Enter at Your Own Risk: The End Is the Beginning by Dr. Alex Scully, editor

Enter at Your Own Risk: The End Is the Beginning by Dr. Alex Scully, editor
Publisher: Firbolg Publishing
Genre: Sci-Fi/Fantasy, Horror, Contemporary, Historical, Paranormal
Length: Full Length (428 pages)
Rating: 3.5 Stars
Reviewed by Astilbe

Human beings—the undisputed top of the food chain, the long-standing masters of planet earth. Or are we? What may be crawling out of the sludge to take our place? What monsters have we created in our labs, factories, and our very own genetic code? In the fourth installment of Firbolg Publishing’s Enter at Your Own Risk series, which pairs Gothic masters such as Edgar Allan Poe, Mary Shelley, and H.P. Lovecraft with modern authors of the dark and macabre, the theme is environmental horror. As mankind’s tsunami wave of progress, industrialization, and technology reaches spectacular new heights, sinister things are churning beneath the surface. An unfamiliar stench on the wind. Waters a bit too murky. Soil a bit too red with blood. Progress at a price. A terrible, terrible price. Will we survive? What strange new worlds will emerge from the chaos? With an introduction from Holly Newstein, Enter at Your Own Risk: The End is the Beginning explores both the horror of the end and the hope of new beginnings for our planet and ourselves.

Not everything that goes bump in the night reveals itself right away.

I couldn’t help but to chuckle at the creativity of some of the titles in this collection. By far my favorite one was “The Dreaded Hobblobs: A Heavy-Handed Fable for Short-Sighted Times.” It follows the increasingly disturbing interactions Daniel has been having with the Hobblobs that his parents always warned were about to take over their home whenever it got too messy. Daniel’s childhood impression of these grotesque creatures was so vivid that it sent a shudder down my spine. What really enamoured me, though, was how Daniel reacts to them when they make a sudden reappearance in his life much later on.

“Lily’s Daughter” is told from the perspective of Alexander, the teenage son of an archeologist who has disconnected from family life. The two of them live such separate lives that they rarely even speak to one another, so it’s a huge surprise when Alexander’s dad invites him to dinner. The premise was fantastic, but a slow start in the beginning made this reader restless due to the faster pace of stories that were placed just before it. So many important pieces of the puzzle were held back until later that I began to lose interest in Alexander’s journey despite being enthralled with it in the beginning.

This pattern repeated itself over and over again. It’s impossible to please every reader, of course, but I did momentarily wonder if it would have been better to group everything by the time period in which they were written instead of by theme. There were times when it was absolutely fascinating to see how authors who lived decades (or even centuries) apart approached the same subject, but sometimes it was also a little odd to jump from the fast-paced plots that tend to be favored today with the often slower styles that were popular in the past. I definitely appreciate Dr. Scully’s attempt to draw parallels between authors that aren’t normally compared though.

Luckily there were entries like “A Fine Day at the Zoo” that kept me on the edge of my seat. In it a single father named Shane has decided to take his son, Robbie, to the zoo with the hope of getting the boy to speak. Robbie’s disabilities shouldn’t affect his speech this much, but ever since Shane and his wife split up their son has been eerily quiet. The imagery in this father-child outing was so vivid that I felt a prick of disappointment when their adventures ended. It’s hard to say anything more about it without giving away spoilers, but had every short story been this provocative this anthology would have easily earned a 5 star rating.

Enter at Your Own Risk has something to offer to just about everyone. Nearly every type of science fiction is represented here, and that makes this book a good choice for anyone who enjoy this genre!

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