The latest in editor D.F. Lewis’s Nemonymous anthology series, in which the authors are listed but not attached to the particular stories, is a cauldron of interesting ideas. Whether sf, fantasy or just plain strange, the 24 literary stories should provide something of interest to anybody with a love of the written word.
This volume being loosely themed around the title Cern Zoo, we have several tales featuring animals (of the real, the supernatural and the fantastic) and several references to CERN and the Large Hadron Collider. But what really brings this anthology together is colourful imagination and crisp writing.
There are 2 tales set in British pubs – “Artis Eterne” and “City of Fashion” – both of which bring an extraordinary establishment to life. From the spooky, silent man propping up the bar in the former, to the claggy, dripping walls and clasutrophobic heat of the latter, these are memorable settings, animated by the weird and wonderful people who frequent them.
Of the title-themed stories “Mellie’s Zoo” is an evocative and convincing journey into a dusty, abandoned zoo through the eyes of young girl and the childhood monsters that lurk within the rusty cages, herself and possibly us all.
“Window to the Soul” depicts an uneasy future in which neuro-technology offers tremendous reward but with ultimately depressing consequences.
“Salmon Widow” is a rich and very human tale about an elderly lady and her visits to a quaint country retreat. Ghosts, memories and longing collide in a tale full of strong characters and powerful imagery.
In the excellent “Turn the Crank” – more of a traditional horror piece – buskers and entertainers find their high-street routines shattered by the arrival of a creaky old organ-grinder and his creepy, stuffed monkey.
Also worthy of special mention is “Devourer of Dreams”, a dark and unsettling story about a boy’s discovery of an exotic monstrosity owned by his father, and the terrible price that can come with the promise of success. It’s a serious theme tackled by a gruesome imagination.
That’s only a fraction of what’s on offer, and all the nemonymous authors involved have brought something worthy to the feast. Many can be read at face value or should you choose to, enjoyed for their satire and metaphor. This is an intelligent anthology devoid of cheap thrills, but the scattering of flash throughout is nicely arranged to bring humour and a pleasant diversion from the heavier stories.
Cern Zoo is a banquet. A cornucopia of flavour and texture, of many courses and layers. Just beware of the cockroaches lurking in the salad.