Edited By Des Lewis (Megazanthus Press; 2008)

Cone Zero: Nemonymous 8The eighth installment of the Nemonymous anthology series, consisting of short fiction by various authors whose names are listed on the back cover, though not in same order as the stories.  CONE ZERO’S contributors are Neil James Hudson, Colleen Anderson, Jeff Holland, John Grant, A.J. Kirby, Eric Schaller, Kek-W, S.D. Tullis, Stephen Bacon, Sean Parker, Dominy Clements, Bob Lock, Grant Wamack and David M. Fitzpatrick.  As in the previous installments we won’t learn who wrote what until the succeeding volume (for the record, the final page of the present book reveals who penned the stories of the last one, 2007’s ZENCORE).

Not having read any of the other Nemonymous anthologies, I was unsure what to expect.  That, it turns out, was an ideal state of mind in which to approach this book, as unexpected is the operative word: the stories range from horror to sci-fi to who-knows-what.  As in most anthologies the contents are fairly uneven, but overall I enjoyed CONE ZERO immensely.

Varied though the 14 stories are, all were conceived around the words Cone Zero, which can mean any number of things.  In “Cone Zero, Sphere Zero” we enter a futuristic civilization structured as a giant cone, with sinister “Enforcers” stationed throughout to ensure that nobody tries to discover what’s beyond the cone’s summit.  In “The Point of Oswald Masters” Cone Zone refers to a series of cone-like installations created by a cranky artist, including one of zero height, zero diameter and zero volume–which is somehow stolen!  In “To Let” the concept is more obliquely addressed, via a suspicious vase that appears to have disquieting supernatural properties.

“Always More than You Know” has a Hollywood stuntman discovering that his latest job entails far more than merely standing in onscreen for a popular action star.  Another movie related tale is “Angel Zero,” a powerfully compelling mystery involving an ancient piece of film depicting a street scene where a little girl abruptly appears and then vanishes.  It may be the most resonant tale of the entire collection, a grabber that begins as an avant-garde ghost story and ends up something else entirely.

“The Cone Zero Ultimatum” centers on a band of sentient household appliances leaving their human master’s home in search of “Eden.”  “Going Back for What Got Left Behind” is a skin-crawler about two men, both of them widowers, whose lives are horrifically altered after they happen upon a train platform labeled Cone Zero.  “Cone Zero” is a short but resonant account of a desperate search for a woman the protagonist dreamed of years earlier.  “An Oddly Quiet Street” is a wholly unpredictable haunted house tale that effectively references ROSEMARY’S BABY.

Good anthology!  I’d like to give the proper authors credit for their achievements, particularly “Angel Zero” and “Going Back for What Got Left Behind” (which, bad dream-like, has remained with me in the days since reading it).  But that will have to wait until the next Nemonymous anthology, set to appear in 2009.  Until then…