In his introduction, Mr. Shumate explains why he dislikes themed anthologies. Many times, the stories in them are too similar and predictable. He continues on and tells us that Arcane has no theme aside from being a collection of stories that unsettle the reader in some way. He also states that all the stories are good. While I didn’t like them all, they are all well-written and entertaining. And yes, they were all a bit disturbing in one way or another, and most of them were more than a little bizarre.
As in every anthology I’ve read, I had my favorite stories. Arcane starts off strongly with Joe Mirabello’s “We Belong to Her.” Angelita brought to mind similar children I’ve see in public…thankfully, none of them have her abilities (at least I hope they don’t). “Mallecho” by Stephen Willcott was a story about a disturbing rite of passage and made me think twice about the rituals in my own life. Josh Strnad’s “Visiting Hours” brings home the importance of letting go of the past. If I had to choose an absolute favorite, it would be “The Delivery” by A.A. Garrison. It’s a tale of addiction, love, and the collapse of society.
Overall, the anthology kept me entertained. The editing was solid and the stories well-written. With the wide range of styles and subgenres among the 30 stories, there’s at least a little something for everyone.