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Reviewed By: Tremain Jackson, South Branch Manager
Personal Rating: 3.5 Stars
Book Summary: An Air Force Loadmaster is menaced by strange sounds within his cargo; a man is asked to track down a childhood friend...who died years earlier; doomed pioneers forge a path westward as a young mother discovers her true nature; an alcoholic strikes a dangerous bargain with a gregarious stranger; urban explorers delve into a ruined book depository, finding more than they anticipated; residents of a rural Wisconsin town defend against a legendary monster; a woman wracked by survivor's guilt is haunted by the ghosts of a tragic crash; a detective strives to solve the mystery of a dismembered girl; an orphan returns to a wicked witch's candy house; a group of smugglers find themselves buried to their necks in sand; an unanticipated guest brings doom to a high-class party...
What frightens us, what unnerves us? What causes that delicious shiver of fear to travel the lengths of our spines? It seems the answer changes every year. Every year the bar is raised; the screw is tightened. Ellen Datlow knows what scares us; the 21 stories and poems included in this anthology were chosen from magazines, webzines, anthologies, literary journals, and single author collections to represent the best horror of the year.
Personal Review: I am a HUGE fan of horror. Movies primarily, as it's getting harder to find good horror novels, but this one did a pretty decent job at offering a few stories I hadn't heard before....meaning they weren't derivative.
What this anthology is not, is a collection of a particular type of horror. These stories are ones compiled by the taste of Datlow, which tends to lean towards being more subtle in context and subject matter than blatant and overt. You will be given a wide range of stories, both traditional and modern, covering the gamut of writing techniques and styles.
Whereas I don't suppose the stories will be for everyone, I will say that most reflect a great scope of the modern horror story. There were a few that I just didn't care for, but there were enough to keep me invested. Here are some of my favorites in the collection...
- Penguins of the Apocalypse, by William Browning Spencer: A very interesting story about the lengths in which we'll fall before we choose to pick ourselves up. An alcoholic named Sam meets an interesting stranger while in the deeps of his depression.
- The Hodag, by Trent Hergenrader: A Wisconsin demon is hidden among the trees and interrupts the quiet of a small logging town. The memories of the bloodshed aren't easily forgotten by some of the local boys.
- Harry the Monkey, by Euan Harvey: A father makes up a monkey for his young son to enjoy, but what happens when the son really starts to see it? Is it dangerous? (I hate monkeys).
- The Rising River,by Daniel Kaysen: When she receives a call from her brother, Amy knows it's time she confronts the childhood tragedy she's witnessed.
- It Washed Up, by Joe R. Lansdale: A very short story about a thing that washes up on the beach of a small town.
- The Narrows, by Simon Bestwick: After an atom bomb hits America, two teachers save a handful of their students and take them underground for safety. Unbeknownst to them, they will face more terror in those depths than above ground.
Whereas these stories don't compare to the well-crafted short stories of the past from Stephen King, they still offered me quick little jolts of creepy stories that had to be quick about setting up their eerie scenes and frightening you. Of course you're not going to like every single story in this anthology, and that's probably a good thing. I'm sure the stories I didn't enjoy will be wonderful for others, and vice versa.
That being said, if you're looking for some quick horror reads, and by authors you may not have heard of before, this book is a good one to checkout. Look for it at your Abilene Public Library.