Originally published at Fangoria.com January 4, 2010
DEAD BAIT is an entertaining horror anthology covering gruesome tales about fishing and fishes. A variety of writers have composed 19 short stories which will either grab you by surprise or make you shudder at the end.
I actually didn’t think much of this anthology at first. How many times can you honestly tell a story about fish gone bad? The first story actually proved me quite wrong. “Fox Goes Fission” by Ron Lemming is a solemn tale about a lonely widower fishing for his wife’s soul at a mystical lake. Male readers will definitely squirm because of a few narratives, especially with Mark Zirbel’s “Something Fishy Going On.” This disturbing tale builds nail-biting tension when a husband is about to discover what’s physically wrong with his wife.
The collection carries out a major theme about protecting the environment. I felt “The Hanged Man” by Bosley Gravel delivered the message most effectively. In the short story, a young boy catches a deformed fish from the pier. The crowd gathers around the monstrosity and wonders if the chemicals from the power plant are harming the water. Rather than take action against the source of their problem, the crowd just stares at the mutant fish.
There were many instances though where I could have needed more description. In many instances, writers would name a specific type of fish and assume the reader knows what they are mentioning. In Steven R. Southard’s “Blood in the River,” the vampire transforms himself into a Candiru fish. I had to research on the Internet to find out what a Candiru fish looks like to visualize the tale better.
Despite the lack of details, the stories continued to be engaging till the very end. My favorites in the collection are Tim Curran’s “Piraya” and Aaron A. Polson’s “Grim Adaptations.” In both tales, dead fish are reanimated back to life as zombies to feed off of humans. It was interesting to note how two distinctive writers played around with the same subject.
The collection, DEAD BAIT, raised above my expectations with its terror tales about mermaids, lobsters, and crabs. A few of these graphic and shocking 19 stories will definitely make you think twice about going fishing. You can order DEAD BAIT through the official website of Severed Press: http://www.severedpress.com