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Trifecta: The City of Hell Chronicles edited by Colin F Barnes

At the tail end of last year I read the first release from new small publisher Anachron Press. City of Hell was a gruesomely gory anthology featuring giant bugs and some nasty, nasty body horror. Anachron has been at it again, and once more it’s time for The Great Maurr to rise. Trifecta features three new stories set in the same world as its predecessor.  

No Insects at Sea by James Everington

A young isolated man from a remote island community thinks he’s safe from Maurr’s deadly reach, but when he comes across a drifting boat, he finds an unpleasant surprise within its hull—a discovery that threatens to shatter his hopes and beliefs.

Things start off on a suitably downbeat note. Humanity has been scattered to the four winds and the majority of survivors are only looking out for themselves. No Insects at Sea subtly captures a sense of hopelessness in a world that is truly broken.

The Harlot and the Bad Man by Phil Ambler

Father Josef Friedricks takes care of a group of young survivors in an underground bunker. Tending to these waifs and strays, he tells them the story of Sophia: a mother who has to overcome terrible odds and deception. The story is more than just a tale to entertain the kids; it’s a tale of grit, horror, and the extremes a mother is prepared to endure to survive. 

If the first story is about a man bereft of hope then the middle tale examines the polar opposite. Is it possible after the collapse to dream about a better future? Once again grimly dark, but also insightful, this thought provoking installment deftly captures the extreme lengths people will go to in order to survive.

Brethren by Nina D’Arcangela

You’d think with the Great Maurr ascending to rule and taking his place at the top of the food chain his minions would be proud, but there’s a dissenter in the ranks. A drone ant, fed up with the drudgery and his low rank, dares to learn more about what it means to take life, and what it means to consume and devour humans like the soldiers, the queens, and even Maurr himself to devastating consequences for both himself and the few remaining human survivors.

To round of the trio of tales a story told from the insect’s perspective. Having read all the City of Hell stories that have been released so far, it was great to gain some further understanding of how the insect society functions. Learning about the different castes of insects and how they interact adds a nice additional insight into the City of Hell universe. Reading a story told from a drone’s point of view was the perfect way to round this short collection off.

It really is difficult to pick a favourite from these three stories. Each one has some great elements. I’m genuinely torn between them all. If you enjoy short, punchy horror that balances the grotesque with the psychological, then I strongly suggest you give Trifecta a try.

Trifecta is published by Anachron Press and is available for Kindle on 25th June 2012.

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