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The Wild Side: Urban Fantasy with an Erotic Edge
edited by Mark L. Van Name
Baen, 255 pages

The Wild Side
Mark L. Van Name
Mark L. Van Name has worked in the high-tech industry for over thirty years and today runs a technology assessment company in the Research Triangle area of North Carolina. A former Executive Vice President for Ziff Davis Media and national technology columnist, he's published over a thousand computer-related articles and multiple science fiction stories in a variety of magazines and anthologies, including the Year's Best Science Fiction.

Mark L. Van Name Website
ISFDB Bibliography

Past Feature Reviews
A review by Mario Guslandi

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Don't let yourself be put off by the vulgar cover nor deterred by the ambiguous promise of "urban fantasy with an erotic edge" suggesting cheap, second-rate fiction by mediocre writers. This is a very good book, extremely engrossing and entertaining, including a couple of remarkable highlights of superior quality when compared with more celebrated anthologies. (Incidentally, if you're interested in the erotic aspect, it's quite explicit only in some instances and subtle and marginal in most of the tales.)

Top-seller Tanya Huff provides "Songs Sung Red," yet another of her fine stories featuring vampire detective Vicky Nelson, here falling under the spell of a hypnotic siren.

"Careless of the Night" by Gina Massel-Castater is a strongly erotic piece where a middle-aged widow gets hot for her new employer. The paranormal side of the story shows up only at the end and remains slightly unconvincing.

In the very enjoyable "For a Good Time, Call..." by Toni L.P. Kelner, a young witch, still trying to understand the real nature of her power, gets involved in a dangerous game with a demon through a cell phone, while in the entertaining "Unawares" by Sarah A. Hoyt, an angel in disguise gets to Denver to fight a vampire invasion.

Marl L. Van Name breaks the unwritten rule which advises editors to refrain from contributing to their own anthologies, and I'm very glad he does. His "The Long Dark Night of Diego Chan" is one of the more accomplished stories in the volume, a kind of thriller with a melancholy side. The tale describes, in a tense and gripping narrative style, how a dying man's plans to survive by letting himself be turned into a vampire are impeded by an old friend. The story introduces the character of Diego Chan, whom I'm looking forward to meeting again in some future fictional work.

The other standout, possibly the best tale in the book, is penned by the young and prolific Caitlin Kittredge, here at the top of her game. "Born Under a Bad Sign" is a terrific noir story where a fallen angel reincarnated in a whore ends up fighting a band of gangster demons. This may sound a bit complicated and totally implausible but, believe me, the tale is a superb example of masterful and insightful storytelling.

Get a copy of this book and I'm quite sure you'll be grateful.

Copyright © 2011 by Mario Guslandi

Mario Guslandi lives in Milan, Italy, and is a long-time fan of dark fiction. His book reviews have appeared on a number of genre websites such as The Alien Online, Infinity Plus, Necropsy, The Agony Column and Horrorwold.


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