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The Psycho Ward
edited by Victor Heck
DarkTales Publications, 166 pages

The Psycho Ward
Victor Heck
Victor Heck says:
"The Asylum anthology series is presently planned to have just four editions, each one taking the reader down the dark corridors of a different ward -- The Psycho Ward, The Violent Ward, The Quiet Ward and finally Terminal Wing. It is my vision that every edition will be an experience in terror unlike anything that has ever been assembled in any other themed anthology series. Others have touched on the subject or theme of the insane, but they were typically collections of stories with little to no relationship to one another. The Asylum series is meant to be a reading experience with stories specially selected to create a certain flow or feel to expand the reader's enjoyment. And with the addition of bizarre oddities such as the "Wall Scratchings" poems by psychobilly poet Richard L Levesque and the interior design and layout of the pages, the books really do seem to take on a life all their own... thus becoming an asylum all unto themselves, with windows the readers may peer safely through from outside where the sun is still shining reassuringly down on them."

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DarkTales Publications

Past Feature Reviews
A review by Lisa DuMond

It seems so soon to impose another LD rating, but -- darn it! -- The Psycho Ward earned it, fair and square. This is one for all the squeamish out there. For gore and torture, I must slap an NC-17 on this first volume of The Asylum series. That done, let's get on to the good stuff.

If you like your horror dark and disturbing, The Psycho Ward is going to be a book after your own heart (and the inmates will be wanting a piece of it, too). These short stories and poems offer a taste of the best of the new blood infusing the genre. This is a perfect book to use to smack the next "expert" who says horror is a dead form -- just the right heft and flexibility.

Let's go straight to the most unnerving tale in the book -- one of the most disturbing ever, really. From editor Victor Heck comes the story of a textbook look at the birth and growth of a serial killer. Remember how neat and sterile textbooks are, because "It's a Texture Thing" is as far from that description as you could imagine. You may wish you were back in that pristine environment when you see how Stewart goes about satisfying his curiosity about what is powering the living things around him. You'll never allow tin snips in your toolbox again.

For one of those short, sharp jabs to the kidneys, Steve Savile starts the collection off with a nasty glimpse into the depths of madness with "Memories In Glass." Like the best dark realism, the scare is in the plausibility. No matter how repulsive and sick the deed, chances are someone has performed it. Someone like Julie, in the uncomfortably realistic "Jewels," by Brett A. Savory.

It isn't called The Psycho Ward for nothing. In many of the selections it is difficult to be certain of what is reality and what is delusion. Does the nightmarish clinic in "Child Jar" exist anywhere but in the mind of the tormented woman? Who or what is Nix in the unnerving "The Machinery of the Night"? Whether you find the answer or not, you just hope he never finds you. This chiller from Douglas Clegg should be remembered when nomination time rolls around. Keep an eye out for Sephera Giron, too -- if not for the intense "Release," then for her next creation.

Like the terrors that fill the minds of the inmates, the "good parts" of The Psycho Ward are too many to name individually. Stalkers, sociopaths, psychos, a twisted poet -- every aspect of madness is taken out, examined, and preserved for future study and for posterity.

When you look at the world around you and wonder what is going on, here are some clues for you. It will horrify and shock the sound of mind. For those who have ever doubted their own sanity, it may be just a bit too close.

Copyright © 2000 Lisa DuMond

In between reviews and interviews, Lisa DuMond writes science fiction and humour. DARKERS, her latest novel, will be published in early 2000 by Hard Shell Word Factory. She has also written for BOOKPAGE and PUBLISHERS WEEKLY. Her articles and short stories are all over the map. You can check out Lisa and her work at her website hikeeba!.

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