Edited by Ellen Datlow
Ellen Datlow has long been established as one of the premier editors in the horror genre. Her work and awards really speak for themselves. So when she decided to Kickstart an unthemed horror anthology with the backing of Chizine Publications, it’s no surprise that it exceeded its target in short order. The result is one of the best horror anthologies I’ve ever read.
The Table of Contents is a Who’s Who of top notch writers in the genre working today. Twenty short stories are featured and the quality is incredibly high. There’s great variety too, with some stories being all out dark horror and others a more creeping dread or twisted dark fantasy. As with any anthology, not every story will resonate with everyone. For myself, there were two yarns in particular that really didn’t hit the mark, but my taste will differ from others’, so it’s to be expected. The authors in question are very well known and lauded, so not appealing to me is no issue and I’m sure others will love their work.
I won’t review story by story, but I’ll mention the few real stand outs for me. “The Atlas of Hell” by Nathan Ballingrud, an author whose work astounds me every time I read him, was a powerfully visceral story. And it felt like the start of something much bigger. “Mount Chary Galore” by Jeffrey Ford is an amazing twist on the modern fairy tale and incredibly well realised. “Suffer Little Children” by Robert Shearman is a story of almost perfect crafting, with an incredible sense of place. “Bridge of Sighs” by Kaaron Warren is one of the creepiest stories I’ve read in years, with a really horrible cast of characters and a very macabre idea at its heart.”The Worms Crawl In,” by Laird Barron is a story that escalates beyond all expectation very quickly and further cements Barron as a teller of mythic yarns of great proportions. And finally a mention of “Shay Corsham Worsted” by Garth Nix, which was an amazing slice of something much bigger and I’d really love to know more about the monster in that story.
The book is worth the purchase price for those stories alone, in my opinion, but of course that’s not to undermine the general excellence of all the others. I really hope Datlow continues to produce more unthemed anthologies, as she has an eye for curating a dark collection that it utterly compelling. I can’t recommend this book highly enough.