As you may have gathered from the past few odd post and reviews that I have a real issue with authors and publishers offering "Free Reads" when the stories are nothing to write home about and definitely do not showcase an author's talents in a way that would entice a reader to pay any sum for the author's work. However, on the other side of the coin comes Anything Can Be Dangerous by Matt Hults, a short story collection that showcases talent as opposed to utter hack work.
I initially became aware of this collection due to the fact that Hults's novel, Husk, (which shares nearly the same cover) kept coming up in my suggested reading list. I had in fact put the novel on my wish list before coming across Anything Can Be Dangerous while browsing through other books, and figured since it was a free eBook I would give it a read before committing to buying Husk. The collection exist in part as a marketing tool geared at enticing the reader to buy the novel (bravo to someone at last) and in fact even contains an excerpt of the story as well as for a couple of stories from another author, one of which looked quite promising.
Overall the reviews on Amazon for both the collection and the novel are pretty positive. There were a couple of gripey ones (Who says horror readers aren't a nit-picky bunch? Wasn't me, but if you've read my Danvers Asylum review you know who is). And quite a few pointed out spelling errors. which for some reason Encyclopedia Brownstains like the duckie duck duckman Jacob M. Drake feel is a great reason to rip another author or story, but the reader has to bear in mind that small press and independents are usually wearing nearly every hat and do not have the money to shell out for editors or book brokers. My own rule is to say yes it has spelling and/or usage errors in a review, but I never hold the odd misspelled word or tense a spell checker did not catch against the author, unless the author proves they cannot spell at all. I find that 99.99999999998% of the time a misspelled word here or there does not take away from the overall enjoyment I get out of a story, and I have caught quite a few of them in "main stream" print books that have been on the Best Seller's list.
Here's a look at the stories:
Anything Can Be Dangerous
"Greg knew that for every warning label ever made - especially the absurd ones - there was someone who'd done what it cautioned against and lived to sue about it."
The title story is probably the weakest story in the collection, however Hults lends it enough story telling talent to hold the reader's interest and make them want more of the story and more of his work. A man who has lived with his mother's words that anything can be dangerous all of his life begins to find new meaning in her warning as plastic bags begin to come to life with the intention of killing every living creature. The love interest subplot is a little weak, and it's resemblance and homage to the Romero zombie genre is so obvious that Hults even decides to point it out in the narrative. The end is slightly predictable, but again Hults's narrative style and imagination will keep you reading all the way to the end. Three and a Half Stars.
Two restaurateurs and a real estate agent visit an abandoned diner seemingly in the middle of nowhere. This is the place the undead stop off for a bite, and once you walk through the door you are owner and slave to the diner, left with no choice but to serve an endless line of customers with no way to escape. An innovative take on the story of the ever hungry undead. It's a good and humorous piece of horror that leaves the reader with a nice little chill to mull over at the end. Five Stars.
Through The Valley Of Death
When their car breaks down in the middle of nowhere a family is forced to hike through the snow. As they pass through a wooded valley they begin to realize that things are not quite right, as evidence of strange horrors begin to present themselves. However, the true terror begins with the sun goes down, and the family has to face the fact that they many not make it out of the valley alive, or human. Five Stars.
When a pair of friends decide to pull the old human finger in the chili trick they get more than they bargained for. A story drenched with gore and oozing menace that helps this collection end with more punch than it started with (as every good anthology should). Five Stars.
Anything Can Be Dangerous also includes a scene from Hults's novel, Husk, which I though was excellent and more than justifies Husk remaining on my wish list until it's time to buy. It also contains excerpts from two James Roy Daley novels, Into Hell which I felt pretty unsure about and Terror Town which looks very raw and girtty and probably worth me checking out at a later date as well. Despite a somewhat weak lead in story Hults has a way with words that keeps the reader engrossed with the story, which only builds through the other stories in the collection making it Five Stars overall.
Here's where you can find Anything Can Be Dangerous (aka The Matt Hults Sampler) by Matt Hults:
Barnes & Noble: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/anything-can-be-dangerous-matt-hults/1102499257
iTunes Book Store: http://itunes.apple.com/us/book/anything-can-be-dangerous/id433092749?mt=11
Sony eBook Store: http://ebookstore.sony.com/ebook/matt-hults/anything-can-be-dangerous/_/R-400000000000000371630
Be sure to lurk for this good example of what a free eBook should be.