In the Shadow of Evil, edited by Martin H. Greenberg and John Helfers (DAW, 2005)

What is it about the dark side that fascinates us so? What compels us to occasionally root for the bad guy, and why do we love to watch the villain at work? These are some of the questions that drive the stories in this collection, an anthology which focuses its sights on worlds and places where “evil” is winning or has already won. Be they willing servant or the bitterly enslaved, the protagonists of these stories all live under the yoke of what we (or they) would consider evil.
Tim Waggoner turns in a thoughtful story, “To Embrace the Servant.” In it, a master perfumer lives from month to month as he struggles to constantly appease a strange snake god with new scents. However, his attempts to find a better life for his daughter may end in tragedy, if he doesn’t watch his step. Russell Davis’ “The Angel Chamber” is a disturbing story told from the viewpoint of a young girl faced with a kind of death. Whether it’s fantasy, science fiction, or horror all depends on your viewpoint, and how you interpret the narrative. I will allow that it involves a real evil, though. Isaac Szpindel’s “Ineffable” looks at how, in fighting monsters, it’s easy to become one, as a rabbi pushed past his moral limits creates a golem to fight a horrifying war for him, even as the golem chafes at his bonds of servitude.
Julie Czernada’s “Peel” looks at a world where evil has triumphed, and then lost all sense of purpose. What -does- evil do when there’s nothing left for it to fight or subjugate? Gregory Benford’s “Iraqi Heat” turns a timely eye towards a land where evil has seeped into the land for so long, the land itself is starting to fight back. Told from the viewpoint of some American soldiers sent far from home to fight and die in a place not their own, this story features some very unusual instruments of justice. Tanya Huff’s “Slow Poison” follows a cook forced to serve a brutal warlord who’s killed her king and conquered the area. Forced to serve or die, the cook concocts a cunning, and subtle plan to protect her people and ultimately dispose of the gluttonous warlord.
Obviously, there are some very strong stories in this collection, with authors such as Jane Lindskold, Fiona Patton, Michelle West, Mickey Zucker Reichart, and Jody Lynn Nye also contributing. With stories tackling evil in the real world and in fantasy worlds, it’s a strong collection that really takes advantage of the theme to tell some daring, and thoughtful, tales. Mostly fantasy, it’s also got some definite horror elements woven throughout it. It’s worth checking out.

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