Tuesday, November 13, 2012

A Book of Horrors, edited by Stephen Jones

(pb; 2011: horror anthology)

Overall review:

This is an excellent collection of Old School/classic horror-style stories, intended for non-Twilight readers, who bristle at the idea of defanged "sparkling vampires".  (Editor Stephen Jones states this, in different words, in his Introduction ["Whatever Happened to Horror?"].)

As such, A Book of Horrors is an impressive endeavor, one worth owning.

Standout stories:

1.)  "The Little Green God of Agony" - Stephen King:   Good story about a wealthy man (Andrew Newsom) whose post-accident pain has taken on excruciating proportions.

2.)  "Roots and All" - Brian Hodge:  A war-hardened corrections officer (Dylan) and his cousin (Gina) return to their recently deceased grandmother's backwoods house to pack up her things, only to discover that the surrounding woods, heavy with a legendary monster - the Woodwalker - and troubling memories, has become a "meth haven".

Excellent, perfect work, this: a seamless entertaining fusion of old horror elements and modern realities, charged with a sense of mission.

One of my favorite stories in this anthology.

3.)  "The Music of Bengt Karlsson, Murderer" - John Ajvide Lindqvist [translated by Marlaine Delargy]:  A boy's piano lessons provide the possibility for ghosts to re-enter the natural world.

Creepy and unsettling, with a finish that's at once familiar and refreshing.

4.)  "Getting It Wrong" - Ramsey Campbell:  An asocial, disgruntled  cineaste (Eric Edgeworth) finds himself participating in a dark, strange game show where providing wrong answers can prove agonizing.

Solid, interesting piece.

5.)  "The Man in the Ditch" - Lisa Tuttle:  Linzi, a woman with marital issues and uncomfortable in her new country home, sees a dead man on the side of the road.

Good, mood-effective work.

6.)  "A Child's Problem" - Reggie Oliver1811.  Tankerton Abbey, in Suffolk, England.  A boy (George St. Maur), left in the cold-hearted care of his uncle (Sir Augustus St. Maur, Baronet), uncovers a dark, multi-layered mystery surrounding his uncle, his uncle's deceased wife (Lady Circe) and other fatalities.

Wonderful story, replete with classical, philosophical and other elements of particularly human shadiness and light.

One of my favorite entries in this anthology.

7.)  "Sad, Dark Thing" - Michael Marshall Smith:  Miller, an "aimless" man reeling from a divorce, sees an unexpected sign on a backwoods road, and is irrevocably altered by it.

Mood- and theme-efficacious piece, inspired by the author's real-life drive through the Santa Cruz mountains (in California).

8.)  "Near Zennor" - Elizabeth Hand:  A widower (Jeffrey), while sorting through his wife's belongings, discovers some mysterious letters which pull him into even bigger mysteries.

Good, unpredictable, atmospheric read.

9.)  "Last Words" - Richard Christian Matheson:  A serial killer waxes philosophical on the nature of the last moments of one's death.

Creepy, intriguing, vicious, memorable.

Other stories:

"Charcloth, Firesteel and Flint" - Caitlin R. Kiernan;  "Ghost with Teeth" - Peter Crowther; "The Coffin-Maker's Daughter" - Angela Slatter; "Tell Me I'll See You Again" - Dennis Etchison;  "Alice Through the Plastic Sheet" - Robert Shearman

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