Nightmares Unhinged: Twenty Tales of Terror is a horror anthology put together with the collaboration of authors Joshua Viola and Steve Rasnic Tem along with a multitude of contributors, all with a central theme of bad dreams. As elaborated in the foreword, the essence of nightmare could almost be described as pleasant, whereas a night terror – or a “nightmare unhinged” – is a far more potent, deep fear that the collection hopes to evoke.
It must be said that, strikingly, the cover and overall book layout and presentation is darkly gorgeous, even down to the perfect new-gothic style fonts. Art design credited to Viola and the final cover illustration credited to artist Aaron Lovett altogether bear special note for the exceptional quality. That quality is indicative of content, with truly unnerving and completely creative writing cover to cover, ranging from unholy experimentation to chilling childhood stories. Variety is the spice of the collection, though still rotating on the axis of the central theme. The chosen pieces are wholly well-picked, crafted with expertise through and through, and it’s difficult to pick just one as a particular example of quality.
The only comparatively minor criticism of the collection is that many of the stories have a predictable element to them. In spite of a great deal of originality and creativity on show, the twists of most of these stories have a rather horror-rote ending that rarely surprises. The twists are somewhat obvious but acceptably so for this kind of horror fiction. For most readers it’s unlikely to be an issue whatsoever, as the book’s atmosphere and writing still succeeds in terrifying and entertaining. The only other caution is that, being horror, there are of course contents describing things that go bump in the night, and often worse. Blood, fear, even sex are all a part of the collection – still, nothing really crosses any kind of hard line, although it does rub up close to a few. Of course, any that do seem to venture into unwanted territory can always be skipped, as is the way of anthology.
The collection really deserves attention from any horror fan, with all twenty included standing as highlights in and of themselves. Being an anthology of talented and (from what seems to be) previously published authors, the assurance of quality is correctly advertised on the cover with each name. Additionally, many of these stories are contributed from similar works, which are listed in the final pages, so if any stories or authors stand out to a reader it should be very easy to find a whole new read from there. I cannot recommend this collection enough to anyone who might at all be interested, as it stands as an absolute steal for what’s within – rarely does such a strong, perfectly-curated anthology hit the shelves.