This World Belongs to Us – Book Review

This World Belongs to Us HORROR BOOK REVIEW .png

Each of these stories is a lexical example of that meme daring you to put your hand in the spider’s nest: you know you shouldn’t do it, but something compels you to, just so you know what will happen. Read on, but maybe don’t ignore that buzzing in your ear.

Justin Allec

This World Belongs to Us: An Anthology of Horror Stories about Bugs

Edited by Michael W. Phillips Jr.

From Beyond Press, 207 pgs.

ISBN: 979-8-9875743-0-0 (paperback) 979-8-9875743-1-7 (hardcover)

I’ve got an uneasy relationship with bugs. A lot of that has to do with where I live—northern Ontario is mostly made up of water, swamp, and trees, so I get to deal with the worst of the bloodsuckers the insect world offers: mosquitos, black flies, horse flies, deer flies, noseeums, and sawyer beetles. Add in the changing climate, and my region is also being invaded from the western prairies by wood ticks. Despite their carnivorous appetites, I don’t really find these bugs scary per say; getting swarmed can be an intense experience of cursing and swatting, but I never fear for my life.

Still, if there was one really BIG horse fly…or if a million mosquitos zeroed in on me…

Horror has long supported a healthy fear of bugs, of course, so maybe my dislike at these creepy-crawlies has been…encouraged. Starting with a grade-school class reading of Carl Stephenson’s classic “Leiningen Versus the Ants”, my familiarity with insect horror checks  modern classics like Arachnophobia, Mimic, that sequence from Creepshow, and heck, even Starship Troopers. These works show insects aslegion: ubiquitous, efficient, coldly uniform aliens without being the actual xenomorphs from Alien. Here, insects resist being anthropomorphized, which means we can’t recognize them as anything other than a tidal threat. 

The World belongs to Us, the new anthology presented by From Beyond Press, has a few stories featuring that kind of insect horror trapped between its pages. V. Castro’s “Monarchs in Flight” brings the ‘chittering masses’ vibe to a cosmos-scoping family exploring a new planet; the epistolary TMZ-crossed-with-entomology apocalypse of Gwen C. Katz’s “Blue-Eyed Pearls” buzzes right through influencer trends; Laurel Hightower’s “Lady of the House” presents a buzzing take on the repercussions of adultery; and “Honeydew and Cloves” by Bitter Karella uses clandestine dealing in an unnamed, unstable country with warring insect factions. The most fun for me was probably Kay Vaindal’s bitterly sarcastic take-down of industrious billionaires in “The Seventh Ishtar” thanks to an irresistible narrative focus. In each case, the horror is shown through confrontation or compliance with an unknowable insect hoard dealing with humanity’s hubris in a most elemental fashion.

The grand scale is fun, but many of the short stories take a smaller, more intimate approach

. These stories are heavy on character and the repercussions from our most human emotions, which means we’re in territory similar to Cronenberg’s The Fly. Both Felix I.D. Dimaro’s “To Them You Shall Return” and Rowan Hill’s “Swarm” use the EC Comics-approach to classic revenge tales involving cursed fuckboys: the comeuppance is gross, expected, and expertly handled. Balancing those stories is the tender and terrifying historical examination of graveyard displays and generational fate in Cynthia Pelayo’s “Snow White’s Shattered Coffin”. These stories lead to smiles because they know how to twist the reader’s expectations just enough to offer conclusions that go beyond the pale. 

Pelayo’s story is just one that wrestles with family relationships. There’s eighteen stories in total, which work on your peace of mind like termites eating away at your childhood home’s foundation. Kaelan Patrick Burke’s “Attaboy”, Octavia Cade’s “Imago”, and Jaclyn Youhana Garver’s “The Butterfly Catcher” all tell very intimate stories about their human protagonists facing impossible, oppressing, and insanely gruesome situations exacerbated by the presence and prominence of insects. Love, and the positions we force our loved ones into, are fodder for the insect world beneath our feet, and disrespect leads to horror. “A Confession of Earwigs”, Paula D. Ashe’s contribution, pushes this aspect to its limits with an epistolatory story that uses earwigs, revamped medieval torture devices, and obsessive love.

One final story favorite of mine is David Simmons “Glock Dookie”, which takes an already-transformed gall wasp akin to Gregor Samsa only to throw it into an American prison with all of the confusion of that supposed secured space. The outcome is welcome, but the dialogue is absurdly hysterical and had me laughing.

Each of these stories is a lexical example of that meme daring you to put your hand in the spider’s nest: you know you shouldn’t do it, but something compels you to, just so you know what will happen. Read on, but maybe don’t ignore that buzzing in your ear.

This World Belongs to Us

This World Belongs to Us

THIS WORLD BELONGS TO US is an anthology of horror stories about bugs, writ large—we’re not scientists, so spiders and slugs and scorpions (oh my!) are in here too. A child pays for a thoughtless action for the rest of her life. A lothario mistreats the wrong woman. A hunter tracks a horrifying monster to the edge of reality. Space larvae learn to be human. An influencer hawks this year’s most popular accessory. A prisoner in solitary makes a new friend. And more, and more. This collection will terrify you with nineteen stories about the creepy-crawlies that were here before us and will be here long after we’re gone.

Featuring stories by Bram Stoker Award winner Kealan Patrick Burke, Bram Stoker Award nominees Paula D. Ashe, Laurel Hightower, Cynthia Pelayo, and V. Castro, plus Octavia Cade, Felix I.D. Dimaro, Jaclyn Youhana Garver, Rowan Hill, C.B. Jones, Bitter Karella, Gwen Katz, R.M. Kidd, J.A. Prentice, Bert SG, David Simmons, Yvette Tan, and Kay Vaindal as well as a major rediscovery—John B.L. Goodwin’s 1946 story “The Cocoon,” one of the creepiest stories ever written but out of print for more than 40 years.

Edited by Michael W. Phillips Jr.

A Horror Book Review by Justin Allec

The Heart and Soul of Horror Fiction Reviews

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