23 September 2010

The Mammoth Book of The Best of Best New Horror - Stephen Jones (Editor)

  • Author: Stephen Jones (Editor)
  • Title: The Mammoth Book of The Best of Best New Horror - Two Decades of Dark Fiction
  • Publisher: Robinson 2010
  • ISBN: 978 1849013048
The Mammoth Blah Blah Blah is the 20th anniversary collection for Stephen Jones long running series Best New Horror, which I have been a fan of for quite a while now. This volume collected on story from each edition from 1989 until 2009, with a low quality black and white image of the cover of each edition, along with a short note on the problems, successes and contents of each edition by Jones.

One of the things that I love about Jones series is that he doesn't choose stories based on who sold the most, or who is most popular. Rather, he selects based on people doing new things in the genre, or people who are taking the old tropes and twisting them inside out. He's also managed to unearth a whole sackful of brand new authors who are now major names in the horror field, and has provided a regular venue for old superstars of genre like Neil Gaiman, Clive Barker, Ramsey Campbell and Brian Lumley.

  • Fuck. I was editing this post a few minutes ago, and Internet Crapsplorer crashed (I'm at the library). I lost about half an hours work. Asshole fucking program. Let me try again, however. What the fuck happened to autosave? It's supposed to go off every 3 minutes or something.
Jones continues that habit of quality over popularity in this edition, choosing lesser known stories over the more successful stories from previous volumes. It makes for a great read that will at times give you the creeps, but more often just impress the pants off you and make you seek out work by people that you may not have considered reading before. Well, you know, if you don't read horror. But then you probably wouldn't read this anyway, in that case, so whatever. I know what I mean.

After the Jump Link, per my usual habit, is a list of the stories in this volume, along with my thoughts (slight though they may be) on each of them. I try not to give away too much, but I might not be able to help myself. You have been warned. Take care, and a friend.....

No! No!! Don't open the link!!  DON'T OPEN THE LINK!!!!!

  • No Sharks in the Med - Brian Lumley: This creepy little story about honeymooning English folk encountering a slightly offensive Greek in a sleepy little seaside island town off the Greek coast gave me the willies! I will never understand people who like the idea of a secluded beach....
  • The Man Who Drew Cats - Michael Marshall Smith: This is one of those 'You'll never believe this tale but I'll tell you anyway' Old Bugger in the Pub style stories (which I personally love!) with a bittersweet ending. It's important to note that if you come across a realistic but miscoloured chalk drawing on the pavement, you should probably walk around it.
  • The Same in Any Language - Ramsey Campbell: This guy, I swear to god, is the master. Another English on Holiday story, this time with a kid and his dad, plus the skank he hooked up with at the hotel they day they arrived in Cyprus. I don't know about you, but I wouldn't visit an abandoned leper colony. It's not my idea of an interesting outing. Oh, and if you hook up with some nasty skank and ignore your own kid on holiday, you're an asshole. (That last has nothing to do with the story, but it's true and will remain so for all time.)
  • Norman Wisdom and the Angel of Death - Christopher Fowler: I can't get this story out of my head, it has really struck a chord with me. I really like the 'serial killer perspective' approach to first person narrative (Dexter immediately springs to mind, but other stories too) and it is particularly effective in this case. It's styled as a series of diary entries, detailing the killers actions, as well as his motivations and justifications. The story itself is gut wrenching as it builds a massive amount of tension and anticipation. If nothing else comes out of this book for you, it should at least put you onto Christopher Fowler, who writes some brilliant horror novels as well.
  • Mefisto in Onyx - Harlan Ellison: I'm of two minds about Harlan Ellison. He writes some awesome stuff, and this story is no exception, but I don't often seek out his work. I almost feel like if I do, his reputation will come crashing in on my life in some way. Silly, really, but there you go. I don't like conflict except when I win. (Ha) This story is essentially about telepathy, friendship, and the electric chair. It is truely disturbing (not gruesome, however) and totally suprising. I'm glad it was in this book, because I never would have read it any other way.
  • The Temptation of Dr Stein - Paul J. McAuley: Everyone knows how much I love McAuley. He is one of my all time, must have, would die of happiness if I met him writing heros. His relook at Doctor Frankenstein, and Doctor Pretorius (a character from the film Bride of Frankenstein and Dr F's former teacher) is set in the alternative history world from his novel Pasquales Angels, and manages to tie in ideas from the Jewish legend of the Golem, clever twists of alt history and some truely weird, random, er, weirdness. The result is a sad tale about the loss of loved ones. Paul McAuley is brilliant.
  • Queen of Knives - Neil Gaiman: Written in the style of a narrative poem, this piece is essentially 'the magicians volunteer vanished and was never seen again.' Long winded and cliched, it was actually a pretty big disappointment, given that almost everything else Gaiman touches turns to gold. Gaiman is a fantastic storyteller, but in this case, I though the styling detracted from the story. I imagine that although the plot is pretty obvious and dull, he could have done great things with it if only he had have stuck to straight prose. You might really like this, but I didn't. I found it hard to read, and ultimately unsatisfying because the effort to read it didn't have any great payoff. Sorry Neil. I love Sandman though! And Coraline, American Gods, etc. Go get something by Neil Gaiman and you won't be disappointed. As long as it isn't this.
  • The Break - Terry Lamsley: I don't quite know how to describe this story. It's partially a creepy view out the window tale, partly a staff behaving strangely in the hotel story. And the final twist, while not a shocking suprise, was at least unexpected at the point of the big reveal. (At which point I kind of through "Oh, I should have seen that coming") One thing that bugs me in stories is the 'nobody talks to anyone else' device (and it's close cousin 'nobody listens to the kid') and this is a story that relies on that to some extent. Not the most satisfying story, but it was ok.
  • Emptiness Spoke Eloquent - Caitlin R. Kiernan: Ugh, I am so over Dracula. This Kiernan piece is a sequel to Stokers masterwork. It is probably really good, but I didn't get past the first few lines.
  • Mr Clubb & Mr Cuff - Peter Straub: All time, classic, favourite revenge story. You must own this story as soon as possible. It's also in the Straub collection Magic Terror which I highly recommend also.
  • White - Tim Lebbon
  • The Other Side of Midnight: Anno Dracula, 1981 - Kim Newman:
  • Cleopatra Brimstone - Elizabeth Hand
  • 20th Century Ghost - Joe Hill
  • The White Hands - Mark Samuels
  • My Death - Lisa Tuttle
  • Haeckel's Tale - Clive Barker
  • Devil's Smile - Glen Hirshberg
  • The New York Times at Special Bargain Rates - Stephen King
OK, so I haven't finished this thing yet, but I will. Maybe.

It's a good collection though, and if you haven't read at least half of them, you should definately get this collection.