The Mammoth book of Best New Horror 23

Posted: July 6, 2019 in Book reviews, horror
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51pTAwfCAhL._SX331_BO1,204,203,200_Edited by Stephen Jones

A collection of chilling short stories and novellas published in 2012.

I always have a feeling of trepidation when I buy a book like this. The days when I hung onto every book I ever read are long gone, and I read a lot of anthologies like this, so I always worry that I’ll pick up an anthology I’ve read before. Luckily within the first couple of stories it was clear I’d never encountered this collection before, so phew!

As with any anthology there’s good and bad in here, which at least means if you didn’t like a tale, you’ll probably like the next one, or at least the one after that.

There’s 26 stories in here and I don’t intend to go through all of them, but I will highlight the ones I thought were most impressive, and maybe some of the duds as well…

Some Kind of Light Shines from Your Face by Gemma Files is an interesting tale of carnivals and Greek myths in the Depression era dustbowl. Like the location its set in, it’s an arid read, and the notion of Gorgons existing on the edge of 1930s American society is an intriguing one.

The Photographer’s Tale by Daniel Mills is a story of a possibly haunted lens that allows a photographer in 19th Century America to see more than he’s bargained for. This is one of my favourites, the conceit is an intriguing, if not wholly original one, but the execution is well handled, and like all the best horror, it’s about more than is at first apparent, in this case the sins of the past and a profound guilt at past wrongs.

The Tower by Mark Samuels is one I didn’t like. Maybe I didn’t ‘get’ it, and I’m sure this tale of a man who sees a mysterious tower in London that he can never reach has a broader meaning I’m just not understanding, but I was glad to get past it.

I’m a sucker for a pulpy detective story, especially one with supernatural overtones, so I enjoyed Dancing Like We’re Dumb by Peter Atkins. The punkish lesbian detective Kitty Donnelly makes for an engaging narrator, and while the end was a trifle limp, for the most part this tale of possessed old records was a blast!

In Miri by Steve Rasnic Tem the protagonist is still haunted by what can best be described as an emotional vampire who he had a relationship with at university. An uncomfortable story with some disturbing ideas behind it.

Sad, Dark Thing by Michael Marshall Smith is a meditation on depression and a cautionary tale about driving down remote backwoods’ roads!

Smithers and the Ghosts of the Thar by Robert Silverberg is an interesting tale of a mysterious phantom town in colonial India, told in the style of Kipling. I liked it, but did feel it was more a fantasy tale than an out and out horror. There’s more than a touch of Brigadoon about it.

The Crawling Sky by Joe R. Lansdale touched a nerve somewhat because his tale of a demonic presence living in a well in the old west is kinda similar to something I’ve written myself! True what they say, there’s no new ideas under the sun. Luckily our respective tales deviate quite a bit! Anyway, it’s good.

Wait by Conrad Williams was a little disappointing, but bonus points for his cave system being modelled on Poole’s Cavern in Buxton which I’ve been to, and the idea of caves that have remained sealed for millions of years is an interesting one, even if the execution was only so-so.

The Ocean Grand, North West Coast by Simon Kurt Unsworth features an interesting trio of characters, with a grand old art deco hotel providing the fourth. The ideas at work were intriguing, but like so many horror stories the ending was somewhat limp.

The Music of Bengt Karlsson, Murderer by John Ajvide Lindqvist is an unsettling tale of a father and son who move to a remote cabin, where the son begins piano lessons but soon starts playing music that should never be played…

Like I say, a decent anthology, albeit the usual mixed bag of good and bad tales, but I’m sure there’s something in here to provoke a few nightmares!

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