[REVIEW] Worst Laid Plans: An Anthology of Vacation Horror – Edited by Samantha Kolesnik

Rating: 3 out of 5.

I’m funny when it comes to anthologies, especially when they feature a variety of writers. I love reading them – picking out a story here and there over the course of a week – but rarely think they deserve four stars or higher. To get that positive of a reaction from me, I expect at least 75% of the stories to hook me. That’s why most anthologies land around a 3 or 3.5 for me. Worst Laid Plans is one of those collections.

There are a few entries here that I really loved, or felt were strong enough for a thumbs-up. The first story, “You’ve Been Saved” by S. E. Howard, was an exceptional introduction for the anthology. It reminded me of Aaron Dries a little, and took me by surprise with its ending reveal; I really loved the ride. Jumping ahead a bit, my next favorite came with “The Cucuy of Cancun” by V. Castro – I would definitely sign up for a sequel in which we follow the cucuy to Philadelphia for her next feeding. Then there was “In the Water” by Mark Wheaton, which sunk its claws into me so much so that I immediately chased the story with a download of another book by the author. Wheaton did an excellent job with the crime scene sequences, and the idea behind the story was equally unique and intriguing. I also enjoyed Patrick Lacey’s “Caught a Glimpse,” despite its somewhat anticlimactic conclusion. Which brings me to my complaint with this anthology:

Multiple stories here felt like they were screwed by word count restrictions. At least half of these stories felt suddenly rushed at one point or another, as if their authors had to go back and make big edits to fit their work into the anthology. I find this a little odd, seeing as the collection is less than 200 pages. It could have easily been 300, and way better for it. “In the Water,” “The Penanggalan,” and “Expertise” were all stories I noted as having this issue. It’s less of a simple “I wanted more,” and more of “this feels like scenes were cut out or down.” Had the stories above been given the space to spread their wings a bit more, I would have definitely enjoyed this collection more. 

Anthologies are tricky business, because a mix is generally designed for the person putting it together. It’s hard to get a variety of voices together and have them all hit home with your readers. That being said, I feel like Kolesnik did a great job in choosing authors who were skilled writers. Even the stories I didn’t like were still well-written. The anthology’s theme is also one I’d like to see more of, so hopefully a second volume comes along soon. 

I’ll be looking into a couple of these (new-to-me) authors elsewhere, now that I’ve got a taste for them.

*I received a digital ARC from the editor and publisher for review consideration.*

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