Monday, January 26, 2015

That Hoodoo, Voodoo That You Do review


    Ritualism is an important part of the occult. We've all seen genre movies or television shows where robes cultists are going to summon the whatever or offer a human sacrifice to something or other. It's an important part of real-life, too, with almost everyone having some form of routine which they slavishly adhere to. The television show Dexter had an important subplot about how it was less important that the titular serial killer murder people than do it in a very specific way.

    THVTYD is a somewhat misnamed title since it probably should have been called Rituals, Occultism, and Magic or something a bit more indicative of the contents. There are a couple of Voodoo-related stories in the anthology, including an opening one I quite liked, but the religion doesn't play a role in most. On the other hand, I will say the cover is absolutely to die for. You can't go wrong with a Voodoo-themed Zatanna.

    The stories are relatively short and follow the theme of ordinary human beings attempting to meddle with forces beyond their reality. In some stories, the individuals known what they're doing like Sa fe Iontan by Sarah Hans. There, a Voodoo priestess is attempting to save a girl from a dreadful condition and relies on her canny mind to appease powerful gods.

    In others, like Late Payment, the ritual performers have no idea what the hell they're doing or who they're dealing with. I'm especially fond of the latter story because that deals with a pair of teenaged Satanists who the Devil is absolutely sick of but is bound to answer.

    Eventually.

    Sometimes, the ritual is performed by accident rather than design like in Gingerbread Man by Rose Trickman. I think that story could have used some fine-tuning due to the presence of the name Tomald Trump  but deals with a rather cute tale of a woman scorned.

    Not to put too fine a point, but quite of the few protagonists in this anthology are complete ********.  They're psychopaths or maladjusted losers who think magic is the key to turning around their painfully awkward lives. My favorite of these stories is Thy Just Punishments by Edward M. Erdelac, which details a fallen Catholic priest who has turned to the Tuatha De Daanan in order to cover up his larcenous habits.

    It's one of the rare cases where the supernatural proves to be a benevolent force or, in this case, is less than pleased when you use their church to work black magic. AJ. Brown also deserves credit for an updating of the classic "Ragman" story to modern days.

    Another stand-out story is The Seeds by N.X. Sharps. This deals with a Scientology-esque cult which has stumbled on the ancient rites of Moloch. Its protagonist is, in simple words, a asshat who was fine with sacrificing children right up until the point it was his going to the altar.

    Do I have any complaints? Eh, not really. There's a strong undercurrent of the fact many of the rituals come from older cultures and deal with evil forces but in the majority of cases, it's clear it's because the people using them are bad rather than the forces themselves.

    Another objection I have is an annoying number of these stories involve some jackass attempting to kill prostitutes. They're extremely vulnerable in real-life to serial killers due to the fact prostitutes are willing to go some place isolated with their attackers but I wish the book didn't have quite so many stories which dealt with them.

    In conclusion, this is a great occult horror anthology. There's no bad stories in the bunch and while there's a few middling-to-average ones, the quality is far higher here than usual. I would definitely recommend this to horror aficionados.    

8/10

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