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Jonathan Oliver, Editor
The House of Fear
Reviewed by: Mario Guslandi © 2011

Solaris Book / Rebellion
UK Trade Paperback First Edition
ISBN 978-1-907992-06-03
Publication Date: 10-01-2011
410 Pages, ; £7.99
Date Reviewed: 10-02-2011

Index:  Horror  Fantasy  Mystery  General Fiction

People buying their books in the general bookstores may feel that the horror anthology is dying out. With the exception of the occasional Stephen Jones or Ellen Datlow anthology (and of reprints of classical ghost and horror stories from the past) the major publishers simply ignore the genre or, at the best of times, stick to horror novels which, supposedly, sell better than short story collections.

By contrast, those who surf the web and visit the sites of the small, indie press, are overwhelmed by the constantly high output of anthologies assembling short fiction by established genre authors or newcomers.

Truth be told, many of these horror anthologies sadly provide material of dubious or downright poor quality, often passing off as horror what is merely violence and gore. Yet, the horror anthology manages to survive, thanks to brave publishers, competent editors and fine genre writers. Once in a while, the faithful reader is rewarded by finding a horror anthology which, instead of including a few excellent stories and a bunch of forgettable fillers, offers top-notch fiction throughout the book. 'House of Fear" is a very fine example of that rara avis, arguably the best horror anthology of the year and, if there is justice in the world, bound to win at least one of the next genre awards.

Thus, let me repeat this one more time: "House of Fear" features no misfires and even the stories that I found comparatively weaker (i.e. those by the likes of Adam LG Nevill, Chaz Brenchley, Christopher Fowler, Paul Meloy, Eric Brown, Nicholas Royle, Tim Lebbon) would deservedly figure in any good horror anthology. Except, this is not a good anthology but an outstanding anthology. Let me mention, then, the long list of outstanding stories included therein.

"Objects in Dreams may be Closer than they Appear" is yet another of Lisa Tuttle's great stories. The supernatural, horrific aspect adds the final touch to a perfectly crafted mainstream piece about failed marriages and unreachable dreams.

Stephen Volk's "Pied-à-terre" is a modern ghost story with a distinct movie character in keeping with the author's extensive ability as a scriptwriter.

A new story by Terry Lamsley is always an event to his numerous fans (myself included) constantly in waiting for more fiction by that extraordinary but not prolific author. "In the Absence of Murdock" is a weird tale disclosing unsuspected, hidden aspects of everyday reality, up to the high standard of Lamsley's early work.

In the delightful fable "Driving the Milky Way" by Weston Ochse, kids disappear due to a galaxy of stars and ancient Indian bones.

Garry Kilworth contributes the enjoyable "Moretta", revisiting the time-honoured theme of the haunted bedroom where unaccountable deaths take place.

"The Windmill" by Rebecca Levene is a nasty piece of supernatural horror set in the claustrophobic space of a prison cell, told in a detached but skillful and chilling narrative style.

"The Dark Space in the House in the Garden at the Centre of the World" by Robert Shearman is an offbeat, magnificent story where a modern Adam and Eve face the mysteries of the universe and of the human condition after God sent them out of the Garden.

Nina Allan's extraordinary ability as a storyteller shows off once again in the splendid, unsettling and slightly Aickmanesque "The Muse of Copenhagen" while Sarah Pinborough's great narrative talent takes a subtler and gentler pace in "The Room Upstairs," a beautiful ghost story where a man with a disreputable job takes lodgings in a house hiding painful secrets.

Christopher Priest's "Widow's Weeds" cleverly blends supernatural, magic and eroticism while Jonathan Green's "The Doll's House", a shocking piece where a woman stressed by family burdens has to face a more terrible nightmare, demonstrates how a conventional subject can be skilfully handled by an accomplished writer.

Similarly, in "What Happened to Me" Joe R. Lansdale gives an effective rendition of the by now weak clichÉ of the haunted house by inoculating a new, powerful dose of supernatural strength. In short, this is a marvellous anthology that you can't miss even if horror is not quite your cup of tea. Praise to editor Jonathan Oliver and to Solaris Books for this wonderful gift.

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General Fiction
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