Saturday, May 19, 2012
Review: The Best Horror of the Year
The Best Horror of the Year by Ellen Datlow
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Book Info: Genre: Anthology: Horror Reading Level: Adult
Disclosure: I received a free eGalley – eBook uncorrected proof/ARC – in exchange for an honest review.
Synopsis: The first three volumes of The Best Horror of the Year from Nightshade books have been widely praised for their quality, variety, and comprehensiveness.
Now, for the fourth consecutive year, editor Ellen Datlow, winner of multiple Hugo, Bram Stoker, and World Fantasy awards, has explored the entirety of the diverse horror market, distilling it into the fourth anthology in the series and providing an overview of the year in terror. With tales from Laird Barron, Stephen King, John Langan, Peter Straub, and many others, and featuring Datlow's comprehensive overview of the year in horror, now, more than ever, The Best Horror of the Year provides the petrifying horror fiction readers have come to expect-and enjoy.
Fear is the oldest human emotion. The most primal. We like to think we're civilized. We tell ourselves we're not afraid. And every year, we skim our fingers across nightmares, desperately pitting our courage against shivering dread.
A paraplegic millionaire hires a priest to exorcise his pain; a failing marriage is put to the ultimate test; hunters become the hunted as a small group of men ventures deep into a forest; a psychic struggles for her life on national television; a soldier strikes a grisly bargain with his sister's killer; ravens answer a child's wish for magic; two mercenaries accept a strangely simplistic assignment; a desperate woman in an occupied land makes a terrible choice...
What scares you? What frightens you? Horror wears new faces in these carefully selected stories. The details may change. But the fear remains.
Table of Contents:
The Little Green God of Agony - Stephen King: A paraplegic millionaire hires a priest to exorcise his pain
Stay - Leah Bobet – can a woman with no medicine stop Raven and keep a wendigo human?
The Moraine - Simon Bestwick – a failing marriage is put to the ultimate test
Blackwood's Baby - Laird Barron – hunters become the hunted as a small group of men ventures deep into a forest.
Looker - David Nickle – a young man at a party meets a girl with extraordinary eyes
The Show - Priya Sharma – a psychic struggles for her life on national television
Mulberry Boys - Margo Lanagan – villagers produce silk for a living, but what price have the villagers paid for this income?
Roots and All - Brian Hodge – a soldier strikes a grisly bargain with his sister's killer
Final Girl Theory - A. C. Wise – a film made 40 years ago fascinates a man, and when he thinks he sees one of the actresses on the street he follows her home, because he has to know: was it real?
Omphalos - Livia Llewellyn – family togetherness was never meant to be like this.
Dermot - Simon Bestwick – the Special Projects department of a police station requires the help of Dermot to locate the creatures that prey on the town; but is his help worth the price they pay him for it?
Black Feathers - Alison J. Littlewood – ravens answer a child's wish for magic
Final Verse - Chet Williamson – to what extreme would you go in order to find the answer to a long-held question?
In the Absence of Murdock - Terry Lamsley – where did Murdock go and why has no one seen him in days?
You Become the Neighborhood - Glen Hirshberg – mother and daughter reminisce about the event that drove the mother mad, and about the events that led up to it.
In Paris, In the Mouth of Kronos - John Langan – two mercenaries accept a strangely simplistic assignment
Little Pig - Anna Taborska – a desperate woman in an occupied land makes a terrible choice
The Ballad of Ballard and Sandrine - Peter Straub – love and pain and pleasure and surrealism
My Thoughts: Stephen King is still the master – by the end of his story, “Little Green God of Agony,” I was actually tensed up and waiting for a blow – maybe because I’ve dealt with pain for years now, I don‘t know, but wow that story got to me. “The Moraine” is a creepy story that is enough to make you nervous about walking over rocks ever again. “Blackwoods Baby,” about hunting an enormous stag, was incredibly disturbing. “The Show” was another weird one, with a woman acquiring a spirit guide in a very strange way. “Roots and All” was about the price one needs to pay – which is inevitably a steep one, as is “Little Pig”. Omphalos was extremely disturbing, and highly strange.
I enjoyed the fact that the tales of the Native peoples of the extreme northern areas of North America, the tribes called Dene or Inuit, were incorporated into “Stay.” Of course, the wendigo myth is common to many tribes across North America, but it was still refreshing to see these native peoples in a new light – we hear very little about them in mainstream media. There is the smallest hint of medicine in the tale “Black Feathers,” as well – it also features Raven and emphasizes that you should be careful what you wish for... because you just might get it. Then, “In Paris in the Mouth of Kronos” we get a hint of the Greek gods, to balance things, while “The Ballad of Ballard and Sandrine” gives us a touch of Amazonia.
In “You Become the Neighborhood,” I was amused by references to a wolf spider spinning a web over the apartment door every night, and the people living there carefully knocking down the web each morning so they could get out of the house. There are a lot of overly ambitious spiders around my neck of the woods and this sort of thing happens all the time.
Straub is one of my favorite authors, but the story of his in this anthology really bothered me. I liked it, don’t get me wrong – it’s typical Straub, in that it’s dreamlike, surreal and haunting. However, it is also inconsistent. The character Sandrine’s age changes constantly. She is born in 1957, is 15 in 1969, is 19 in 1976, is 25 in 1982 and is 49 in 1997. Ballard is described as being both 44 and 38 in 1982.
I haven’t commented on every single story, but that doesn’t mean they weren’t all good – in many cases, there’s just no way to comment on them without spoiling the story – which is a real problem when reviewing an anthology.
The introduction was really long – 12% of the book – but very interesting. I ended up with a long list of books that I need to check out now (oops – like I needed more books to read!)
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