As a connoisseur and occasional writer of horror myself, I was very excited to get the chance to review Hellcat Press’s newest anthology, Screams Heard ‘Round the World, a collection of tales about monsters from different cultures. The book contains a variety of engaging, bone-chilling, and occasionally heartwarming tales, from the chilling story of Simon Tutu – a Jamaican bird-king who compels his murderer to roast and eat him, only to reincarnate and rip out of the unfortunate boy’s stomach – to the wholesome story of a Nekomata – a cat who develops supernatural powers but chooses to return to its human anyway. The stories are short enough to make for light reads, but still dynamic enough to provide engaging entertainment.
Perhaps the thing that most stands out about Screams is the sheer diversity of the content. Each story is by a different author or authors, and illustrated by a different artist, so right away I knew I’d be getting a lot of variety from tale to tale. In addition, because the monsters are creatures of folklore and drawn from different cultures, the book provides an interesting survey of the things that we as humans find unnerving, dark, and terrifying.
What Worked and What Didn’t
One of my favorite things about this book is that, rather than just providing information on the background and lore of each creature, the monsters are each featured in their own stories, doing things like bringing woe to unfortunate travelers or luring people to their deaths. This presentation gives the featured monsters a depth they would otherwise be lacking. However, there are several places where the book left me hungry for more information. The entries would have benefitted from a short monster bio at the beginnings or ends of the story, so that the reader could better understand the monsters within the context of the folklore from which they were drawn.
In addition, while the authors were different for each entry, overall the stories had great pacing for a graphic novel. The authors did a great job of introducing the things that go bump in the night, building suspense, and maintaining that tension through the art and storytelling. A couple of the stories genuinely gave me chills as I was reading them.
Each entry also featured a different artist, which made for a variety of art styles. This is perhaps where the book most left me wanting. Some of the entries contain absolutely gorgeous illustrations that beautifully evoke the creepiness of the stories, but the quality across the book is not uniform. A couple of the stories feature illustrations that were difficult to follow, and some of the pages look like they were designed in color, then switched to black and white print, making them hard to read.
Screams set out to be a worldwide collection of monsters, and it did a great job of not just being Eurocentric. The majority of the tales were very well composed and presented. It was a lot of fun to sit down to a few of these bite-sized stories each evening. I look forward to seeing what Hellcat Press produces in the future!