Martin H. Greenberg &
Russell Davis, editors,
Haunted Holidays
(DAW, 2004)

Horror, fantasy and SF fans, rejoice! You've happily laid claim to Halloween every year as a Day of Your Own. Now, you've been de-marginalized, pulled from the celebration fringes. Martin Greenberg and Russell Davis have assembled a calendar of stories for every holiday of the year, all with your particular tastes in mind.

The novelty of Haunted Holidays alone is reason enough to pick up the book. And the inclusion of several smaller or unusual holidays, like Twelfth Night and Columbus Day, makes for an intriguing read. But once you open the cover, a few problems with the collection may make you close it again. Don't. While several of the stories are questionable inclusions (and the editors really ought have taken another typo-hunting jaunt through the text), patience is rewarded by the end of the book, in the form of two bang-up shorts by genre heavy-hitters.

The first two stories set up the peaks-and-valleys feel typical of theme books. The collection opens weakly, with David Niall Wilson's under-developed Thanksgiving story of a germ-and-food paranoia gone wild. But Peter Crowther's character-centered follow-up on the British holiday Derby Day is tender and moving. From there, the stories alternate between brilliant gems and dull gravel.

But, as promised, the two ending stories will redeem any stretches to your patience and make you glad you invested your time. Nancy Holder showcases her considerable Buffy talents in "Cover Me," where she deftly blends occultic lore with modern teen-fringe lifestyles for a Groundhog's Day story you'll never forget. And Bram Stoker Award-winner Brian Hopkins gives us a touching plot-twister arranged around Brazil's Carnival season in "The Secret Sympathy," one that will have you petting your dog and hugging your loved ones a little tighter when you're finished.

Which is, in the end, what this whole collection is all about: bringing a bit of chill and the bite of fear to our days of celebration, to make us really appreciate what we have and what we can so easily lose.

- Rambles
written by Tracie Vida
published 15 January 2005

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