Every year in September or October I grab a horror anthology and read it all. Last year I read two: the Modern Library’s Tales of The Supernatural, and The Dark Descent. This year my book of scary stories is Foundations of Fear. It is a compilation of lots of scary tales from many different eras. I hadn’t heard of many of the stories, so that’s a huge bonus.
I want to spend this review telling you aboutmy favorite scary story so far, because I’m sure you understand what a horror anthology is and don’t need that primer.
Sandkings by George R. R. Martin
At some point in the future–dystopia, anyone?–an unsavory character hosts parties for people to see his bizarre pets. He is an exotic animal collector, but the animals of this story bear little resemblance to anything we know. He stages these parties to unveil whatever new animal he has purchased.
He is convinced by his dealer to purchase a bunch of insect-like creatures called Sandkings, with the promise that he has never yet had an animal that “worships.” The creatures come in four different colors and are soon installed in a large tank in his house. Shortly thereafter they begin crafting statues of his face. Worship.
Not content to let them be, he arranges more parties and stages battles in which the sandkings are forced to fight each other, or other animals.
The longer this goes on, the more the faces the creatures have sculpted change. Their god is no longer benevolent, but…jeez, it gives me shivers to think about it. What a great story.
Without spoiling it all, I will tell you that the creatures get bigger, people die, mistakes are made, etc, and the story ends with one of the greatest twists I have ever read in a horror story. Man it’s good. And this is a truly frightening story.
Martin is best known for writing fantasy. I also highly recommend his Song of Fire and Ice series. But if I could only read one thing by him, I have to say that I’d take Sandkings. It has everything scary stories should.