The Book of the Dead edited by Jared Shurin
|Book Name:||The Book of the Dead|
|Author:||edited by Jared Shurin|
|Formatt:||Hardcover / Paperback / Ebook|
|Genre(s):||Horror Anthology / Short Stories|
|Release Date:||October 31, 2013|
Horror isn’t usually my cup of tea. However, Egyptian mythology and history is always fascinating, and one the more prominent aspects of ancient Egypt is, of course, the mummy. This anthology, compiled by Jurassic London and the Egypt Exploration Society, consists of nineteen short stories centered around mummies. Obviously, there is not time or space here to review all of these stories individually, so this is just a highlight of a few that especially stood out.
There is also a generous foreword by John J. Johnston. It is more of an essay, but very much worth the read, so make sure you’ve got a good drink to tide you over through the length.
“Old Souls” by David Thomas Moore
This is very nearly a tale of star-crossed lovers, just without the blatant tragedy. It’s the story of old souls, and returning souls, but some remember the past, and many don’t. In this case, two particular lovers keep meeting at the end of a lifetime, or when other commitments already take precedence. It is a story of frustration, but also one of contentment – every moment with someone you love is to be treasured.
“The Cats of Beni Hasan” by Jenni Hill
This is one of my most favorite stories from this anthology. It consists of mysterious disappearances, cats with powers (and lots of mummies – both of animal and human variety) and is all told from the point of view of the dog. It is equally full of heart-pounding action, tears, and laughter.
“Bit-U-Men” by Maria Dahvana
I can’t say that I like the subject matter of this story – cannibalism makes my stomach turn, and this one has very strong hints of it. The mummy featured in this story is a ‘mellified man’, a mummy made of honey. However, this mummy still lives, in a sense, and it soon takes over the lives of two individuals. The best words I can think of to describe the interaction between these three is ‘bizarrely sensual and nauseating.’
What I like about this story, though, is how much history it covers – literally. It begins in 1924, and the last year mentioned is 1961, but the story continues for a while past that. I’ve always enjoyed stories that tie in with our world but do it in such a way to capture a significant span of time, and this story does not disappoint.
“Egyptian Death and the Afterlife: Mummies (Rooms 62-3)” by Jonathan Green
This is a sad, but hopeful, story. One lover has died, and the other has vowed to safeguard her through the centuries. He is ancient now, and she is on display in a museum. He is still waiting for when it is his time to join her. However, the way his love for her is expressed through his memories and his reverence as he guards her is absolutely beautiful.
“Three Memories of Death” by Will Hill
If I had to pick only two stories out of the entire anthology, I would pick this one in addition to “The Cats of Beni Hasan”. “Three Memories of Death” was the most moving story of the anthology. This was the only story that took place in ancient Egypt for its entirety, and also revolved around the practice of making mummies – not just later encounters with mummies that had been long embalmed.
It is a story of friendship between a Pharaoh and the man who will one day send him into the afterlife. It is poignant, and heartbreaking, and satisfying, and nearly impossible to come away from with dry eyes.
There is one story that did not fit the tone of the rest of the anthology, and it might catch some readers off guard.
“Inner Goddess” by Michael West
To put it bluntly: horror is to be expected. Not dubious consent and non-consensual BDSM and asphyxiation – emphasis on the non-consensual. This is also the most sexually explicit story in the anthology. So if any of that is content unsuited to your tastes, skip this story. The guilty party does get what they deserve in the end, however.
If the stories mentioned here don’t quite catch your interest, don’t worry – there’s a huge amount of diversity in this anthology. There’s steampunk (by Gail Carriger, of course), there’s an AI mummy, there are museums – both exhibits and heists, and even a mystery that is so very reminiscent of Sherlock Holmes.