Saturday, January 16, 2016

REVIEW: Holding Fire

Title: Holding Fire
Editor: Scott Hughes
Genre: Anthology
Price: $4.99 (ebook) / $12.99 (paperback)
Publisher: Createspace
ISBN: 978-1508859284
Available via: OnlineBookClub
Reviewed by: Psyche Skinner
Holding Fire edited by Scott Hughes is an anthology of ten stories with the theme of the destructive effects of holding onto anger or rage. I have to admit that my first reaction to the theme, intriguing as it is, is that it sounds like a bit of a downer. Stories of nasty instant karma, no matter how clever, might be a little too depressing to be good entertainment.

What I was overlooking was that the stories are pretty evenly divided between the main character being the person cursed with destructive rage, being their victim, or being a third party to the events of the story. And in some cases the person being consumed by their anger is ultimately saved. So there is considerable variety in the stories inn themes of characters, genre, and outcomes—although murder is the instigating even or outcome (or both) in nine of the ten stories. Most of the stories were contemporary dramas, often bordering on melodramas.

They had a lot of high stakes and emotional energy and generally a plot that held together. However most of them also had a lingering amateur quality where the balance between character angst and plot plausibility was a little shaky. Villains were often cartoonishly evil, with the evil stepmother trope getting more than one un-ironic outing, along with the alcohol abusive parents, and cute high school boyfriend/girlfriend savior. One of the stories (“Life is a Great Teacher” by John Mallon also suffered from questionable editing with multiple speakers being mashed together into the same paragraph).

I think people nearer high school age might enjoy these stories more, as young adult themes like bullying, first love, difficult families, and choosing the kind of person you want to be (when you grow up) occur in a number of stories. From my rather-more-middle-aged perspective the story “Dog Eat Dog” (by Joy Meehan) about and vindictive executive getting \ her just deserts from an underling is more resonant. I also appreciated he characterization of the failed writer in “Ghostwriter” by Kristi Hudecek-Ashwill. I would give this anthology 6/10 for being an entertaining read but not providing any stories I am likely to want to revisit or ponder over.