666: The Number of the Beast by Peter AbrahamsThis is an anthology of scary stories. Many are written by acclaimed horror authors, some are written by paranormal YA authors, and some are by authors who I dont care enough about to look up. Heres a detailed review of each one:
Channel 99 by Peter Abrahams: 2/5
The anthology opens with one of the worst stories it features. The prose was awful; there were a bunch of sentences that made no grammatical sense, and it was very, very choppy. The story wasnt much better; it was odd and confusing. (Get used to that; odd, confusing stories are one of the most prominent problems in the book.) I will admit this, though: there were some parts that were genuinely suspenseful. Actually, there was one scene, in which the main character tried to stop herself from getting tortured, that gave the most suspense I felt in the entire book. And it did have a good premise. It just didnt do much that was good with it.
The Legend of Anna Barton by Laurie Faria Stolarz: 3/5
While significantly better than the last one, this wasnt great. The prose was good. It could be awkward sometimes, but it was normally passable. And I LOVED the ending. It was genuinely surprising, and exactly the kind of thing that a story like this needed. The main problem, however, is that a lot of the character interaction was unfocused. Characters changed subjects way too frequently, which made it hard to get a real sense of tension from it. This actually ruined the story. (Well that, and the awkwardness in the prose). It took a great premise and story and sucked all of the tension out of it. What a waste of potential; one more re-write, and it couldve been great.
Saving Face by Christopher Pike: 4/5
Easily the best so far, and the best for a while. The prose was good, although it was often flat and uninteresting. Additionally, the ending was confusing and nonsensical. However the first 25 pages (yes, 25. This is by far the longest story in the book) were so amazing that I could let it go. This was mainly created by the storys great handling of beauty, jealously, rivalry, ect. The paranormal elements that came in the end were almost unnecessary; I wouldve been perfectly fine if this was a realistic story. I also liked that the characters were developed. In a story this long, it wouldve felt weird if the characters were flat and boring, the way they mightve been in a shorter story. Fortunetly, thats not a problem; I felt like I knew Jill and Jane quite well. It also had a great premise, and unlike The Legend of Anna Barton, it didnt fall flat. The last five pages werent great, but everything before it was amazing.
The Little Sacrifice by Joyce Carol Oates: 1/5
This is by far the worst story here. In fact, looking back, I cant think of anything that I liked about it. The only good thing was that it was short - only four pages. But it was an awful 4. The prose was horrible. It was so incredibly purple and overripe in its attempts to sound authentic to its time period (whenever it took place; the story never says) that it often sounded ridiculous and laughable. For example, theres this quote:
All that day we searched for our little sister, and all that week, and all that month and year we would search for our little sister; and never would we abandon our search for her, for the remainder of our troubled lives. Had cruel fairies carried her off into the Underworld? Had a wild beast made its way through an open window as we slept, and borne her away into the woods, in his jaws? Or had our little sister simply vanished, as dew sparkling like gems will vanish on the grass with the inexorable rising of the sun, transforming the comfort of night into the starkness of day.
No, really, it actually says that. Theres so much wrong with this, I dont even know where to being. This doesnt sound like it belongs in a serious story - it sounds like its from a parody of one. Not to mention the overly-purple language, the unnecessary and confusing metaphors, and an annoying religiousness that doesnt fit the story at all. This is truly awful prose, some of the worst Id ever read. And the other elements arent better. Due to the prose being confusing and annoying, I didnt understand a good bit of the plot. Actually, beyond the narrators sister disappearing, I didnt understand ANY of the plot. I had no idea what was going on. From what I could tell, the premise was also really, really dump and stupid and pointless. The overall effect? The story wasnt even slightly scary or creepy. It was just pointless. In short, I have no idea what this is, what its doing in this anthology, or why anyone would show this to anyone without a MAJOR re-write.
If You Knew Suzie by Heather Graham: 2/5
This one had a lot of potential that was ruined by the ambiguity of the prose and the plot. The first half was actually really good, but it didnt really build up to anything that made sense. You could actually pinpoint the specific point in the story where the editor just said, Screw this, Im out of here. The second half of the story had awkward prose and a confusing story. Its too bad - the first half of the story has a lot of tension and suspense, and a very interesting look at relationships. But the ending ruined everything.
Slam Dance by Bentley Little: 4/5
This one was a lot better than the last couple were. The prose was sometimes a little awkward, but it normally worked. I also loved that the high school felt realistic, apart from the invention of slam books for this universe. (Unless slam books are real things that I just havent heard of.) However, this was the only story here that I felt like it shouldve been something more. It had an amazing premise, (everything Anna writes in the slam book she made comes true, even if its an exaggeration), but it didnt feel fully developed; magic solved all of Annas problems. I felt like if this were a whole novel, Anna wouldve got some consequences for using the slam book (both positive and negative), and we wouldve learned more about her and why people hate her. This wasnt a bad story (I rated it 4 stars, after all) - it was just an underdeveloped one.
A Trick of the Light by Chet Williamson: 5/5
This was my second favorite story in the book. (Well get to my favorite in a bit.) The narrator had a nice, believable voice that never felt awkward. I also really loved the premise that showed off not only Williamsons ability to be scary, but an interesting perspective on relationships. It also showed off his amazing ability to avoid the cliches of a dying protagonist. (The narrators girlfriend is dying in this story.) I dont have any major complaints about the story - it was one of the best.
Erased by Jane Mason: 3/5
This one wasnt bad, but it didnt make a really big impression on me, either. This is probably because the story felt pointless and unexplained. (Getting sick of hearing that yet?) It had pretty good prose, and a good premise, but it felt underdeveloped, underedited, and confusing.
Empire of Dirt by Amelia Atwater-Rhodes: 5/5
Amelia Atwater-Rhodes was the only author I was familiar with going into this anthology. That being said, Im not particularly surprised that her story is my favorite of all the stories here. First off, the writing was amazing. Which it always is, when Atwater-Rhodes is writing, but compared to the rest of the book, it felt very mature and polished. I also loved the application of shapeshifters into the real world. The main character is a hyena shapeshifter, and everyone thinks hes an insane person and a compulsive liar for saying so. I also loved the characters. One of Atwater-Rhodess talents is creating a very meaningful arc for characters in a short amount of time, and this is on display here. I wish the story had been a bit more explained, but other than that, it was perfect. Ive been told that a couple of the characters in this story reappear in Persistence of Memory. I cant wait.
EDIT: Alright, I read Persistence of Memory. And, I have to say, this story was a lot better. I was really disappointed in the book.
Incident Report by Joshua Gee: 3/5
This probably wouldve been a 4 if I hadnt read it right after Empire of Dirt. After all, the writing was pretty good. But the characters, the world, the story... EVERYTHING felt underdeveloped compared to the last book. And the story was slightly confusing. In particular, I had no idea what was going on for the first third of the story, and the ending was nonsensical. It was a pretty good premise, and Gee obviously knows how to write, but it just fell flat here due to the lack of development.
Scapegoat by Robin Wasserman: 4/5
A lot better than the last one. The writing was great, and it was applied to a good and (gasp) DEVELOPED premise! Because of this, some parts were genuinely scary, in a way that the rest of the book wasnt. I do wish that it had been more meaningful about the relationship between parents and children and between friends. It obviously had the potential to be this. That being said, I think it still worked. The story couldve been more explained, but the narrator didnt know any more about the world than I did, so it worked better than in other stories.
Imagining Things by T.E.D. Klien: 4/5
This one was my third favorite in the book. The writing was great, and so was the premise. Not to mention that the ending was very scary and suspenseful. I do wish it wouldve made an attempt to be more meaningful about loss and schizophrenia (I spelled that right on the first try! Yay!), but other than that, it was really, really good. Unfortunetly, the book goes downhill from here.
Grandma Kelley by David Moody: 2/5
Meh. This one wasnt awful, but nothing about it really stood out. The premise was really weird and stupid - I found it hard to take it seriously. The writing was pretty good, though; it didnt have editing issues, like a lot of the book did. However, the action sequence was confusing and unengaging; it was only the other parts that were well-written. I did, however, like the plot twist that came at the end.
Shelter Island by Malissa de la Cruz: 2/5
Note: This story was later reprinted for The Eternal Kiss 13 Tales of Vampire Blood and Desire.
This one was a very cliched paranormal romance, condensed into a short story. Stop me if youve heard this before: a vampire is watching a the lonely teenage heroine sleep every night for a while, but when the girl finds out about this, she doesnt really mind. She falls in love with him in a matter of days, despite them not really interacting very much, and she readily trusts him and offers him blood, even though she doesnt know anything about him. Hmm... where have I heard a similar premise? Oh, thats right, in almost every paranormal romance on the market today, even the ones I like. The story doesnt develop at all beyond that basic premise, and it doesnt do anything unique with it; it has the too-brave heroine and the insta-love, just like any other story. The only good thing about it was the prose, which worked, even if it was a bit underedited.
La Fleur de Nuit by P. D. Cacek: 3/5
This one had a relatively standard premise that couldve been told a bit better. Thats not to say that the prose was bad, because it wasnt - it was great. The reason I say that, is because like so many other stories in this book, its undeveloped. The thing that wouldve made this story really creepy wouldve been watching the narrator slowly get more and more obsessed with the ghost that hes seeing. But unfortunetly, we dont see it. And the plot is so predictable, that you have to wonder why not - the story doesnt really have a point otherwise. I did, however, like the accuracy it showed to the time period (the 1700s).
Ever After by Isobel Bird: 2/5
Meh. This one wasnt the slightest bit creepy, and a little weird, mostly thanks to its crappy premise. Its mediocre, and awkward prose didnt help. Sure, there was some genuine mystery, but it didnt add very much to my enjoyment. Not to mention that the mystery is somewhat brought out of focus by the storys circular plot and conversations. Overall, one of the worst stories in the book.
Haunted by Ellen Schreiber: 3/5
This was basically Shelter Island with a better premise. Despite the non-sensical plot twist at the end, I couldve been invested in the story up until then. This is helped by the storys mature prose that never felt underedited, which at this point, was more than good enough for me. But many elements were hard to take seriously. The guy she meets is somehow perfect for her, and although hes nice, the narrators instant obsession with him is teeth-gratingly annoying. This is what I meant by it being just like Shelter Island - the romance was completely unbelievable and kind of cheesy. The narrator is convinced that this guy is the love of her life, despite barely knowing him. Overall, not a bad story, but most certainly not a good one.
Wolfsbane by Sarah Hihes Stephens: 2/5
Like the storys opening, this wasnt a story I was a fan of. The pacing was easily the worst part - the story consisted of seven pages of exposition and only three pages of things actually happening. It felt very unbalanced and weird. The premise wasnt that good to begin with, but the pacing issues - along with the fact that the plot is somewhat unexplained - kind of ruined it for me. The prose was pretty good, but other than that, theres very little to like in this volume.
Overall, this was a mixed bag, as most anthologies are wont to be. Some of the stories were creepy and successful, and some... werent. The middle third of the book was definitely the strongest - it features all of my favorite stories in the book. However, the final third was so consistently horrible that they less than balanced out. Standouts: A Trick of the Light, Empire of Dirt, Imagining Things. The worst: A Little Sacrifice, Grandma Kelley, and Shelter Island.
I cant really find a particular reason to recommend or not recommend this book - when I averaged out all my ratings, it came out to exactly three stars. Basically, if you have any authors you like in the story, definitely read it. (Unless you like Joyce Carol Oates. I dont care how much you like her, you will hate her story.) But if not... trust another reviewer. Because I got nothin.
EDIT: This was the first anthology Ive ever read. Since then, I read a couple others, and looking back on this one, it strikes me as badly edited. I say this for two reasons. First, there were tons of instances of bad writing; you mightve noticed that my biggest and most constant complaint was underediting (see Channel 99, If You Knew Suzie, Ever After, ect.), and there were tons of premises that were undeveloped and/or blatantly didnt work (A Little Sacrifice, Slam Dance, Erased, ect.). The second reason I say this is that there was no editorial direction. Youd think based on the title that it would be horror. And while some of them were (Saving Face, If You Knew Suzie, Imagining Things), a lot of them felt more like paranormal romance (Shelter Island, Ever After, Haunted). They werent even all YA - Saving Face, A Little Sacrifice, and Incident Report all felt much more like adult books. And a couple (such as Incident Report and Grandma Kelly) felt more like soft science fiction than fantasy. It was like someone took a bunch of random short stories and threw them together without reading them. A lot of the stories had potential, and with tighter editing, this couldve been much, much better.
Quotation Marks and Direct Quotations
Show less They are used to set off exact language, spoken or written, that has come from someone else. You may use quotation marks to quote a source or for dialogue. You can also use quotation marks for titles to indicate it is part of a larger work. Using quotation marks correctly in a paper, essay, or written work will ensure your writing is clear and easy to follow. To use quotation marks, put quotes around any dialogue and always use a comma before or after the quotation, depending on where the sentence ends. Or you could write: Jillian said, "It's time to go.
When to Use Quotation Marks
As a general rule, British usage has in the past usually preferred single quotes for ordinary use, but double quotes are now increasingly common; American usage has always preferred double quotes. As we shall see below, the use of double quotes in fact offers several advantages, and this is the usage I recommend here. The chief use of quotation marks is quite easy to understand: a pair of quotation marks encloses a direct quotation that is, a repetition of someone's exact words. Here are some examples: President Kennedy famously exclaimed "Ich bin ein Berliner! Note first that what is enclosed in quotes must be the exact words of the person being quoted.