By Mike Griffiths
Sha’Daa: Tales of the Apocalypse. Editor: Edward McKeown. Altered Dimensions; First edition (May 1, 2009). ISBN-13: 978-0982135242.
What can I say about this excellent, small-press anthology? First off, I could start with: “It is the best book I have read this year.” Sha’Daa: Tales of the Apocalypse offers a fascinating premise: every 10,000 years, the barrier between the Earth and Hell becomes thin and it becomes far easier for the minions and armies of Hell to tear through and wreak havoc on our world. It has been a long time, but now in our modern times, the Sha’Daa is about to strike again. Is there any way we could be ready?
Sha’Daa starts with a bang and pulls the reader into its dangerous world with its first story, “The Dive”, written by the book’s editor, Edward McKeown. This is an exciting tale where a group of quickly-developed characters – NYC sewer workers – discover that the foul sewers beneath America’s greatest city are about to become far fouler if a gateway to Hell is allowed to open. This issue becomes even more intense when they realise their small group is the only one with any chance to stop it. Suddenly, the only hope the entire city has rides on their narrow shoulders.
The second story is also a real gem. Deborah Koren’s “Tunguska Outpact” is thick with atmosphere and mystery, as well as the more human tribulations of a love triangle. What will these researchers find at this unexplained crash site? When a shaman comes with a warning for them, will anyone listen? Another added bonus is the little interludes between the stories. Some of them set you up for the next tale; others are stories in themselves and fly out like action-packed flash fiction.
Some stories are more powerful than others, while a few even dip closer to action comedies. If I had one criticism, it would be that the battle scenes are hurried through in a few of the tales. Some authors take the time to build the characters and set the scene, but then hurry through the action. I might have liked to see a little more of the hack-and-slash. One highlight was “The Seventh Continent” by Lee Ann Kuruganti. Shades of John Carpenter’s The Thing linger in this creepy, ice-bound tale. This author isn’t afraid to deliver a few punches and kill some people off as the denizens from Hell come to dine on the Antarctic research base.
When so many books seem reluctant to delve too far into the idea of pagan gods controlling our lives, it was refreshing to see several of these authors embrace the concept. The powerful deities meshed well with the flow of the book and gave it a strong flair. Nothing wrong with some gods getting involved with the action and it was a great mix. One story would have a scared man fighting a horrid fiend alone, while another would focus on a being powerful enough to fight a hundred demons at once.
Another common thread that runs through these tales is the figure of the Salesmen. One of my favourite stories is when we learn more about these mysterious allies that are willing to aid the various fractions of humanity, but only as long as they are willing to trade something first. I found it proper that the book closed with a situation that revealed more regarding this consistent unknown.
Overall, I would consider this book a great buy and recommend it to friends. In most ways, I would consider it as more of a dark fantasy, rather than a straight-up horror anthology. The book is filled with heroes both great and small and they do their best to fight back the swarms of evil that threaten to claim our world. I say we all need to learn what we can about the Sha’Daa before it is too late.
You can purchase Sha’Daa: Tales of the Apocalypse through Amazon.com