Review: One Buck Horror

By Sarah Hans

Hawkins, Christopher, ed. One Buck Horror: Volume One and Two. Coronis Publishing (June 24, 2011).

One Buck Horror prides itself on being the best value in horror. For only 99 cents, you can purchase a small collection of creepy stories; each volume contains five tales of terror.

The protagonists in the stories in Volume 1 are all children or young adults, and the stories are told with a kind of candid innocence that is both familiar and refreshing. This straightforward style makes reading the entire volume (over a lunch break, in between feedings, or during the long wait in a doctor’s office) quick and painless.

My favourite story was “The Last Nephew” by Elizabeth Twist. As a warning to survivors, this story may contain triggering language. The abuse isn’t depicted in a graphic way – in fact, the subtle alluding to terrible things is one of the story’s best qualities – but the antagonist is definitely a child molester. Those with a vengeful streak will find this tale particularly satisfying, however. The issue is worth buying just for this story alone.

I also really enjoyed “A Lullaby for Caliban”. Though, admittedly, the trope of boys sneaking into a carnival at night to make mischief is overdone, there’s something thrilling about knowing that something awful is going to happen to the interlopers…but what, exactly?

While these two stories would have been at home in a collection of Twilight Zone fiction or Tales From The Crypt, the story, “Jenny’s House”, gave me more of a Goosebumps vibe. The story is definitely creepy, but it’s told from the point of view of a small child, in a sort of rambling voice, where all the dialogue and description are mashed together. This was not my favourite style of writing, but the story is so short that it’s worth putting up with the rambling narration for the few minutes it takes to read it.

I enjoyed One Buck Horror: Volume 1, but I find myself hoping for some more diversity. Every single story is about a young (probably white) male. Where are the tales about African American kids? Female protagonists? I was disappointed to find that all the stories could have happened to the same child. Some of the stories border on the predictable and clichéd, but the price is so low that it’s worth it for one or two really excellent stories, even if others aren’t quite up to par.

The second issue of One Buck Horror is a vast improvement. It opens with a genuinely chilling tale, “What Swims These Waters”, by Daniel Ausema. The story is told in second person, a point of view that’s rarely done well. Here, it’s used to create a beautiful, almost lyrical story that left me breathless.

The other story that really stands out in this collection is “The Afterlife of Ellen Easterling”, the tale of a ghost doomed to eternally inhabit the house where she was murdered. Not only is this story well-written and haunting (pun intended), but it’s the only story in both issues with a female protagonist.

The stories in this collection are better, in my opinion, than the stories in the first collection. They escape the Twilight Zone schema and delve into real horror. If you’ve only got one dollar in your bank account, I’d pick up volume 2. If you’ve got two dollars, however, both issues are worth the price. I do hope, however, that future issues will see a few more female protagonists – one female character in ten stories seems a tad underrepresentational to me – and that the stories will continue getting better. I’m looking forward to reading Volume 3, which was just released on August 29.

You can find One Buck Horror volumes 1, 2 and 3 at the publisher or on Amazon.com.