I used to be the literary editor for my college paper about three years ago, and I decided that the literary folio's theme is going to be about our fear and fascination of monsters. I maintain that the monsters that plague our lives are mostly products of self-creation; a mere metaphor for our tortured or unsatisfying way of life. In that collection, the stories also got to feature literal monsters, ones that fuel nightmares and hunt us, demanding for blood. I mention this here because it's definitely the reason why this particular anthology published by the UP Press has intrigued me to no end.
Demons of the New Year had a lot of amazing things going for it. Firstly, it's a horror fiction from my country the Philippines which is already a readily commendable trait, seeing as I've always believed that we have some of the most enticing paranormal lore out there as well as perplexing and creepy superstitions deeply rooted in our collective national consciousness. This anthology was certainly able to deliver these qualities that I've always loved and appreciated about Filipino horror. Edited by rising-star horror fictionist Karl R. De Mesa (whose fictions are definitely just as enjoyable and disturbing) and Joseph Frederic F. Nacino, this volume is composed of ten short stories and a bonus comic story by De Mesa and illustrated by Gani Simpliciano. It's also a part of the ongoing Strange Fiction series that also published fantasy and science fiction anthologies (The Farthest Shore and Diaspora Ad Astra respectively, which I will read soon enough).
What is offered in this volume are some of the most imaginative, poignant, quasi-religious and uncomfortably exciting tales about demons in general; all of which are uniquely tailored to the things we fear, crave and deny the worst about ourselves.
My absolute favorites are definitely Brother and Sister (a re-imagining of Hansel and Gretel), Salot (a story that I couldn't get out of my head because it reminded me of a few childhood encounters with the unknown), K-10 Mushroom (a parable that tackles if not satirizes malicious intentions of organized religions), The Different Degrees of Night (whose prose personified the city of Manila in a way that's reminiscent of how Scott Snyder did with Gotham for his Batman stories) and Best Served Cold (where 'business of the soul' takes a whole new comedic meaning). The rest were good one-shots (The Kambubulag which reads like an entry for creepy pasta; Grotesquerie, Little Hands, Little Feet, Dark Moving Houses and Demon Gaga). The comic story The Magdalene Fist was a surprising supplement that I would want to read the continuation of soon (if there is any).
In a nutshell, this is a worthy addition to anyone's library and a rather delightful reading exercise to be had if you are that eager, preferably during a slow afternoon or, better yet, a solitary night in a quiet corner somewhere in your house.
Let the demons in this book come alive.