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Best New Horror 24 (The Mammoth Book of Best New Horror, #24)

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For nearly twenty-five years The Mammoth Book of Best New Horror has been the world's leading annual anthology dedicated solely to showcasing the best in contemporary horror fiction. Comprising the most outstanding new short fiction by both contemporary masters of horror and exciting newcomers, this multiple award-winning series also offers an overview of the year in horro For nearly twenty-five years The Mammoth Book of Best New Horror has been the world's leading annual anthology dedicated solely to showcasing the best in contemporary horror fiction. Comprising the most outstanding new short fiction by both contemporary masters of horror and exciting newcomers, this multiple award-winning series also offers an overview of the year in horror, a comprehensive necrology of recent obituaries, and an indispensable directory of contact details for dedicated horror fans and writers. The Mammoth Book of Best New Horror remains the world's leading annual anthology dedicated solely to presenting the best in contemporary horror fiction.


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For nearly twenty-five years The Mammoth Book of Best New Horror has been the world's leading annual anthology dedicated solely to showcasing the best in contemporary horror fiction. Comprising the most outstanding new short fiction by both contemporary masters of horror and exciting newcomers, this multiple award-winning series also offers an overview of the year in horro For nearly twenty-five years The Mammoth Book of Best New Horror has been the world's leading annual anthology dedicated solely to showcasing the best in contemporary horror fiction. Comprising the most outstanding new short fiction by both contemporary masters of horror and exciting newcomers, this multiple award-winning series also offers an overview of the year in horror, a comprehensive necrology of recent obituaries, and an indispensable directory of contact details for dedicated horror fans and writers. The Mammoth Book of Best New Horror remains the world's leading annual anthology dedicated solely to presenting the best in contemporary horror fiction.

30 review for Best New Horror 24 (The Mammoth Book of Best New Horror, #24)

  1. 5 out of 5

    F.R.

    I've reviewed each tale as I read it: Witch Work by Neil Gaiman A poem of witchcraft and the expanse of time, full of striking images such as: “The clock whispered time which they caught in their gears”; “Its trunk flowed with liquid. It dripped with age.” I can see why it’s in a horror anthology, but the more I read it the more I appreciate its sense of loneliness, sadness and love-lost. The Discord of Being by Allison Littlewood When an individual dabbles in the supernatural, what are the conseque I've reviewed each tale as I read it: Witch Work by Neil Gaiman A poem of witchcraft and the expanse of time, full of striking images such as: “The clock whispered time which they caught in their gears”; “Its trunk flowed with liquid. It dripped with age.” I can see why it’s in a horror anthology, but the more I read it the more I appreciate its sense of loneliness, sadness and love-lost. The Discord of Being by Allison Littlewood When an individual dabbles in the supernatural, what are the consequences for their family and friends? That’s the approach this highly evocative ghost story takes. What is the collateral damage? It might be irrational, and there is nothing she can do to make the situation better, but Emma is unable to stop herself flying to Morocco at news of the desecration of her mother’s grave. Awaiting her is her estranged father and a lot more than meets the eye. It’s a distinctive story. The sunshine and the Moroccan setting giving it a much different feel to most ghostly tales (we are after all programmed to think of ghost stories in big old American or British houses). And maybe that different setting allows Littlewood to play by different rules and to give an ending which is both highly creepy and ambivalent. I was left unsure as to whether it was a scary conclusion, or one which was almost optimistic. Necrosis by Dale Bailey ‘Necrosis’ is a gossipy tale of old New York, with clubbable men and a mystery which is both right in front of them and easily avoided. Setting a tale in such a milieu, giving it a narrator of that ilk, works in very interesting ways. The characters all have an inner calmness and an inability to feel shock (or at least express it). It’s a world in which it would be rude, and somehow unmanly to ever make a fuss – and that polite delay in getting to the conclusion really accentuates the growing horror. A distant member of a circle of friends starts to exhibit strange behaviour. It’s an entertaining and well thought out yarn, although I’m not sure it really builds up to and earns its gimmicky conclusion. The Hunt: Before, and the Aftermath by Joe R. Lansdale An early middle-aged couple are embarking on an organised hunt to put the spark back into their marriage. They have their guns (the classic phallic symbol) and are about to enjoy the thrill of the chase and the spilling of fluids. They’re using the adrenalin of the moment to feel hot and young (and hopefully horny) again. I was enjoying this story even before the reveal of what their actual prey is, but once that reveal comes the story turns into a horrible and well realised version of an alternative/future world. This is a sharp and clever tale which twists horror tropes in a delightfully perverse way. The Cotswold Olimpicks by Simon Kurt Unsworth Very much in the mode of English folk horror such as ‘Blood on Satan’s Claw’, ‘The Good Children and the Bad’, and – more specifically – Britt Ekland trying to tempt Edward Woodward in ‘The Wicker Man’. A photographer is offered libation at an English country fayre but instead gives offence – he is then made to pay an awful penalty. ‘The Cotswold Olimpicks’ is a pleasingly creepy tale, although with a lead character who is a bit too stiff and prissy to truly empathise with. And sadly Edward Woodward isn’t with us anymore to play him with some added humanity. Where the Summer Dwells by Lynda E. Rucker I like southern gothic. I like that it makes its subjects so creepy and unsettling even in broad daylight. I like that the characters in southern gothic can be made uneasy and uncomfortable just by the sheer oppressive heat, they’re already on edge before the terror gets there. I like that miles and miles of sometimes lush greenery can become so threatening and full of doom. I like that you can write horror and draw in flies (pestilence and decay) and mosquitoes (blood-suckers) without having to think of any special reason why they’re there. In short, I like the whole atmosphere of southern gothic. Unfortunately this tale of a supposedly nostalgic road trip and lost love has little more than atmosphere to offer. It doesn’t put a foot wrong in establishing its setting, but never builds anything else once there. The Callers by Ramsey Campbell In a sepia tinted Lancashire town there are strange things afoot. Actually that could be a way to describe any Ramsey Campbell story, he really does like his Northern towns. And that’s a good thing – taking the English ghost story away from the haunted manor house or the metropolitan elite or Oxford dons, and placing it in the land of flat caps and whippets. This story though almost seems like a fantasy Lancashire, one that is both touching the future and rooted in the past. We have the narrow streets and the popularity of the bingo hall, but it’s also a world where the big local cinema chain is The Frugoplex, and a film with the odd name Facecream is big amongst the kids. It could be that Campbell, who – how should I put this? – is closer to the older generation than the younger, knows he can’t really replicate the young’s experiences and so pushes them to silly extremes, but it does lend a pleasing surrealism to the story. I’ve never thought of bingo as scary before, but actually that rhythmic rhyming does lend itself well to terror. There’s a relentless to the beat, a twistiness to the language which actually is most unsettling. And to say that a group of elder ladies sitting together is reminiscent of witches feels a bit sexist and of the middle ages – but that’s the notion the tale plays with, and ultimately it does posit a world where men are subservient to women. One of the best and creepiest tales in this collection! The Curtain by Thana Niveau I suppose there’s something original about setting a ghostly tale underwater – introducing Clive Cussler to M.R. James. But then I felt a lot of the enjoyment of the tale comes from appreciating this submerged world, getting as much joy from it as the protagonist. I’ve never dived though and never really been tempted, so to me it was a cold and alien world that I felt no passion for whatsoever. Introducing Clive Cussler to M.R. James may be a clever idea, but there is a reason I never read Clive Cussler. The Fall of the King of Babylon by Mark Valentine Ambition is not something to be sneered at in a short story. At the top of the form, Arthur Conan-Doyle could cram so much into a Sherlock Holmes story. However Mark Valentine’s ‘The Fall of the King of Babylon’ almost seems to have a surfeit of ambition. What we get is a sprawling fantasy tale, with numerous characters, all leading up to a horrible and violent act. It’s fantastic on atmosphere and great on the impending terror, but really it all feels too rushed. A world like this needs more space to develop, more room to burst into – and everything being crammed into a short story just makes the short story suffer somewhat. Come on, Mark, let your imagination sprawl and give us this world in book form! Nightside Eye by Terry Dowling ‘Nightside Eye’ brings us the quite delicious combination of high-tech, drug induced, Australian ghostbusting – and it’s a story, which although has some big flaws, manages to largely achieve its aims. We’re in our old favourite the haunted hotel, where in one of the minor ballrooms there has been some poltergeist activity. A year before our tale opens, a psychic investigator had his eye optimised to examine the phenomena, and whatever it was he saw was so terrifying that he swiftly took drugs to remove his short term memory (which I thought was a nice Ballard-esque touch). Now another psychic investigator is following in his footsteps, only what will he see? First off, I have to say that the dialogue here is pretty bad – characters explain things to each other in flat, full of gobbledegook, lifeless prose. It’s the thing which holds this tale back from being wonderful. But even with that flaw, the story almost pulls off its conceit. Throughout we are told that the first psychic investigator had seen something so terrible, that he had to immediately forget it. This terrible thing is built up to again and again, and so of course the reader has to encounter it. I was worried that whatever it was wouldn’t live up to the billing, that it could only disappoint and tarnish the story, but actually when it gets to the point of scary revelation it really does deliver the goods. Far from perfect, but definitely an effective shocker. The Old and the New by Helen Marshall A more subtle and subdued story, split into two distinct halves. One half looking at an attractive, unavailable man whose marriage suddenly falls apart, the other his subsequent trip to Paris with his new girlfriend. This could be the subject of romantic or literary fiction, of course, and yet the mounting sense of dread throughout really does tip it into the realms of horror. It’s Americans in Europe and so the New World encountering the Old and the weight of history our Colonial cousins have to deal with. The appalling heaviness of death long ago and the newer death which hangs over them. Helen Marshall’s tale is without a doubt one of the best written in this collection, but it’s a bit too vague for its own good meaning the ending is somewhat insubstantial. Waiting at the Crossroads Motel by Steve Rasnic Tem A Lovecraftian fantasy, a dark super-hero tale, an apocalyptic vision, a look at the end of the American nuclear family and – I suppose – a sun-kissed horror about the sheer terribleness of waiting. Rasnic Tem’s tale feints at them all and gives most good, solid blows. There’s a coldness at the centre of ‘Waiting at the Crossroads Motel’, but it’s a coldness visible as the reflected image of humanity. In the end this is a story about the goodness of people, about how we’re supposed to care for each other, look after each other, love each other – and about how those who don’t are really from the dark realms of cthulhu. The fact that these cold, indifferent, violent creatures are not us reassures us of our humanity, while at the same time using their indifferent alien nature to truly chill to our bones. His Only Audience by Glen Hirshberg I like it when Sherlock Holmes goes all esoteric and odd. After all the problem initially posed in ‘The Red Headed League’ is a left-field quandary to take to a private (consulting) detective. The same goes for ‘The Blue Carbuncle’ – who would imagine at the beginning that tale would take the path it does? There’s something so magically weird about those short stories, embracing as they do the idea that nothing in life is small, that even the tiniest and seemingly most insignificant thing may lead to something massive and truly important. Even though I’ve only read one, Glen Hirshberg’s Normal & Nadine adventures clearly come from the Holmes & Watson tradition – and this particular tale is very and pleasingly esoteric. We open with our two leads scanning shortwave radio bands, acting for a long-standing client who is desperate to hear the lost voice of his father. Their adventure truly begins though when they pick up the sound of music which cannot possibly exist. Unfortunately this gloriously odd set-up leads them into something thuddingly clichéd. One can only wish that Hirshberg had found a way to build of his fantastic, wonderful and intriguing beginning, rather than folding it neatly back over itself. Marionettes by Claire Massey Tales about visits to foreign climes can feel a bit like the author indulging in a ‘what I did on my holiday’ essay. This travelogue to Prague feels very much like it originated in untidy, smudged handwriting in an old, battered exercise book. It does capture the rush of the city however (I’ve visited Prague myself) and in the substance of the story, the quiet desperation of a dying marriage. But probably because I’m so familiar with the kind of thing Robert Delgardo’s and Anthony Ainley’s incarnations of The Master used to get up to, I twigged where this story was going pretty much from the title. Between Four Yews by Reggie Oliver Yes this is a homage, yes this is a pastiche, but this is a bloody excellent short story in its own right. Explicitly echoing M.R. James, the tale (with a brief prologue and coda set in the present) is one of revenge and supernatural skulduggery in the Victoria age. Actually that might be a bit too lurid a description for what we have here, although it is essentially true, as this is a tale set out in true M.R. James understated style. A story of a flawed Victorian who dabbles in things he shouldn’t, where overseas is crudely drawn and full of terrible superstitions (unlike civilised England) and a terrible comeuppance will have to be paid. This is a tale about death and the power of death, but it’s also a tale about memory and the power of memory. It’s about how feelings and spirits can reach out from the past and as long as we have those memories we can never be free of them. For instance, the passion for revenge may depart, but by the point the memory of wanting revenge is so strong you will have to meet your fate. And yet ‘Between Four Yews’ also has it the other way, making it clear that memory is the essence of us and to lose our memories is to lose ourselves. So it seems from this story that our fate, no matter how awful, is unavoidable. A deeply creepy tale which demands to be read by candlelight on a dark, starless evening. Slick Black Bones and Soft Black Stars by Gemma Files Second person narration? Ugh. If there’s one thing that really sets my teeth on edge (and not in a good way that you’d actually want from a Horror Anthology), it’s second person narration. It’s jarring and irritating and there are few good reasons for an author to use it. Gemma Files’ story certainly doesn’t need to be narrated in the second person. This tale of a Pitcairn-esque south sea islands, massacres that seem to have dated back generations and ancient horror rising up holds so much promise. It’s told in a very matter of fact, scientific way which gives the unexplainable horror breaking through far greater edge. Unfortunately it’s nowhere near as good as it should be. The Other One by Evangeline Walton At the centre of ‘The Other One’ is a love story. A slightly older man meets a young and inexperienced woman and takes her out of herself. The two of them fall in love and he wants to marry her, but she won’t. He thinks it’s because of her twin sister, who is always hanging about, but the truth is far more disturbing. The problem with this love story, however, is that it never seems real. The character of Anne – our narrator’s beloved – is so enigmatic and vaguely drawn as to negate the whole love story. How can he fall in love with her? She in no way seems like an actual person. It’s no over statement to say that if you place a love story at the centre of your tale and that love story fails to convince, your tale is flawed in a fatal way. ‘The Other One’ doesn’t help itself any further by building to a ridiculously melodramatic conclusion. However before that, there are a few pages of twisted passion which are just delicious. Walton pulls out something both weird and sexy, suggesting that – even though this is far from the best tale in this book – she might be an author worth finding out more about. Slow Burn by Joel Lane This is a disappointing sketch of a story, told without excitement and failing to make anything of its semi-interesting set-up. A copper is investigating strange fires, in the process of which he bumps into an old colleague who has an odd story to tell. The pace is languid, the tale within a tale is inconsequential and the whole feels ultimately pointless. Not so much a damp squib, as a squib which has been dunked in a swimming pool and them buried in peat without getting anywhere near a match. Celebrity Frankenstein by Stephen Volk Celebrity culture and reality shows are actually great targets for a Frankenstein story. All these people who are selling their souls for a piece of fame, who are having cosmetic surgery and altering their bodies just so The Daily Mail will say that they’re perfect (until the cellulite shows, of course). A man wakes up on the operating table in front of TV cameras, but he is not any normal man, he has been constructed from the pieces of half a dozen men and he is a celebrity. He becomes a singer, a talk-show house, he writes an autobiography, has affairs with actresses; right up to the point he has a moment of disgrace and his career starts to slide. Obviously it’s a fantastic target and Volk does hit it repeatedly and hard, until the satire is just dripping off it. This is an attack on our fame crazy culture, the demi-gods who are set up to be worshipped and then torn down to be reviled, the whole disposability of it all. All the while it is keeping to the bare bones of the Frankenstein story, including the child thrown into the lake and the eventual creation of the bride. And even though it’s been crammed together like a mad professor’s monster, it still feels seamless. Towards the end there is a reference to the O.J. Simpson car-chase and arrest, but that feels too old a reference to have a place in this story and this satire, it’s there for the reader to just nod along in acknowledgement – it’s the only misstep though, in what is a whip smart and monstrously clever story. Blue Crayon, Yellow Crayon by Robert Shearman I have had periods of insomnia and I have suffered almost unendurably long journeys and so this tale of a man returning home for Christmas (“jet-lagged to tiny bits” as the story has it) struck the kind of big and mighty chord which would fill a church. When all flights from London to Edinburgh are cancelled the day before Christmas Eve, our protagonist is forced to catch the overnight train. On board is an annoying little girl with a disinterested mother. The little girl targets the man for pranks and irritation, but mid-way through the trip – when he is dozing – she suddenly disappears. What I particularly liked about ‘Blue Crayon, Yellow Crayon’ is that the half-empty, spooky locomotive zooming through darkness is usually only going one direction, but this one largely manages to avoid that cliché – giving us an ending which is more affecting than most in this volume. October Dreams by Michael Kelly A young girl dreams of Halloween and these dreams stay in the back of her mind throughout all her life, until one Halloween they seem to come to fruition. This short, short story is undeniably well written, but fails to hit the emotional beats it needs to be truly successful. The Eyes of Water by Alison Littlewood And to finish off this volume we have a ‘look what I did on my summer holiday’ story, or more precisely a ‘look what I did on my summer holiday diving in Mexico’ story. (It’s also the return of that old Stephen Jones favourite ‘the dark, dank cave’ story.) A young man dies a horrible death in Mexico and his childhood friend uncovers the terror of what really befell him. It’s a story which tries for a travelogue reality in its descriptions of Mexico, but also aims for a disturbed dreaminess. The two don’t really mesh and so ‘The Eyes of Water’ always feels like it’s pulling in two different directions. I also wasn’t particularly comfortable with ‘the smart Westerners head out to a strange country and encounter quaint, strange religious beliefs’ aspect of the whole thing. It makes this an oddly patronising and colonial tale on which to end a fine collection on. Three stars, but I think that probably this is actually probably better than the average vintage.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Shawn

    And round we go again, with the "Best New Horror Fiction" of 2012 as chosen by Stephen Jones. The Year In Horror was as it always is - a waste of time for some and a useful resource (if somewhat dispiriting slog) for others (I fall into the latter category). Jones' soapbox moment at the end of this one is comments on the vast welter of self-publishing thanks to e-books and how little of it is actually worth reading - this makes him a curmudgeonly greybeard gatekeeper of the old for some or an ho And round we go again, with the "Best New Horror Fiction" of 2012 as chosen by Stephen Jones. The Year In Horror was as it always is - a waste of time for some and a useful resource (if somewhat dispiriting slog) for others (I fall into the latter category). Jones' soapbox moment at the end of this one is comments on the vast welter of self-publishing thanks to e-books and how little of it is actually worth reading - this makes him a curmudgeonly greybeard gatekeeper of the old for some or an honest commentator on the state of his genre for others (again, I fall into the latter category) - take your pick, neither is actually "true". The stories, as always, least interesting to most entertaining. No marks for "Witch Work" by Neil Gaiman, not because it's bad, but I simply have no handle on "horror poetry" as I basically have barely a handle on "poetry". So consider it unknown territory. Weak or just okay stories for me: "Where The Summer Dwells" by Lynda E. Rucker name-checks one of my favorite Karl Edward Wagner stories but not towards any resonant goal I could perceive, being more of a Ray Bradbury-esque "idylls of our youth" reflection transplanted to the rural South and onto modern alt-teens (i.e. - lots of alternative music shout-outs) as the female main character revisits old haunts with new friends. I found the story's construction distracting more than confusing and the end result underwhelming but it's also prime dark fantasy and so YMMV. Thana Niveau's "The Curtain" is a well-written tale of a man scuba diving after a powerful storm who comes upon a sunken boat, and then bodies, and then more bodies. I liked the setting a lot (great use of setting to amplify unease) but the piece as a whole didn't click with me, being an example of that oddest of subgenres, the ambiguous monster story. "The Fall Of The King Of Babylon" has another kick-ass setting (a Dickensian stone edifice sitting on a water-logged swamp island and ruled by the king of the local criminal underworld) and the usual solid Mark Valentine writing - but then there's the eel-men and the oddly abrupt ending. Again, good dark fantasy but not really my thing. In "The Old & The New" by Helen Marshall a vacationing couple, newly minted, explore the catacombs below Paris, moving among the bone hoard as we get details of the origin of their relationship from the woman, and hints as to how unsettled it might really be. This is a fairly low-key story, a psychological exploration of love and emotions and how they relate to death. Not really bad or anything but not seemingly my kind of thing in this author's voice, but certainly respectable and accomplished. Next up, the "good but a little flawed" stories: Alison Littlewood's "The Discord Of Being" has a daughter summoned back to Morocco by her expatriate father because her mother's grave has been vandalized only to later see, in the teeming, riotous Djemma El Fna marketplace of Marrakesh, her long-deceased mother in the crowd. This is a subtle, somewhat psychological story, a take on the djinn mythology that might be better classified as dark fantasy, as I'm not exactly sure the ending was intended as horrifying. There's a second Littlewood tale here as well - "The Eyes Of Water" - which has a diver retrace the path of a drowned friend through the underwater tunnels of the Yucatan, only to discover a hidden chamber and more than she expected. Perfectly serviceable fiction but it didn't grab me. "The Hunt: Before And The Aftermath" is a "zombie apocalypse story as character study" piece, quite fine in the sense of what it is and its message (men never change) but which seems to me lacking in any threatening, direct horror aspect, more along the lines of lit horror. A good read by Joe R. Lansdale but I wanted more than just a backdrop of zombies for a sketch of human failings, which Romero had given us decades ago. A boy visiting his grandparents escapes some young toughs by ducking into a sinister bingo hall, much to his dismay, in Ramsey Campbell's "The Callers". As usual with Campbell, the writing is top-notch but I have to admit I found the central conceit of this piece more goofy than threatening - extra points though for the subtle May Day details, the typically lame mainstream movie the boy intends to see - that bit actually made me laugh out loud - and the disturbing intimations of granny-sex (if not sacrifice). Just as last year there's a rescued story by pulp writer Evangeline Walton (author of Witch House, which I reviewed quite some time back), here being "The Other One". It's the story of a woman with a secret, a mentally ill twin who mimics her every move - or is that really the truth? I was actually surprised how far this story was willing to go, relative to the time at which it was written, into the imagery and actions of the (view spoiler)[doppelganger/astral body/succubus (hide spoiler)] concept. Familiar pulp fare but respectable. I wanted to like "Slow Burn" by Joel Lane more than I did - the ingredients are all there: a sense of place and history, an elemental quality (woods, mines, fire) and a hard-bitten policeman's narrative voice. But they didn't seem to gel too well into a full-blown story here, as Lane's detective character looks into mysterious fires in the local park-lands, tied to an old mine shaft. I guess part of it is that the detective doesn't *do* anything, he's just told everything. Felt more like a sketch for a better, more fleshed-out story. On the other end of the spectrum from subtlety we get Stephen Volk's "Celebrity Frankenstein", a brash, inventive and funny exploration of its title conceit. It may tend towards the "clever" side in lieu of "unnerving" a bit too much for its own good, however. Cute. "October Dreams" by Michael Kelly is a short flash piece evocative of Halloween and not really my thing as I still struggle with gauging the success and limits of flash fiction. Next are the "good" reads, the meat of the book and all solid stories. Terry Dowling's "Nightside Eye" is an interesting twist on the Psychical Research/Hell House motif of the scientific team investigating a haunting. Here, it's a haunted mantlepiece in an abandoned Grand Hotel, upon which nothing can sit for too long. The researcher is deliberately duplicating a previous attempt to solve the mystery which failed spectacularly with some dark revelation. Now, such a build-up is both very exciting and in hazard of disappointing unless the author comes up with something extraordinary and unprecedented (unlikely, as a probability) and the reader enjoys the ride enough to dial down expectations somewhat. I dialed down and enjoyed myself and the story should be appearing on PSEUDOPOD later this year if I can purchase the rights (and so I did - audio available for free here). Although I'm not the biggest fan of Steve Rasnic Tem's fiction I found "Waiting At The Crossroads" a nicely done, impressionistic tale of an odd father bringing his family to a desert hotel to await... something... There are some nice Lovecraftian touches in this meditation on parenthood and lost progenitors. Glen Hirshberg gives us a duo of series characters (a man, The Collector, and his female assistant, who find things for people) in the very dark fantasy, not-horror-at-all story "His Only Audience". Here, it's all about a nighttime excursion into the foggy ocean in search of a stray radio signal that may feature a lost recording by a famous musician - but who's the pirate of the airwaves doing the transmitting? Not my normal kind of thing but well-written and the hook of audio ephemera mavens made me dig it (I'm currently converting hours and hours of my old cassette recordings into digital format). Ymmv. "Marionettes" by Claire Massey is a concise little weird tale, familiar but enjoyable nonetheless (so who can complain?) about a couple visiting Prague who run across a marionette shop with some distinctly recognizable figures in the window. M.R. James's "A School Story" gets some back-story and a sequel in Reggie Oliver's Jamesian pastiche "Between Four Yews" - I'm not sure how I feel about the motivating idea of the collection that this originated in (it strikes me as a tantamount to fan fic, and is quite the rage nowadays) but the story itself, if perhaps a bit *dry* in the actual fear department (in other words, there's little "Jamesian whallop"), is perfectly acceptable reading. Gemma Files's "Slick Black Bones" attempts to do the Lovecraftian pastiche industry one better with a story purportedly informed by Robert W. Chambers The King in Yellow and Other Horror Stories. It's an interesting story of South Sea Islanders, forensic archeology, a religious massacre and the island's inescapable mythology. Pulpy fun. "Blue Crayon, Yellow Crayon" by Robert Shearman starts strongly with a very real-world dilemma/Richard Matheson vibe (specifically his "Dying Room Only") as a business man returning home by train is annoyed by a loud young girl who then seemingly disappears from the closed car. As it turns out, though, what seems like a prosaic story is really a psychological character examination. I liked it (especially the repeated shifts in the climax from disturbing to reassuring and back again) but I can understand if others were disappointed. Finally, the two stories I found most entertaining will also be appearing on PSEUDOPOD in the near future. "The Cotswold Olimpicks" by Simon Kurt Unsworth is a cracking good story in the tradition of THE WICKER MAN as a photographer visiting a town for an ages old festival discovers the dangers of not joining in. Loved the hallucinatory, near psychedelic imagery of the ending and you can listen to it for free here. On the other hand, Dale Bailey's "Necrosis" is a short little love-letter to the classic "club story" frame, with a powerful last line. Maybe not for everyone but I really enjoyed it and liked how the distancing of class expectations amongst supposed "peers" helped extend the horror for one individual. Nice. Check it out here. And that's it. Hopefully I can get another retroactive volume or two in before I read 2013's culling in early January of 2015!

  3. 4 out of 5

    David

    I can't believe I've never read this series before. Jones does a perfect job as editor, great selection of fiction, author mini-biographies & an about the story from the authors, a hefty section (nearly 100 pages) of an annual review of horror in novels, films, short stories, single author short story collections and anthologies. Jones shows impeccable taste throughout this very informative and highly readable annual review. As with all short story collections each reader will have his own favor I can't believe I've never read this series before. Jones does a perfect job as editor, great selection of fiction, author mini-biographies & an about the story from the authors, a hefty section (nearly 100 pages) of an annual review of horror in novels, films, short stories, single author short story collections and anthologies. Jones shows impeccable taste throughout this very informative and highly readable annual review. As with all short story collections each reader will have his own favorites and I found about half to be excellent. Of special notice were the stories from Reggie Oliver and Evangeline Walton. I no doubt be reading this series in future years, as well as collect books from years past. Mr. Jones, you've made a fan out of me.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Caroline

    Maybe not the most standout edition of this great series, but definitely worth a read. I really enjoyed Stephen Jones' capable editing. For me, the most memorable works in this volume are: - Gemma Files, "Slick Black Bones and Soft Black Stars" - excellent, unusual Lovecraftian work. - Terry Dowling, "Nightside Eye" - has a moment of true, affecting chill that stays with you. - Reggie Oliver, "Between Four Yews" - As the modern heir to M.R. James, Oliver's yarn drew me in quite effortlessly - and a Maybe not the most standout edition of this great series, but definitely worth a read. I really enjoyed Stephen Jones' capable editing. For me, the most memorable works in this volume are: - Gemma Files, "Slick Black Bones and Soft Black Stars" - excellent, unusual Lovecraftian work. - Terry Dowling, "Nightside Eye" - has a moment of true, affecting chill that stays with you. - Reggie Oliver, "Between Four Yews" - As the modern heir to M.R. James, Oliver's yarn drew me in quite effortlessly - and also delivered moments of terror.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Teipu

    Good collection, but I'm not as impressed with it as with some earlier volumes. Also, it seemed shorter than the earlier books. No novellas or novelettes this time. Stories I liked the most: Nightsight Eye Slick Black Bones and Soft Black Stars The Other One To be honest, some of the stories were so unremarkable I can't even remember them.

  6. 5 out of 5

    William Miller

    Some collections of short horror stories, as you know, are better than others. This is one of the better ones. Though the collection is not new (2013), most of the stories were new to me. This book includes an impressive roster of writers, such as Ramsey Campbell, Neil Gaiman, Simon Kurt Unsworth, Mark Valentine, Glen Hirshberg, Alison Littlewood, Reggie Oliver, Joel Lane, Steve Rasnic Tem, Joe Lansdale and Helen Marshall. The most impressive aspect of this book is that there were few, if any, clu Some collections of short horror stories, as you know, are better than others. This is one of the better ones. Though the collection is not new (2013), most of the stories were new to me. This book includes an impressive roster of writers, such as Ramsey Campbell, Neil Gaiman, Simon Kurt Unsworth, Mark Valentine, Glen Hirshberg, Alison Littlewood, Reggie Oliver, Joel Lane, Steve Rasnic Tem, Joe Lansdale and Helen Marshall. The most impressive aspect of this book is that there were few, if any, clunkers. Of course, I preferred some more than others, but each writer showcased his/her talents to at a least a respectable level of accomplishment. For my money, (which was zero, since this was a library book), the stories I enjoyed most were the deeply unsettling and darkly delicious, "The Callers," by Ramsey Campbell, the highly atmospheric "The Discord of Being," by Alison Littlewood, the neo-Lovecraftian "Waiting at the Crossroads Motel," by Steve Rasnic Tem, the classic revenge tale by Reggie Oliver, "Between Four Yews," and Helen Marshall's tale of paranoia and obsession, "The Old and the New." The late Joel Lane's "Slow Burn" features his trademark claustrophobic extreme loneliness residing on the edge of darkness. Thana Niveau's "The Curtain" is a luxurious (literal) dive into the dark oceans, the mysteries they hold and the dangerous temptations they offer. This is no slight, of course, to the fine offerings of Unsworth, Hirshberg, Valentine and several others. There really is something for just about everyone in this collection, even a "Celebrity Frankenstein" for the 21st-century (thank you, Stephen Volk.) This is one of the few anthologies that I'll probably go back and reread in the future. Thank you, editor Stephen Jones, for putting together this fine collection.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Heath Lowrance

    I've been picking these up every year for about 12 years now (although I'm a few years behind in reading them), because editor Stephen Jones has terrific taste. Each volume serves nicely as a way to keep your finger on the pulse of where horror fiction is headed and where it's been. Having said that, this particular volume was maybe not as stellar as some previous volumes. I don't think that's Jones' fault: I suspect 2012 was just a mediocre year for the genre. Some very good ones, though, here an I've been picking these up every year for about 12 years now (although I'm a few years behind in reading them), because editor Stephen Jones has terrific taste. Each volume serves nicely as a way to keep your finger on the pulse of where horror fiction is headed and where it's been. Having said that, this particular volume was maybe not as stellar as some previous volumes. I don't think that's Jones' fault: I suspect 2012 was just a mediocre year for the genre. Some very good ones, though, here and there. Highlights: "Necrosis", by Dale Baily, Joe Lansdale's "The Hunt: Before, and the Aftermath" (not surprisingly, as I'm pretty sure Lansdale is incapable of writing a bad story), "The Callers", by Ramsey Campbell (the most genuinely creepy story in this book), "Waiting at the Crossroad Hotel", by the always terrific Steve Rasnic Tem, "Slick Black Bones and Soft Black Stars", by Gemma Files (very effective, despite the slightly pretentious use of second person narration, which seemed a bit silly), Evangeline Walton's "The Other One", "Celebrity Frankenstein" by Stephen Volk (which wasn't scary, really, but was amazingly clever and inventive), and "Blue Crayon, Yellow Crayon", by Robert Shearman.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Michael Samerdyke

    This was a solid entry in the "Best New Horror" series. My favorite out of this book would be a tie between "The Callers" by Ramsey Campbell and "The Other One" by Evangeline Walton. The Campbell story, about an odd bingo game, has a surprising amount of humor for a Campbell story, while the Walton, written in the Fifties, contains a large amount of erotic tension. Also very good are "The Cottswold Olympicks" by Simon Kurt Unsworth, "Nightside Eye" by Terry Dowling, and "Celebrity Frankenstein" by This was a solid entry in the "Best New Horror" series. My favorite out of this book would be a tie between "The Callers" by Ramsey Campbell and "The Other One" by Evangeline Walton. The Campbell story, about an odd bingo game, has a surprising amount of humor for a Campbell story, while the Walton, written in the Fifties, contains a large amount of erotic tension. Also very good are "The Cottswold Olympicks" by Simon Kurt Unsworth, "Nightside Eye" by Terry Dowling, and "Celebrity Frankenstein" by Stephen Volk. Other good stories were by Bailey, Lansdale, Marshall, Tem, and Oliver.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Carmen Tudor

    Another great collection from editor Stephen Jones. Standouts were Dale Bailey's "Necrosis" and Robert Shearman's "Blue Crayon, Yellow Crayon." Both of these pieces had an old-fashioned feel that I quite enjoyed. Michael Kelly's "October Dreams" was very nice too. Although super short, it had a pleasant otherworldliness about it.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Magz

    if I could I'd rate this book 0 stars. this book is filled with stupid short stories that aren't even actual horror. there's a few supernatural things in this book but it ls boring and they aren't scary. I couldn't finish the book I was so bored.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Annika Lee

    Horror much? Not as much horror as it is boring. Sadly it doesn't interests me although I did hear good review of the book.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Mike

    Good entertainment but perhaps not as good as the previous year's volume. I'm struggling to remember a stand-out story this time round.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Juniper

    There is generally a novella at the end of these collections and the one in this one was so bad I didn't even finish it. Supernatural mobster story was too much even for my tastes and I love horror.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Luke Walker

    Great collection of horror tales. Personal favourites - Joel Lane and Alison Littlewood's stories.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Jackie

    Yawn. I was not horrified once!

  16. 5 out of 5

    C.L. Phillips

    This took me a while to get through, but it ended up being worth the effort. Most of the stories were great, I thought, which is rare in an anthology. Of noticeable interest was Celerity Frankenstein by Stephen Volk. This story was horrific while being funny and satirical all at once. A rare gem. A couple other mentionable tales are Nightside Eye by Terry Dowling, The Other One by Evangeline Walton (a really creepy story), Waiting at the Crossroads Motel by Steve Rasnic Tem (I've yet to read som This took me a while to get through, but it ended up being worth the effort. Most of the stories were great, I thought, which is rare in an anthology. Of noticeable interest was Celerity Frankenstein by Stephen Volk. This story was horrific while being funny and satirical all at once. A rare gem. A couple other mentionable tales are Nightside Eye by Terry Dowling, The Other One by Evangeline Walton (a really creepy story), Waiting at the Crossroads Motel by Steve Rasnic Tem (I've yet to read something by Mr. Tem that I haven't loved) and Between Four Yews by Reggie Oliver (maybe the scariest story collected in this volume). If you like horror stories, this is worth a read.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Kate

    Like any anthology, tbere's a mix of quality, but there wasn't a single clunker in my opinion (just a couple that weren't quite my taste). Terry Dowling' s "Nightside Eye" gets my vote for best story. I do always appreciate a good ghostly tale.

  18. 5 out of 5

    An Redman

    Worked out to 41.5% when I crunched the numbers. But I overall thought this collection was very poorly handled. Frights and smooth writing was far and few in between.

  19. 4 out of 5

    v-r

    some of the stories were amazing, some i didn't like so much- it was a solid read

  20. 4 out of 5

    Mircea Pricăjan

    A very good collection of horror fiction. Surprised to find I really enjoyed about 80% of the texts.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Captain Blah

    Another good strong collection in the series. Really enjoyed Evangeline Walton's "The Other One",having read "The Mabinogion" earlier in the year.

  22. 5 out of 5

    David

  23. 4 out of 5

    Antonia

  24. 4 out of 5

    Samantha Knapp

  25. 5 out of 5

    Vinita

  26. 4 out of 5

    VG

  27. 5 out of 5

    Jeff Weir

  28. 4 out of 5

    Megan

  29. 5 out of 5

    Mark Yanes

  30. 4 out of 5

    Elizabeth Nesbit-comer

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