Summary from Goodreads
Welcome the dreadful cold of terror with 13 original stories by Brenden Dean. Bring a blanket, huddle around the fire, and try to keep warm as you encounter psychotic abductors, deadly spirits and demons of the woods.
Thirteen Degrees is one of the two horror anthologies I purchased months ago to get myself reading more of the genre. The book collects thirteen short horror stories by Brenden Dean, some as short as a few pages, others a fair bit longer. I won’t be going into anything too specific plot-wise, especially considering the book as a whole is a rather quick read.
To start things off on a positive note this book had a pretty strong start. Dean seems to be best when writing more succinct stories — particularly “When They Come Alone” — and the collection starts off with two like this. Though only a few pages long they efficiently depicted harrowing situations, reminding me of stories one might casually read online in the middle of the night, making you more prone to looking over your shoulder as you do.
Despite the good start the book started to lose steam for me very quickly, though not immediately. The first story of more length, “Eat Your Heart Out,” was all right, but indicated a problem I was to continually have with the book. Dean’s longer stories are full of purple prose. I understand that there are some people who might be into that style of writing, but I found it to be quite grating. I like my horror to be more grounded and to-the-point, so the flowery language was only distracting to me. Saying an event would have been “a memory of positive recall” instead of simply saying “a happy memory” only served to make me put the book down and rub my eyes. Perhaps this is nitpicky, but this style consistently spoiled the atmosphere for me.
A more substantial problem I had was how obvious a lot of the plotlines were. Many of them I was able to predict the outcome of simply by reading the title and the first few sentences. In some instances Dean even seemed to go out of his way to provide unusually specific details about characters that unsubtly telegraphed the direction of the story. When not obvious, other stories I found to be baffling. Some of the “twists,” if you can call them that, fell completely flat. These last second revelations left me asking “So what?” or more simply feeling disillusioned.
That all being said, I will admit Thirteen Degrees wasn’t entirely bad. Most of his really short pieces are quite good, and stories like “The Deer Cam” and “Sensations” stood out to me among his longer pieces as pretty decent. While “Eat Your Heart Out” was a little clumsily told it had one of the better premises with a lot of potential for creeping paranoia as well. The problem with these was with the execution and the little details that would have otherwise tied everything together nicely. Nonetheless, I would not recommend this book. The few positives simply did not outweigh the purple prose, clumsy language, obvious plotlines, and occasionally baffling conclusions.