Book Review : Tales from the Crust - An Anthology of Pizza Horror (2019)
Pre-Order Tales from the Crust here (Official release: August 27, 2019)
I can’t think of anything less terrifying than pizza. I mean… when it isn’t cooked right, it sure can look disgusting. But it doesn’t change pizza’s purpose: bringing people together around a delicious and familiar dish that everyone feels comfortable eating. “Challenge accepted,” said Max Booth and David James Keaton, the short fiction mad scientists you didn’t know you needed in your life. There’s a pizza horror book, now. It’s a thing that exist and that’s about to be available to you. And I’ll be damned, but Tales from the Crust is… kind of awesome?
So, what was the challenge, exactly? Making pizza the enemy of people who are eating it. I don’t believe every story succeeded, but those that did really exploited the feelings of comfort and indulgence that are supposed to come with eating pie. My favorite was Andrew Hilbert’s Watch Them Eat, where a pizza delivery guy becomes obsessed with a family and starts inventing narratives where he’d save the mother from “abuse” he believes she’s enduring. It had a fun, Hitchcockian edge to it and explored the class gap between people ordering pizza and the people making it.
Another story I really enjoyed was Matthew M. Bartlett’s original and uneasy The Black Cheese. It’s a very subtle and understated pizza story (did I just really say that?), which walks a fine line between occult rituals and the inexplicable feeling of “wrongness” you get when you let something inside your home without knowing where it’s from or what it is really for. Michael Paul Gonzalez’ Upper Crust is another one that deserves mention. It’s much more straightforward than the aforementioned two, but it comes at your throat and quickly becomes a physically challenging read.
Other short stories that deserve a shout out for being fun and disturbing in their own way: Tony McMillen’s Elude the Snood, Cody Goodfellow’s The Vegan Wendigo, Emma Alice Johnson’s Pizza_Gal_666, Joshua Chaplinsky’s superduperfuckingweird’s Cenobio Pizzeria and Izzy Lee’s Demons of 1994. These don’t have much in common except perhaps Goodfellow and Chaplinsky’s which both aim at alienating pizza from the stomachs of people eating it. Otherwise, it was simply fun to read stories that involve a setting so banal and comforting being rendered threatening in the crazy, overimaginative mind of horror writers.
I liked Tales from the Crust: An Anthology of Pizza Horror. I liked it better when the pizza itself was at the forefront the stories and not just an element shoved in there like an undesired extra topping. Whether the action happened around the pizza or literally ON it, if the story remained close enough to the pie that I could smell it, it would (in general) be successful. Tales from the Crust is coming out on August 27, but you should definitely pre-order it and warn your local pizzeria that you will call them a lot more for a period of one or two weeks. Because that book will make you hungry… for better or worse.