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the genre's premiere review magazine for short SF & Fantasy since 1993

C.H.U.D. Lives! -- A Tribute Anthology, edited by Joe Mynhardt

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C.H.U.D. Lives! A Tribute Anthology


Edited by

Joe Mynhardt

 

(Crystal Lake Publishing, April 2018, pb, 183 pp.)

 

 
Dog Walker” by Robert E. Waters
“The Dwellers” by Nick Cato
“The City Will Eat You Alive” by Ryan C. Thomas
“Date Night” by David Robbins
“Strange Gods” by Christopher Fulbright and Angeline Hawkes
“Lost and Found” by Greg Mitchell
“They Are C.H.U.D.” by Alex Laybourne
“C.H.A.D.” by Michael H. Hanson
“Samsa’s Party” by Ben Fisher
“The Way to a Man’s Heart” by Tim Waggoner
“Dweller Messiah” by Jason White
“That’s Entertainment” by Mort Castle
“Toxic Disposal” by David Bernstein
“Monstrous Me” by Martin Powell
“Step Ate” by Chad Lutzke
“Zero Hour” by JG Faherty
“The Deuce” by Philip C. Perron
“All at Sea” by Ross Baxter
“You Will Never Leave Harlan Alive” by Jonathan Maberry and Eugene Johnson

Reviewed by Tara Grímravn

Cannibalistic Humanoid Underground Dwellers. That’s what the acronym “C.H.U.D.” means. I was a young kid when the film C.H.U.D. was released in theaters in 1984—way too young for movies like this. It wasn’t until years later that I was finally able to see it and, like any devout horror fan, I was hooked. C.H.U.D. Lives! is, as the title states, a tribute anthology written in honor of this genre-bending, cult classic and its creators. Don’t be fooled into thinking that this is just a regurgitation of the film’s plot line, though. This collection of 19 stories takes the reader deeper into the fear-drenched world of C.H.U.D. Although written by a variety of authors, readers will find a thread running through each story that connects them all together into a macabre interconnected narrative.

Dog Walker” by Robert E. Waters

Flora Bosch is a woman with a dilemma—stay with her inattentive husband or leave him for another man. Little does she know that the decision is about to be made for her. Waters did a great job keeping the tension high enough to keep the reader engaged and the ending was poignant. The story’s only failing was that it was hard to feel connected to Flora. Despite everything, there was no clear motivation for her actions. It seemed as though Waters was trying to indicate that she was a neglected wife but it was never made clear.

The Dwellers” by Nick Cato

A punk-rock guitarist takes a shady side-job the morning before his band plays their first real club gig. This would be the performance of his life. In this story, Cato has provided an interesting look at what happens during the transformation process and a peek into the city-wide cover-up. This was quite an enjoyable read.

The City Will Eat You Alive” by Ryan C. Thomas

Ron Kirby is unemployed. While returning home from a job interview one night, he discovers something about the New York subway system that he’ll wish he hadn’t. Thomas opens this story with one of Captain Bosch’s lines from the movie. This was a particularly nice touch. It provided a great response to one of the unanswered questions in the film.

Date Night” by David Robbins

This story tells of a night out on the town and a teacher with a dark secret. Robbins has delivered a twisted little tale with an interesting spin on the femme fatale theme. The ending has an unexpected twist that was cleverly kept hidden until the very end.

Strange Gods” by Christopher Fulbright and Angeline Hawkes

Amid increasing incidences of missing persons, a strange religious cult has formed in the sewers. Fulbright and Hawkes did a fantastic job setting the stage for this chilling story. Their use of world-building to increase the story’s tension and to invoke a general sense of terror was particularly well-done.

Lost and Found” by Greg Mitchell

A little girl goes to visit her uncle in New York City with her grandfather. Mitchell delivers a touching story in “Lost and Found” with a very nice use of the Anti-Hero and Redemption Quest tropes. Unlike many of the stories in this collection, the ending leaves the reader with a hopeful outlook for the protagonists.

They Are C.H.U.D.” by Alex Laybourne

A lost police patrol. An army of homeless citizens. There’s little more to say in summary of Laybourne’s short story. It was a fun, if terrifying, read as both officers and the homeless fight for their lives in New York’s sewer and subway systems.

C.H.A.D.” by Michael H. Hanson

An explosion sends hundreds of C.H.U.D. into a high-rise apartment building, forcing the residents to mount a defense. Hanson’s story is incredibly fast-paced and full of action—definitely an edge-of-your-seat type of tale. The dramatic ending was phenomenal. After reading the story in its entirety, it took a moment before the meaning of the story’s title became clear. Very clever.

Samsa’s Party” by Ben Fisher

A man down on his luck moves into the sewer. A few cups of bad coffee later and, well, the party’s over. Fisher’s story was absolutely excellent. Telling the tale in first person through a series of journal entries created a fantastic sense of intimacy with the narrator. The purposely-included typos were a nice touch, adding to the overall sense that his situation was deteriorating rapidly.

The Way to a Man’s Heart” by Tim Waggoner

After a group of C.H.U.D. attack a diner, one cop heads into the sewer to rescue the one victim they dragged off alive. Waggoner presents a very intriguing take on the C.H.U.D. transformation. Like many of the other stories in this collection, the ending packs quite a punch. Maybe not in an incredibly dramatic way but it’s still quite effective.

Dweller Messiah” by Jason White

A bullied and abused young boy gets revenge on those who hurt him. While White’s story was quite satisfying to read, I expected something different. Unfortunately, the tale’s connection to the title isn’t all that clear. The “messiah” is only vaguely established within the narrative and while he plays a pivotal role in the events, it’s a small one.

That’s Entertainment” by Mort Castle

America is a very different place in the future, especially after the city of Chicago opens up a C.H.U.D.-themed amusement park. Castle’s story is the first one in this collection that isn’t set in 1984. At first, it comes across as a very strange tale that isn’t really going anywhere in particular. There’s no protagonist; there’s only a chilling description of a dystopian future where lower-income neighborhoods are turned into literal breeding grounds for the entertainment industry. The line breaks and white space used by Castle add to the unsettling feel of the story.

Toxic Disposal” by David Bernstein

A couple learns the hard way that a dead C.H.U.D. isn’t necessarily a good C.H.U.D. as they struggle to dispose of a body. In addition to questionable reasoning, the characters in Bernstein’s short story had some equally bad dialogue. No matter how many times I re-read this story, I just can’t imagine anyone behaving the way the protagonists do. That made the entire story fall apart for me.

Monstrous Me” by Martin Powell

Getting the scoop on the plight of New York City’s homeless leaves one reporter hungry for more. Another story told in the form of journal entries, Powell provides another intimate look at the far-reaching effects of the toxic sludge running through the sewers.

Step Ate” by Chad Lutzke

The road to recovery takes a twisted turn for a former addict and his ex-girlfriend. Lutzke’s entry in this collection was interesting. On one hand, it was easy to sympathize with the protagonist and his situation. On the other, the twist ending was not something I really saw coming. It was certainly a unique take on making amends for a life ill-lived.

Zero Hour” by JG Faherty

A military strike force is called to clean out a C.H.U.D. infestation in a West Virginia mining town. Faherty’s is the second story in the collection that is set several years after the 1984 C.H.U.D outbreak in New York City. The narrative is tense and fast-paced. Faherty’s use of description and setting add to the claustrophobic feel as the task force winds its way through twisting mine shafts, guided only by the beam of a few flashlights.

The Deuce” by Philip C. Perron

Diners are trapped inside a greasy spoon during a crime scene investigation. This is the only story in the collection in which the tension doesn’t come from the action of C.H.U.D.s themselves. In fact, there are no true monsters present. Instead, the suspense is derived from the reactions of diners who’ve just witnessed both a murder and suicide. Of course, that only makes the twist ending all that much more intriguing.

All at Sea” by Ross Baxter

British Royal Marines receive a strange distress call from an American military vessel adrift in UK Territorial Waters. Of the entire collection, Baxter’s story is unique in that it presents a terrifying view of just how the C.H.U.D. menace could turn into an absolute pandemic.

You Will Never Leave Harlan Alive” by Jonathan Maberry and Eugene Johnson

Driven out of New York by those responsible for the C.H.U.D. problem, Sheriff Bosch finds himself facing off with C.H.U.D. in rural Kentucky. This story seemed to have more than its fair share of problems. The first issue is that it appears to have been poorly edited. There are a number of typos and mistakes throughout. In addition to this, the story has major consistency issues. For example, in one scene Bosch encounters his deputy and an agent named Lynch. While trying to determine why the agent is present, Lynch gives one version of this reasoning and then another just a few paragraphs later, both attested to as truth by the deputy. Another example is when the three men come across the body of Mr. Gates. The authors give a pretty detailed description of the body’s condition but never mention damage to the face. Just a few paragraphs later, however, despite having worked with Mr. Gates for years, Agent Lynch says he can’t identify him for sure until he sees the ID that Bosch pulls from the dead man’s wallet. These problems really detracted from the story which otherwise would have been quite good.