Prom Nights from Hell

Friday, June 29, 2012
Fantasy anthology -- no editor listed

This book fell into my hands by a fluke: a fellow volunteer at a local thrift shop was worried about putting it on the shelves because of the word 'Hell' in the
title. So I took it home to check it out. Strictly research, I swear.
On the other hand, it was easy enough for someone who already reads fantasy to guess there would be nothing too gross or horrible in this book -- one of the five contributing authors is Stephenie Meyer, author of the wildly popular Twilight series. The other authors are Meg Cabot, Kim Harrison, Michele Jaffe and Laurene Myracle.

Madison Avery and the Dim Reaper,
by Kim Harrison.
Right off the start … gotta love the title.
In this story, Madison is hovering somewhere between life and death (though the living can still see her -- at least, her father certainly can) after a mysterious hunk named Seth Adamson deliberately crashes the car they are both in. Seth, who has targeted her specifically, then steals her body from the morgue and disappears with it. Meanwhile she has stolen a pendant off him. She has some allies in this new limbo and she has one year to sort things out. Or else. (Nobody specifies "or else" what, which makes it even more unnerving.)

Kiss and Tell, by Michele Jaffe.
Jaffe's heroine, Miranda, has some odd superpowers that nobody can explain and which she tries to minimize. She also plays jammer on a local roller derby team and has a parttime job as a chauffeur with a mom-and-pop limousine company. In the story she finds herself chauffeuring what appears to be a wonky 14-year-old with a fixation on early Madonna dress style. Not surprisingly this is no ordinary 14-year-old. In fact, she's not even human -- and there are other nonhumans after her. The trick is for Miranda to figure out whom she can trust while trying to get Sibby to her proper destination.

I liked them both for the same reason: when I reached the end of each, my reaction was "HEY! WHERE'S THE REST OF THE STORY??" Both have very ambiguous endings and were interesting and well-written enough that I really, really hope Harrison and Jaffe have completed versions out there somewhere, dammit, because I want to know more about Miranda and I definitely want to know what happens to Madison after that year is up!

... OK ...:
The Corsage, by Laurene Myracle, is immediately recognizable to anybody who has read The Monkey's Paw by W.W. Jacobs. To the author's credit, she says as much in a very brief intro to the story. It has its own creepy "Be careful what you wish for" factor, as well as some rather gruesome humour.

Meg Cabot's The Executioner's Daughter is about a girl named Mary who just happens to be tracking Dracula's son. She wants to kill him to bring the elder Dracula out in the open so she can kill him -- because Dracula Sr. turned her mother into one of the undead and this is the only way to turn her back. Despite the premise, it's ... just OK.

Stephenie Meyer's Hell on Earth follows Sheba (full name Chex Sheba aut Baal-Malphus), who is a demoness. She's slinking through the prom crowd, causing small problems intended to help set the mental tone for larger ones. With the aid of a rather nasty piece of humanity -- ironically named Celeste -- she is spreading misery, jealousy, anger and lust in waves that are building towards -- she hopes -- an explosive crest (under her mental prodding, one wimpy little nerd has brought a gun to the dance). There are some interesting points and the writing's not bad but when you learn, early on, that the primary male character is named Gabe Christensen, well, there's not much subtlety there -- especially when you find out his middle name is Michael.

Cabot's and Meyers's stories end on the obligatory happy-ever-after note -- though Meyers's ending isn't quite as as solidly fixed as Cabot's. There's room for a little bit of doubt -- but to be honest, not enough to provide any real ambiguity.