Edited by Allen Ashley
Eibonvale Press
Reviewed by Alex Scully

Themed anthologies can be a challenge. The more broad the theme, the harder it can be to pull all of the authors into a cohesive collection. In his new collection Sensorama, Allen Ashley has succeeded marvelously at creating a broad-based thematic anthology that hold together from start to finish.

The theme is our senses. A seemingly straight-forward subject, yet the authors take this simple premise to startlingly new, imaginative places. The opening story, Gary Budgen’s “Blinding a Few Dogs,” finds inspiration in classic 19th century Gothic horror to create a disturbing tale with skin-crawling implications. Richard Mosses’ tale “Stone” continues in the same vein with a terrifying tale that skillfully blends ancient mythology and modern horror. “Making See,” by Mark Patrick Lynch, is also one of the highlights, as Lynch slowly tears the layers of the mind away to lay bare our darkest fears about one another. Another stand-out in the collection is Jon Michael Kelley’s lyrically beautiful, hauntingly original “A Mimicry of Night,” in which a man finds a most unusual cicada that seems possessed with the ability to send its predators into a profound kind of blindness—but does the effect originate with the cicada alone, or from some far deeper, more terrifying alchemy? Each of the stories is laden with suspense and creeping terror, the kind that lingers on the back of the neck as the bedside light fades into darkness.

Unlike so much current dark fiction, Ashley avoids the tropes, cliché elements, and expected monsters. He’s chosen a group of authors who understand that horror can be both complex and subtle, and that the worst monsters sometimes come from our own minds and fractured psyches. We create the horrors, both real and imagined, particularly when we can no longer trust our senses. Sounds, images, smells, tastes, and touch can turn against us so easily. The authors in Sensorama tear down our comfort and security by reminding us of the fragility of what we believe to be reality. Is that really you staring back from the bathroom mirror? Perhaps, but then again, perhaps not. After reading Sensorama, reality will never be quite so… real again. Highly recommended.