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Stephen Jones, Editor
A Book of Horrors
Jo Fletcher Books / Quercus
UK Trade Hardcover First Edition
ISBN 978-0-857-38808-7
Publication Date: 09-29-2011
400 pages; £ 18.99
Date Reviewed: 02-07-2012
Reviewed by: Mario Guslandi © 2012

Index:  Horror  General Fiction

The horror anthology is, traditionally, one of the backbones of horror fiction, particularly appreciated by those fans of dark literature who, like me, seek for a variety of themes and atmospheres and prefer short stories or novellas rather than novels because endowed with a short-lasting suspension of disbelief.

Stephen Jones is one of the most respected and prolific editors of horror stories, not only providing every year a long standing anthology of the "year's best" (the series is now in its twenty-second volume), but also assembling, occasionally, collections of original, previously unpublished, tales.

'A Book of Horrors,' jointly published in the UK by Jo Fletcher/Quercus Books and PS Publishing is a kind of special event for horror readers because Jones has delivered a volume featuring only brand new dark tales penned by an impressive line-up of authors, whose names are among today's most celebrated and talented writers in the field.

Needless to say, the result is an excellent horror anthology, which bids well to be considered another milestone in the genre. On the other hand, it is impossible that, under any circumstances, all the stories can appeal to all readers and reviewers, so I must bluntly confess that the contributions by John AjvideLindqvist, Peter Crowther, Elizabeth Hand and Richard Christian Matheson, although accomplished enough, failed to impress an old horror reader like me.

By contrast, the overwhelming quality of the remaining stories has provided me with several very enjoyable reading sessions making my long winter evenings quite pleasurable.

First of all I'd like to mention the long awaited return of Dennis Etchison, "Tell Me I'll See You Again", a deceivingly simple, superb story about a group of youngsters playing with death just to exorcize their memories of it.

Stephen King's latest story ("The Little Green God of Agony") is a very horrific, vivid piece featuring a man affected by an unbearable pain, the true nature of which is hardly human.

In "Charcloth, Firesteel and Flint" Caitlin R. Kiernan effectively portrays a terrible woman whose long existence has been always linked with fire.

Ramsey Campbell contributes "Getting It Wrong", an ingenuously creepy tale where a contestant in a mysterious and cruel radio show in vain seeks help from a co-worker to get the right answers.

Angela Slatter's gorgeous narrative style graces "The Coffin-Maker's Daughter" a dark tale blending death and lust within the frame of the professional duty of a dismal job.

"The Man in the Ditch" is a story of unease and premonition crafted by Lisa Tuttle with her usual skill, while "Alice Through the Plastic Sheet" by Robert Shearman is a slightly surrealistic piece where a family gets deeply affected by the arrival of new, mysterious neighbours.

Among so many excellent stories, a special mention is due to three really outstanding pieces. In the beautiful "Sad, Dark Thing", wonderfully probing life's deep secrets, Michael Marshall Smith displays, once again a splendid, perceptive narrative style. "Roots and All" by Brian Hodge is an insightful, extraordinary tale where supernatural horror meets the strength of brotherly love and the nostalgia for a long gone past. Finally Reggie Oliver confirms his terrific storytelling ability in "A Child's Problem," a memorable piece of modern gothic, filled with dark, disquieting shadows and terrible, disquieting secrets.

'A Book of Horrors' is a veritable feast not only for horror fans but for any lover of great fiction.

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