Monday, January 5, 2009

"The Mammoth Book of Best New Horror 18" edited by Stephen Jones

"The Mammoth Book of Best New Horror 18"
edited by Stephen Jones
Format: Paperback, 512 pages

Stephen Jones is a multiple award winning editor and in “The Mammoth Book of Best New Horror 18” he proves his talent once again gathering some very interesting horror short stories published in 2006.

The anthology is opened with an introduction by Stephen Jones, “Horror in 2006”, an excellent article in which I could find comprehensive information regarding the Horror genre in 2006 with book and comics published in that year, movie and TV shows releases and awards presentation and winners.

“Summer” by Al Sarrantonio – The summer seems to be hotter and hotter as it draws to its end. Three friends who enjoy their summer vacation together try to resolve this mystery by going to a local cave, Hell’s Cave. I liked this story especially because Al Sarrantonio catches wonderfully the atmosphere of childhood summer vacations. And particularly at the end of the story where I could identify with one of the characters and his particular wish.

“Digging Deep” by Ramsey Campbell – A man finds himself buried alive, but he discovers that he was buried together with his cell phone. He will try to use it in search of help, but the help will come with a surprise. This story is a very good one. It is terrifying as the simple thought of being buried alive is and Ramsey Campbell does a great job imprinting a real claustrophobic sensation to the reader.

“The Night Watch” by John Gordon – Dr Martin Glover makes researches in a Castle that used to be a dungeon. And he will be shown glimpses of the past. An enjoyable story written in a pace which kept me caught in the story until the end of it.

“The Luxury of Harm” by Christopher Fowler – Two old friends meet again at a Horror convention. And they consider the convention theme, who will make a realistic murderer and a good victim, captivating. It is not such a terrifying story, but the end and the motivation of one action is quite interesting.

“Sentinels” by Mark Samuels – Inspector Gray, a policeman passionate by horror story, has to investigate a case of disappearance in the London Underground. The theme of this story is a classic one and it isn’t new. However, Mark Samuels manages to make his story interesting through the pacing and not the idea which is at the foundation of the story. He builds the tension well and reaches the high climax at the right moment.

“The Saffron Gatherers” by Elizabeth Hand – Suzanne, a writer, meets with her boyfriend Randall in California and he gives her a rare and expensive book, “The Thera Frescoes”. The book gathers pictures of the paintings recovered from a city destroyed by a volcanic eruption. The story tends more toward the Sci-Fi genre and the horror is that of a natural disaster which might occur anytime.

“What Nature Abhors” by Mark Morris – Meacher, the character of this story, wakes up in an empty train with no recollection of his past. He soon discovers that not only the train is empty, but also the city where he gets off. And all over the city the mannequins and the statuettes are covered with a plastic bag at the top. A very powerful story and I liked a lot the guess terror, the horror that slowly engulfs the character. And the human conscience might prove to be a greater horror.

“The Last Reel” by Lynda E. Rucker – Sophie and her boyfriend, Kevin, go to her aunt’s house which was inherited by her family. The story treats another classic theme, a haunting and a bad place.

“The American Dead” by Jay Lake – In a future society Probecito, a young boy, dreams to become an American inspired by the Cemeterio Americano which lies near his living place. I liked this story especially because its post-apocalyptic tint offered by Jay Lake. It is another story that has a Sci-Fi theme, but the horror plays a great part in it. And that horror is even more powerful because in this story is more palpable for the reader being generated by the human nature and society.

“Between the Cold Moon and the Earth” by Peter Atkins – Going home one night, Michael meets his friend Carol who he haven’t saw in months. A fantastic story about friendship and like the previous one by the terror generated by the human nature.

“Sob in the Silence” by Gene Wolfe – A horror writer invites his old colleague and friend together with his family to spend his holiday with him at his house. I will not say much because I’ll spoil your read. Gene Wolfe builds his story very well, careful at the details and with an interesting twist at the end.

“Continuity Error” by Nicholas Royle – Maddox writes a new book and the research he makes for his project brings him to the old places of his memories. But his memories can become painful and can disturb his reality. What I particularly liked at this story is the fact that I couldn’t predict its outcome. And besides its unpredictable end, the story offers a sense of unease and sadness.

“Dr Prida’s Dream-Plagued Patient” by Michael Bishop – The story describes a session at psychologist. It is a very short story, but its idea is amusing.

“The Ones We Leave Behind” by Mark Chadbourn – Working as a photograph in Vietnam during the war the main character finds that his friends and colleagues are disappearing after a dramatic event. The author builds a strong and interesting story here. And although the horror isn’t palpable it lingers in the mind of the reader.

“Mine” by Joel Lane – Before leaving in a tour a singer has to make his usual ritual before such a tour. A very short story which plays with the imagination of the reader.

“Obsequy” by David J. Schow – In the small town of Triple Pines Doug Walcott was a teacher. But he resigned after an ambiguous story with a student and now as he tries to build back his life he accepts a job in the cemetery. This story plays with known horror elements, but it is well executed. The emotional involvement of the main character and the dilemma he faces in the end are added to the pleasure of the reading.

“Thrown” by Don Tumasonis – Martin and Marline try to find a peaceful and relaxing time on the island of Crete. I have to admit that I didn’t enjoy this story too much and also I didn’t find as horrifying as the others.

“Houses Under the Sea” by Caitlin R. Kiernan – After the disappearance of a famous person, Jacova Angevine, the main character who had a relationship with her is asked to make a recollection of the time spent with Jacova Angevine. This is another story which could have fit as well in a Science Fiction anthology. I liked how the author wrote her story and although telling a story in the first person can be tricky I liked the main character and his inner torment.

“They” by David Morrell – A family who lives in a remote farm has to confront a new menace this winter. This is one of my favorite stories of this anthology and I find it very good and powerful. I liked a lot how David Morrell kept the pace of the story and I liked a lot that besides the threat and the horror of the immediate danger the main character faced another one, which is revealed in the last paragraph of the story.

“The Clockwork Horror” by F. Gwynplaine MacIntyre – Edgar Allan Poe goes to a show for an article and finds an automaton which can beat almost anyone at chess. He doubts that an automaton can achieve something like this, but he will not expect the outcome of this story. Although the author catches well the atmosphere of that period of time writing in the first person as a well known figure can be tricky. And at it proved eventually drove me away from this story.

“Making Cabinets” by Richard Christian Matheson – A woman tries to figure out what happens in her basement. The shortest story of the anthology, but strong nonetheless. Especially because of the horror hinted in it.

“Pol Pot’s Beautiful Daughter (Fantasy)” by Geoff Ryman – Pol Pot’s daughter tries to rebuild her life after her father’s death, but she will see that the rebuilding involves a lot of people. A nice story and the reader becomes thoughtful because of the horror of our society and history.

“Devil’s Smile” by Glen Hirshberg – An investigation from the Lighthouse Service leads Selkirk to his former town and to a familiar story that he doesn’t know it in full. I liked this story because of it inflicts a sense of panic and desperation.

“The Man Who Got Off the Ghost Train” by Kim Newman – A man relates the story of one of his cases with a Supernatural Investigation Society, the one of the haunted train. I will be frank and say that this is the story I enjoyed less in this anthology. I find it too long and because of its many details it lost me since its beginning.

The anthology is concluded with a necrology of 2006 written by Stephen Jones and Kim Newman in which they bring a homage to the contributors of horror, fantasy and Sci-Fi genres who are no longer among us and with an article of useful addresses of organizations, publishers, magazines and book dealers of horror genre.

I usually get a lot of mixed feelings when I read an anthology, but Stephen Jones did a great job with “The Mammoth Book of Best New Horror 18” and with a wide majority of good stories I found his anthology very interesting.


ediFanoB said...

I read the review although I don't like horror stories.
Anyway from my point of view you did a good job.

Barbara Martin said...

From your review the stories appear to be well written, a must for good horror. I'm put this book on my TBR list.

Anonymous said...

from Jay Lake i enjoyed a lot the story from New Weird anthology, one in a million, if i may say so:)
nevertheless i`m glad that you enjoyed this horror anthology, and yes, a good job you`ve done with the review, even though some people don`t agree with long ones (not me, of course);)

Mihai A. said...

Michael, thank you very much :)

Barbara, I really liked the majority of stories :)

Bogdan, thank you very much :) It is a long review, but I like to treat every story in an anthology to make a bigger picture of the collection. So I think I always will have large reviews for anthologies. Like yourself I don't have a problem with big reviews :D

Anonymous said...

I haven't read the whole book, but I thought The Ones We Leave Behind was incredible. One of my favorite short stories. Meaningful and completely engrossing. Full of mystery, and wonder, and sadness. The idea of a man's entire life disappearing... It's written so subtly and deeply. I really responded to the story!

Adele said...

christopher fowler is a great writer.always interesting.

Mihai A. said...

David, "The Ones We Leave Behind" is one of the strong pieces of this anthology :)

Adele, it is my first encounter with Christopher Fowler and his story made me curious about his works :)