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Mammoth Bks.: The Mammoth Book of Best New Horror No. 14 (2003, Paperback)
So, I guess if I'm going to follow my usual approach with anthologies, and review the stories from weakest to strongest, I need to acknowledge the two also-rans. I did not read the following: "Catskin" by Kelly Link which involves a witch and her "children" and how they handle their inheritance on her passing. That Link is an excellent writer is no doubt we ran her "Carnation, Lily, Lily, Rose" on Pseudopod but I often find here work a little too studied or twee for my tastes. Similarly, I liked the set-up of "The Cage" by Jeff VanderMeer - a purchaser of estates totes up a new purchase, his eye caught by a an odd, empty cage hanging from the wall, until I realized that the setting of "Ambergris" was not merely some renamed, exotic, foreign city but some fantasy otherworld in which attacks from monstrous "greycaps" that live underground was the norm.
And that's why I don't read a lot of fantasy, so And then there were a number of stories I did read all the way through, but which didn't work for me: Brian Hodge 's "Nesting Instincts" felt too long and too character heavy for the the eventual pay-off, while "The Two Sams" by Glen Hirshberg was a sprawling, emotional dredge through the feelings associated with stillbirths - but "ghosts" do not a horror story make Surprisingly, although I'm a Ramsey Campbell booster, his "The Unbeheld" - in which an elderly school crossing guard begins to find dead animals in his home, upon which events escalate - didn't work for me.
Often, Campbell's stories tend to place a character in an unbalanced narrative that slowly unravels or hints at their underlying psychological problem, and following along can take some attention and skill on the reader's part as well. Here, unfortunately, I felt as if the disparate story details didn't click together very tightly, while also being wrong-footed by occasional, confusing or misleading turns of phrase. The weak stories next. Neil Gaiman 's "October In The Chair" is framed with a typically Gaimanesque conceit - personifications of the months gather to listen to stories a bit of Sandman fan pandering, perhaps - SanFanPand?
In "Standard Gauge" by Nicholas Royle a documentarian accidentally makes an associate of a man fixated on a long-forgotten and dismantled London rail line, with tragic results. Not bad but it never felt like it jelled into a satisfying story. When a father and daughter attend a "young singers" contest in Stephen Gallagher 's "Little Dead Girl Singing" they become aware of a talented, but oddly mechanical, co-contestant.
An odd story - the title doesn't give away the twist, but to be more precise it doesn't EXACTLY give away the twist, when it should still have pointed elsewhere, or been neutral at least. Not bad as a story view spoiler ['pattern recognition' as a quasi-postmodern threat hide spoiler ] but I felt the central conceit isn't exploited as much as it could have been. Schow - who we've also run on PseudoPod - has gang members planning on raising hell at a sprawling, Halloween "Haunt" event, until they get more than they bargained for view spoiler [in that some of the staff are seemingly real monsters from the classic movies hide spoiler ].
Not a bad story I've tinkered with variations of the central conceit myself in a few unfinished stories , but it loses a little something in its overall dedication to its symbolic "big idea" over any attempt to engage the "how" or "why" of it, rendering a potentially resonant concept a little pulpier than it should be view spoiler [imagine the film CABIN IN THE WOODS if it only vaguely hinted at the underground base hide spoiler ].
James - architect hired to refurbish an aging church in a small English town finds himself haunted by spectral visions of a malevolent historical figure buried in the churchyard. Not bad but, given the central conceit, the ending is super-rushed, to its detriment, and it should have been a novella all the prime plot points are elided or talked around. Kiernan has a lesbian couple, both scientists, in the s taking a detour from a vacation to check out a supposed haunted house. Kiernan has a few irksome stylistic tics that rankle a bit deliberately repeated word choices , but the story is all build-up to an intensely hallucinatory, if vague, climax - with some evocative imagery and writing.
Intimations of a larger plot can be teased out, but the story seems less interested in that than in bowling the reader over delirious imagery. Finally, "Dr. Fun and well-written, if slight, occult pulp adventure. Only four solidly good stories here: In "The Wretched Thicket Of Thorn" by Don Tumasonis a vacationing couple takes a boat on a day trip to an isolated Greek island, only to discover it won't start when they wish to leave, and that the island holds some savage and atavistic terrors.
Not bad at all as a straight-ahead spooker. In "Hides", a consumptive Robert Louis Stevenson , crossing 19th Century America by stagecoach, is waylaid after an accident and ends up stumbling into a horrific scenario with his fellow travelers. Jay Russell brings the goods at the climax to a story I was worried was going to be considered "horror" strictly by default of it's Stevenson conceit - although perhaps the "horror" still seems a bit perfunctory. James Van Pelt , in "The Boy Behind The Gate," does a good job juggling two parallel if a-chronological plots set in the same remote mining town separated by a hundred years.
In modern times, a man desperately searches for his captive, possibly dead or dying, son possibly hidden by child molester who subsequently committed suicide in the abandoned pits and workings. Meanwhile, a hundred years earlier, a miner wrestles with his conscience over what to do about his fears that his own son is a wicked, malignant, "Typhoid Mary"-type spreader of death.
Holdings information at British Library
A solid story with a satisfying, deliberately ambiguous ending. Finally, in another offering by Don Tumasonis , we are offered an intriguing storytelling conceit - a tale told by transcribed texts and related image descriptions on a set of s exotic antique postcards illustrating a rural area near Turkey, the texts describing some kind of "Treasure Hunt" whether material, spiritual or occult is not clear by British travelers.
This striking story has some resonance with Lovecraft's "The Picture In The House" in the sense of "static representations of barbarous foreign practices" and is, at turns, ambiguous, striking and shocking. And so, two excellent stories left for the end. I am happy I did I spent a semester at Coventry Polytechnic and am familiar with the Nazi-bombed church that is the center of the chapter's narrative as we follow, in the s, Cassie, a young teen just growing into her sexual maturity and related prophetic and visionary powers , who becomes aware that her City is about to be blitzed by the Nazis.
Very powerful writing, especially in it capturing of the pandemonium of a city under siege. Joe Hill 's "20th Century Ghost" is a home-run knocked out of the park, reminding me somewhat of David J. Schow 's story "One For The Horrors" in terms of it being a love letter to the soon-to-be-dead theater-going experience.
It's the tale of a haunted movie theater, the ghost that resides there and the man who she has haunted most of his life - oh, and movies: the spectral, ineffable, awful in its original sense phenomena of cinema and the movie house - the real "ghost" of the 20th Century. It ends on a sad and beautiful note, as well. Hill's impressive story control means that even details that would, in lesser hands, signpost later plot points are integrated so well and misdirected around that you don't see see them until they pay off FANTASIA - I should have seen it coming!
Aug 04, Shatrujeet Nath rated it liked it. As is always the case with anthologies, a mixed bag. The Boy Behind the Gate will easily go down as one of the most chilling and depressing stories I have read. I liked "Hides" by Jay Russell for the way he used Robert Louis Stevenson as a character, and I thought "The Cage" by Jeff Vandermeer was extremely rich in its world-building I wished this wa As is always the case with anthologies, a mixed bag. I liked "Hides" by Jay Russell for the way he used Robert Louis Stevenson as a character, and I thought "The Cage" by Jeff Vandermeer was extremely rich in its world-building I wished this wasn't a short story and just went on, taking me deeper into its fascinating world of death and decay.
I must add that I did not read stories in the book. I just hope none of them were very good. Jun 05, Jien rated it it was ok. Better than the previous Mammoth horror anthology I read 11 but not great. Many stories left much to be desired, though there was one gem: The Cage. My individual ratings are below: 1 Introduction - Excessive, unneeded, dull.
The wrapper added nothing to the story that had nothing going for it anyway. A bit more horror would have been nice though, it was pretty light and over quickly. The jumbled up and cut passages did nothing for the story but make it annoying, which is a pity because this one actually could have been good. It maintained a sense of horror throughout, and the world was so interesting that I wanted more. Oct 23, Josh rated it really liked it. Overall a solid collection of horror stories.
Come closer, indeed. This novel by Sara Gran revolves around a woman named Amanda, who has an ostensibly perfect life.