Friday, October 24, 2014

Originals

A Book of Horrors (2011), edited by Stephen Jones, containing the following stories, all original to this volume:

  • A Child's Problem by Reggie Oliver: Brilliant English ghost story in the tradition of M.R. James, with a neat extrapolation from a real painting and real-world historical events during the Victorian era.
  • Alice Through the Plastic Sheet by Robert Shearman: An increasingly surreal and perhaps a bit overlong tale of some very bad neighbours.
  • Charcloth, Firesteel and Flint by Caitlin R. Kiernan: Almost a vignette or mood piece of a woman who's drawn to fires.
  • Getting It Wrong by Ramsey Campbell: Black comedy about trivia contests and a lonely, misanthropic movie buff.
  • Ghosts with Teeth by Peter Crowther: Enjoyable piece overstuffed with increasingly omnipotent ghosts. The flash-forward at the beginning negates much of the suspense.
  • Last Words by Richard Christian Matheson: Short gross-out. Maybe it's supposed to be profound.
  • Near Zennor by Elizabeth Hand: Absolutely brilliant, muted piece that sends a widower on a voyage into rural England in search of answers about a part of his wife's childhood that he was unaware of until she'd died. Both a lovely character study and a detailed, slowly building work of quiet but unmistakeable horror.
  • Roots And All by Brian Hodge: The Wendigo vs. Breaking Bad: The Road to Victory.
  • Sad, Dark Thing by Michael Marshall Smith: Sad, moving story of loss and depression.
  • Tell Me I'll See You Again by Dennis Etchison: Typically excellent, under-stated, odd story from one of a handful of the greatest American horror writers of the last fifty years.
  • The Coffin-Maker's Daughter by Angela Slatter: An interesting, unpleasant bit of dark fantasy set in an alternate world, or perhaps yet another world of The New Weird.
  • The Little Green God of Agony by Stephen King: The supernatural elements are a complete dud; the sections on physical rehab after a horrifying accident are excellent: this would be a lot better as a non-supernatural story.
  • The Man in the Ditch by Lisa Tuttle: Some very nice M.R. James-like supernatural events in a story that really lacks the sympathetic characters that can carry this sort of thing.
  • The Music of Bengt Karlsson, Murderer by John Ajvide Lindqvist: Disturbing tale with some fascinating, Sweden-specific supernatural elements from the writer of Let the Right One In is also Lindqvist's first story written expressly for English-language publication.

Overall, this is a top-notch, all-original horror anthology. None of the stories are terrible, and several (Reggie Oliver's and Elizabeth Hand's entries, to name two) are absolutely top-notch all-timers. Highly recommended.

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