers, which is pretty sweet. The paper is high quality, making the art stand out and the book feel like something special. If you can find or order a physical copy, I’d definitely recommend it.

There are so many amazing authors in the anthology that it’s really hard to pick out a couple to highlight. Everyone delivers a top notch story that is hard to beat. The 22 stories hook you instantly and never let up. From Lucy A. Snyder’s “Kind Detective” doing the only thing he can to save us from a gluttonous god to Lisa Mannetti’s “Houdini: The Egyptian Paradigm” giving us a vision of the magician's final years. “Ain’t Much Pride” from Nate Southard covers the tale of a mob bodyguard trapped on a boat facing down a watery beast, Matthew M. Bartlett gives us the funniest story in the anthology with “Dr. 999,” which is a number of Amazon reviews for a hair care product. I could go on and on about the stories Autumn Christian, Erinn L. Kemper, Jayaprakash Satyamurthy, and Nadia Bulkin gave us. Hell, there’s a novella in here from Paul Michael Anderson that wraps up the anthology. A fresh faced police officer finds himself having a hard time fitting into the small town and its peculiar customs. Trust me when I say nothing in Ashes and Entropy will disappoint.

Ashes and Entropy just won the This is Horror award for best anthology and it is absolutely well deserved. I don’t have one bad thing to say about anything in Wilson’s cosmic horror and Noir/Neo-Noir anthology. Each author absolutely kills it and gives us some of the best stories I’ve read in a long time. Take a deep dive into the unknown and pray that you come out the other side.