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Out of Tune by Christopher Golden
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Out of Tune (2014)

by Christopher Golden (Contributor), Jonathan Maberry (Editor)

Other authors: Kelley Armstrong (Contributor), Gary Braunbeck (Contributor), Keith R.A. DeCandido (Contributor), Gregory Frost (Contributor), Simon R. Green (Contributor)10 more, Nancy Holder (Contributor), Del Howison (Contributor), Nancy Keim-Comley (Contributor), Jack Ketchum (Contributor), David Liss (Contributor), Jeffrey J. Mariotte (Contributor), Seanan McGuire (Contributor), Lisa Morton (Contributor), Marsheila Rockwell (Contributor), Jeff Strand (Contributor)

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Showing 1-5 of 39 (next | show all)
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
I was lucky enough to receive a copy of this through LibraryThing's Early Reviewers scheme in July 2015, though sadly through a combination of circumstances had not the opportunity and ability to read and review it until now [November 2015].

There are a great many themed anthologies of short fiction sent out into the world. Some themes are broad, some narrow; some popular, some obscure; some old and some new. The stories therein can be as contrasting as their themes, naturally; I've found that in many such anthologies, with quality as well as all other features.

Most multiple-author anthologies I've read have had at least one story that feels rather like a dud, or that's no better than "almost good enough to be mediocre". This anthology, however, doesn't fall into that category. I was surprised and very pleased while reading this one. I can say honestly that there is not one single story of truly poor quality in the book. Perhaps one or two might not be to everybody's taste, but even where that is or may be the case, the quality of their writing - and of the editing done for this anthology - is not lacking.

Usually, when I read short-story anthologies, I take them bite by bite, reading one or two at first, then another in a few days' time, and so on, and so forth. With this particular anthology, though, I didn't feel compelled to follow that pattern. I didn't get bored enough to stop reading even once; I simply paused to take in the annotations regarding the song each tale had been based upon, and carried on to the next.

Not all the tales in Out of Tune are flawless, nor all the characters or songs chosen by the individual authors participating especially likeable. However, every one is worth reading, for one reason or another. I requested this advance copy for the contribution by Seanan McGuire, a casual online friend and favourite author of mine, and when I say that her story didn't particularly stand out from the book, apart from by the gender of its central couple (which is, in fact, a way in which I was a little unhappy that it did stand out, since it meant the anthology featured only one female couple among its many romantic pairings), I am insulting neither her nor it, I do assure you. McGuire has a talent for short stories - and so, it seems, do several other authors who took part in this project. I look forward to investigating their work further.

The anthology loses just half a star from its 5-star rating, and that is for its apparently determined heteronormativity (with the exception of Seanan McGuire's aforementioned contribution). This non-heteronormative reader wasn't terribly happy about that, on looking over the anthology after first reading. If anybody reading my review wants me to say more about the individual stories, I might just revisit my review later to do that. However, I read the book as one unit, so that's how I'm approaching it to review it, at least initially. I hope you will enjoy it as much as I did. ( )
  Trialia | Jul 11, 2016 |
Out of Tune, edited by Jonathan Maberry boasts a strong lineup of fantasy and horror authors writing short stories that are based on folk ballads. The end result is some very enjoyable fiction. The stories range from very dark and somewhat depressing to light-hearted and humorous. One thing that remains consistent throughout is strong writing and an overall high quality of fiction. The ones that really stood out to me were “Fish Out of Water” by Keith DeCandido and “John Henry, the Steel-Drivin’ Man” by Jeff Strand, which I thought was absolutely hilarious. Jeff Strand is one of the best writers on the planet and he never disappoints. This might be the best anthology I’ve read, certainly one that ranks right at the top. If you like dark fiction, then this is an anthology that you should be reading.

Carl Alves - author of Conjesero ( )
  Carl_Alves | Feb 10, 2016 |
This is a short story collection of horror and dark fantasy tales based on old ballads. The audio book is narrated by Peter Bishop and Lesley Ann Fogle. Each story is followed by a short commentary on the folklore associated with the ballad by Nancy Keim Comley.

I found Mr. Bishop’s narration pleasant to listen to, while his voices didn’t change much from the narration. Ms. Fogle’s voice was too monotone for my tastes, though after a few minutes I was generally enthralled by the story and it didn’t bother me anymore. I loved her character voices, which were excellently done.

I didn’t find any of the stories particularly scary, though some were creepy and unsettling. Familiarity with the ballads increased my enjoyment of the stories. Having said that, I didn’t feel any detriment when I wasn’t familiar with the ballads, and in a few cases I’m sure it helped with suspense.

The stories are all excellent quality, though individual tastes may have you disagreeing with my ratings.

***** “Wendy, Darling” by Christopher Golden
This story combines a ballad theme about mothers with Peter Pan as Wendy prepares for her wedding. - I wasn’t familiar with the ballad theme this riffed off of, so it was delightfully creepy learning Wendy’s secret and the truth of the Lost Boys.

**** “Sweet William’s Ghost” by David Liss
A woman cheats on her fiancee and comes to regret it. - The story is told from the lover’s point of view and he’s quite a piece of work. There’s black humour in his beliefs about women, though his sentiments and swearing may offend.

**** “Black is the Color of my True Love’s Hair” by Del Howison
A man must make a difficult decision when the daughter he wanted so badly turns out to be as prophecised. - While I would have liked more background information on the wife, I found this story quite creepy with a horrifying ending.

***“John Wayne’s Dream” by Gary Braunbeck
The unnamed narrator arrives for their AA meeting only to find it cancelled and a special concert being shown instead. - The story is slow as it mixes what’s happening in the present with flash backs of the protagonist’s childhood. I’m not a fan of cowboys or ‘real men’ rhetoric, and while the story shows their potentially caustic nature, it wasn’t a story I particularly liked.

**** “Bedlam” by Gregory Frost
Tom, captain of The Bedlam, journeys home with his crew to find the woman he loves but hasn’t seen in years. - This story changes part way through, making it feel like two stories. While the change took me a moment to comprehend, it made the story something other than a prose retelling of the ballad it’s inspired by.

**** “Awake” by Jack Ketchum
A jazz musician struggles with a respiratory disease and marital problems. - It starts slow and ends dark.

*****“John Henry, the Steel Drivin’ Man” by Jeff Strand
The bigger and bigger exploits of John Henry are told. - This story’s a lot of fun. I was left thinking that the few hints you get of the narrator’s story sound creepily interesting and might make a great story too.

**** “Fish Out of Water” by Keith R. A. Decandido
A dive tour operator helps find a missing vessel that reported seeing a mermaid before losing contact. - This is a short story featuring Cassie Zukav, a character Decandido has written about several times. No knowledge of the other stories is necessary to understand this tale as everything is explained, though some mention is given to previous events. In addition to mermaids, expect some Norse characters.

**** “Making Music” by Kelley Armstrong
A female lyrics writer gets a commission to write for a famous musician. - An entertaining story with a great ending.

***** “Tam Lane” by Lisa Morton
A young architect in training’s father buys an old haunted house she greatly admires, where she has an unusual encounter. - Knowing the ballad this was based on meant I could better appreciate the ways the author subverted the story.

***** “John Barleycorn Must Die” by Marsheila Rockwell and Jeffrey J. Mariotte
A recovered alcoholic is sent to do an interview with three sisters who have started their own brewery. - Highly descriptive writing. While it’s easy to figure out where the story’s ultimately going, it’s interesting seeing the protagonist struggle with his own demons first.

***** “In Arkham Town, Where I was Bound” by Nancy Holder
Edgar Allen Poe visits some rich ‘relatives’ in hopes of some money or a loan to help with food and medicine for his dying wife. - A sad story of love, trust and betrayal.

**** “Driving Jenny Home” by Seanan McGuire
Lee has trouble letting go of her dead girlfriend. - Another sad story, this time one of grieving.

**** “Hollow is the Heart” by Simon R. Green
A reporter is trying to get his job back by writing a story about a local legend. The hollow women are mysterious women who prey on unattached men. - A few things about the story were predictable, but it’s well told and the hollow women legend is quite interesting. ( )
  Strider66 | Dec 8, 2015 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
Out of Tune is collection of new dark tales inspired by traditional folk ballads. Ballads, much like pre-Disney fairy tales, range from the unpleasant to the gruesome. It’s a perfect match to the modern masters of horror. Jonathan Maberry has pulled out all the stops and assembled a choir of the macabre, each reimagining an archetypal ballad and yet keeping the distinctive voice that makes each author memorable.

This is a stunning array of 14 authors, each reveling in the material. Christopher Golden returns to his beloved Peter Pan motif, using it to tell a disquieting tale based on the infanticide ballad of the Cruel Mother. On the opposite end of the spectrum is Jeff Strand, the master of gallows humor and his version of John Henry’s determination to win a race against a steam engine, even if it kills him a few times. In between are a variety of stories by best-selling and award winning authors such as Nancy Holder and her take on Edgar Allan Poe in Lovecraft’s Arkham, Jack Ketchum’s tale of a relationship gone bad, and Gary Braunbeck’s modern version of The Streets of Laredo. Each story is followed by commentary about the original ballad by folklorist Nancy Keim-Comley.

This is simply one of the most elegant and brilliant concepts for a themed anthology to come around in years. My major complaint is that no one thought of it before now. ( )
  goudsward | Sep 9, 2015 |
Out of Tune is collection of new dark tales inspired by traditional folk ballads. Ballads, much like pre-Disney fairy tales, range from the unpleasant to the gruesome. It’s a perfect match to the modern masters of horror. Jonathan Maberry has pulled out all the stops and assembled a choir of the macabre, each re-imagining an archetypal ballad and yet keeping the distinctive voice that makes each author memorable.

This is a stunning array of 14 authors, each reveling in the material. Christopher Golden returns to his beloved Peter Pan motif, using it to tell a disquieting tale based on the infanticide ballad of the Cruel Mother. On the opposite end of the spectrum is Jeff Strand, the master of gallows humor and his version of John Henry’s determination to win a race against a steam engine, even if it kills him a few times. In between are a variety of stories by best-selling and award winning authors such as Nancy Holder and her take on Edgar Allan Poe in Lovecraft’s Arkham, Jack Ketchum’s tale of a relationship gone bad, and Gary Braunbeck’s modern version of The Streets of Laredo. Each story is followed by commentary about the original ballad by folklorist Nancy Keim-Comley.

This is simply one of the most elegant and brilliant concepts for a themed anthology to come around in years. My major complaint is that no one thought of it before now.
  goudsward | Jul 28, 2015 |
Showing 1-5 of 39 (next | show all)
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» Add other authors (3 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Golden, ChristopherContributorprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Maberry, JonathanEditormain authorall editionsconfirmed
Armstrong, KelleyContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Braunbeck, GaryContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
DeCandido, Keith R.A.Contributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Frost, GregoryContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Green, Simon R.Contributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Holder, NancyContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Howison, DelContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Keim-Comley, NancyContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Ketchum, JackContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Liss, DavidContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Mariotte, Jeffrey J.Contributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
McGuire, SeananContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Morton, LisaContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Rockwell, MarsheilaContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Strand, JeffContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
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