The Outcast Hours edited by Mahvesh Murad and Jared Shurin

I would like to thank Remy from Rebellion for an advance copy of this novel in exchange for a fair and honest review

Publisher – Solaris

Published – Out Now

Price - £10.99 paperback £4.31 kindle eBook

These are the stories of people who live at night, under neon and starlight, and never the light of the sun.

These are the stories of poets and lovers.

This is their time.

There have been jobs and times of my life when the night was much more my world. Lots of verrrry early shifts as a shop worker; insomnia and just sometimes the night would be the only place I could switch off. And it is a different world – you recognise your fellow travellers (online and offline). The night can be more relaxed, a tiny bit dangerous and it has its own rules. I sometimes miss those hours and the sights you would see and what it did to the imagination. But in this anthology, all based around the night Mahvesh Murad and Jared Shurin have created an intriguing mix of fantasy, horror and noir to give everyone a taste of what happens when the sun hides from us all.

As always in a collection (especially one as large as this) not all stories worked for me, but I think there was a high degree of quality

This Book Will Find You by Sam Beckbessinger, Lauren Beukes and Dale Havorsen – a lover performs a ritual to bring back her deceased girlfriend. A story that moves from loss to something darker and nastier as the relationship is exposed from start to finish.  This one really grabs you by its bloody teeth.

It Was A Different Time by Will Hill – On a rooftop hotel an employee finds one man sitting in the pool at night holding a gun on him. This story looks at Hollywood, the Me Too movement and the monsters that are all too very human. Really captures that mercenary quality of those in films.

Ambulance Service by Sami Shah – Welcome to Karachi and a very unusual night ambulance crew that deals in the supernatural. The kind of story where you make a lot of sudden turns that when you look back are all very logical. Absolutely fascinating premise, you just want to know more about how that world works.

Blind Eye by Frances Hardinge – A babysitter for criminals gets a child to watch over who she must not let sleep. Trademark Hardinge by which I mean weird, dark, poignant and brilliant. Moving from real world to the weird seamlessly. One of my favourites in the collection.

Sleep Walker by Silvia Moreno-Garcia – A tourist asks a local to take him to see one of the mysterious local attractions. This is a brilliant story matching the life of the local woman in the town and her own desires to have a life of her own and the tourist who wants to experience the strange and gets much more than they asked for. I loved how the story works on making the reader fill the gaps in rather than making everything explicit.

Bag Man by Lavie Tidhar – In Israel a criminal gets robbed and spends the night tracking down who caused him this inconvenience and he is not to be trifled with. Very much a noir tale with bosses behind bosses all painted vividly with a streak of violence while still gripping.

Gatsby by Maha Khan Phillips – Back to Karachi and a party for the young rich done in the style of Gatsby held by a mysterious newcomer whom Ra ends up talking to. A story where the apparent luxury of the wealthy soon turns to pure terrifying horror and one ending that is really haunting long after you finish it.

Swipe Left by Daniel Polansky – A serial online dater decides to go for one last spontaneous date, but the hunter may also get hunted. Almost darkly comic how such a nasty shallow person who clearly doesn’t listen to his dates finds out why paying attention is a good idea.

Everyone Knows That They’re Dead. Do You by Genevieve Valentine – This is an uncomfortable apparent ghost story where after each scene of the narrative the reader is asked questions about their judgements and values. A reminder that sometimes our love of the supernatural mean we miss the real horror in front of us. Very good!

The Collector by Sally Partridge – Another noir tale but this time in South Africa where a My Little Pony sale over the internet goes horribly wrong and descends from humour into something much more disturbing as a man finds he cannot be pushed around anymore. That move from funny to crime thriller is done superbly and it catches you by surprise.

The Patron Saint of Night Puppers by Indrapramit Das – A woman goes to her Halloween night shift at a place that minds dogs in Vancouver. She sees a man with a dog mask on who may or may not be following her. A strangely uncomfortable story that shows you a woman reflecting on her life and the air of something weird around the city. No firm answers but just a story that sucks you into a character’s world well. Another of my favourites.

Tilt by Karen Onojaife – This might be my favourite as it gets that theme of the night being a place for reflection, desperation and sometimes hope. A tale of a Shepherd’s Bush casino becomes something much more mythic and ultimately redeeming. A writer I will look out for in future.

In the Blink of a Light by Amira Salah-Ahmed – This looks at three characters who work at or visit a nightclub. A story of clashing cultures, generations and how the desire to be someone other than yourself can often have unfair repercussions. Poignant and sad.

The Dental Gig by SL Grey – For me the funniest in the collection exploring the tooth fairy industry and a healthy poke at sexism in the workplace. Read this one for the surprises and how you can find a way to cheer on someone when you probably shouldn’t (wink to camera).

One Gram by Leah Moore – A woman has a horrific night shift in a pub dealing with men who feel entitled to control and assault her. It very much puts the reader into the skin of how women can be treated as objects hence when she sees a chance to redress the balance the reader is fully behind her. Compelling.

One overarching theme was that each story was never quite clear on hat type of story it would end up being. As with the night everything is often unclear until you look more closely. Its not the warmest collection and most of these stories are at the darker end of the spectrum but it’s a good way to hold up a mirror to humanity and show us the face we don’t like to expose in the sunlight. An excellent collection and one you should look out for.