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A Book of Horrors (English Edition) [Format Kindle]

Stephen Jones

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Présentation de l'éditeur

Britain's most acclaimed horror editor, Stephen Jones, has gathered together masters of the macabre from across the world in this cornucopia of classic chills and modern menaces. Within these pages you will discover the most successful and exciting writers of horror and dark fantasy today, with a spine-chilling selection of stories displaying the full diversity of the genre, from classic pulp style to more contemporary psychological tales, to cutting-edge terror fiction that will leave you uneasily looking over your shoulder, or in the wardrobe, or under the bed . . .

A BOOK OF HORRORS is an original anthology of all-new horror and dark fantasy fiction, in all of its many and magnificent guises, by those devoted to the Dark Side.

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  • Format : Format Kindle
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  • Nombre de pages de l'édition imprimée : 400 pages
  • Editeur : Jo Fletcher Books (29 septembre 2011)
  • Vendu par : Amazon Media EU S.à r.l.
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En savoir plus sur l'auteur

Stephen King est l'auteur de plus de cinquante livres, tous best-sellers d'entre eux à travers le monde. Parmi ses plus récentes sont les romans La Tour Sombre, Cell, Du Hearts Buick 8, Everything's Eventual, en Atlantide, La Petite Fille qui aimait Tom Gordon, et Sac d'os. Son livre documentaire acclamé, sur l'écriture, a également été un best-seller. Il est le récipiendaire de la Médaille nationale de 2003 Réservez Fondation pour contribution exceptionnelle aux lettres américaines. Il vit à Bangor, Maine, avec son épouse, la romancière Tabitha King.

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45 internautes sur 50 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
5.0 étoiles sur 5 A Book of Horrors 17 octobre 2011
Par Brendan Moody - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format:Format Kindle
The new non-theme horror anthology from acclaimed editor Stephen Jones comes with a mission. As Jones' introduction puts it, "the time has come to reclaim the horror genre" from an "avalanche of disposable volume aimed at the middle-of-the-road reader." These disposable volumes, it transpires, are the non-horror monster and supernatural stories that are in vogue at present, which Jones-- sounding, it must be said, too much like a cranky old man-- notes are not your father's Creatures of the Night. Despite the contempt implicit in "middle-of-the-road reader," Jones claims that the popularity of these books would not be a problem, "if publishers and booksellers were not usurping the traditional horror market" with such books.

He never gets around to providing evidence for this usurpation (are major publishers actually releasing less "real" horror than they did before the rise of the horror-lite category? are sales of "real" horror particularly lower than they have been since the collapse of the mainstream horror market in the late 1980s?), simply assuming that the success of these two types of fiction is part of a zero-sum game. The introduction ends with the rather grandiose claim that "if you enjoy the stories assembled within these pages, then you can say you were there when the fight back began." Whether A Book of Horrors will have anything like the success and influence necessary to back up that assertion, it's a very fine anthology, one that will delight readers already acquainted with the genre and give fans of paranormal fiction a sense of what "real" horror has to offer.

It begins with an author who reminds us that some horror fiction, at least, still sells pretty well: Stephen King, whose novels still top the bestseller lists even in the days of Harry Dresden and Sookie Stackhouse. Alas, the most popular author in the anthology turns in its weakest tale. "The Little Green God of Agony" has promising if traditional elements: a billionaire who, in the aftermath of a horrible plane crash, turns away from modern medicine for relief of his unbearable pain. As his skeptical nurse watches, a Christian faith healer explains that the billionaire's pain is not a byproduct of injury, but a force unto itself, and can be removed with the right tools. As sometimes happens with King's fiction, its sheer earnestness works against it, crushing thematic subtlety. Eventually the nurse delivers an impassioned speech about how some patients flee their pain rather than confront it; this is followed by an impassioned speech from the minister about how some nurses become inured to suffering and lose sight of the pain their patients are in. The learning of lessons is palpable. The story picks up a little near the end, but cuts off just as one senses the potential for something truly interesting, and truly scary. I admire the intention behind this, but it doesn't really work, and readers hoping for terror of the type for which King is known will be disappointed. Happily, there's another story here that almost out-Kings King, to which we'll come in a moment.

Before that, though, there's Caitlín R. Kiernan's "Charcloth, Firesteel and Flint." Labelled original to this volume but actually a reprint from Kiernan's Sirenia Digest, this encounter between a mysterious hitchhiker and the young man who picks her up has many hallmarks of its author's work: characters with heavy emotional burdens, evocative use of weird, often Fortean historical or scientific details, and the presence of powerful, ageless forces whose capacity for destruction is somehow awe-inspiring. Kiernan is a writer whose style calls up a weird atmosphere even before inexplicable events occur; there is something in how she casts her sentences that's bewildering and diminishing in just the right way. "Charcloth, Firesteel and Flint," devoid of superficially horrific events or images, is a welcome demonstration that supernatural fiction is a broad church, and can disturb its readers on many different levels.

It's "Ghosts with Teeth," by Peter Crowther, that feels very close to something Stephen King might have produced; it's even set in King's (and my) home state of Maine, although King's characters would presumably not use British idioms, and he would know that there is no place in the state that's a half-hour's drive from both Portland and Bangor, unless that drive is undertaken at criminal speed. Nitpicks about the setting aside, "Ghosts with Teeth" is an excellent novella. What begins as a quietly eerie story of odd behaviors and minor glitches in communication takes a nasty turn, revealing a monster whose lunatic sadism is creepily compelling. For those who like their horror visceral without being crude, dark without being intrusively psychological, this is a real winner.

"The Coffin-Maker's Daughter," by Angela Slatter, imagines a world where the making of coffins is an art, one whose rituals are the only way to lay the spirits of the dead to rest. After her father's sudden death, the title character takes on his profession, but her commission to build a coffin for a wealthy man is complicated by a flirtation with his daughter, and by her father's mocking ghost. Barely ten pages long, the story conjures a complicated, flawed character, sympathetic yet hard-edged, and the cruel fairy-tale world in which she lives. As with Kiernan's contribution, this is more dark fantasy than horror, and the contrast between their work and the more down-to-earth monsters of King and Crowther increases the effect of all four stories.

In the psychologically harrowing "Roots and All," Brian Hodge uses a rural community devastated by the spread of methamphetamine, a prison guard driven toward extremes of cynicism by his profession, and a legendary creature known as the Woodwalker to explore forms of personal and communal degradation. Lesser writers might have used these elements in a pat, simplistic story of supernatural justice, but Hodge presents no trite resolution, only a sorrowful and pessimistic look at a miserable situation. Dennis Etchison's "Tell Me I'll See You Again," whose young protagonist has a tragic past and a strange gift, is equally harrowing, with the air of the unstated and unexplained that distinguishes the author's stories of solitude, regret, and failure.

Next is Let the Right One In author Karl Ajvide Lindqvist's first short story written for an English-language market, "The Music of Bengt Karlsson, Murderer." At first it seems that the title has given too much away, removing any suspense from a traditional story of good and evil ghosts in a haunted house. But the trouble that ensues when a widower encourages his distant, computer-addicted son to take up the piano is no safely familiar story of restless spirits: it turns unexpectedly into a dark meditation on obsession and the lengths to which people will go to escape their grief, not unlike Lindqvist's novel Harbor, but even more morally ambiguous and forceful, with no light at the end of the tunnel.

Another horror master, Ramsey Campbell, shows that his talent hasn't ebbed in the course of a nearly fifty-year career, with a grim morality play about the consequences of "Getting it Wrong." Mr Edgeworth is a friendless middle-aged man, using his DVDs of classic films to escape a dull, dispiriting job at a modern megaplex. When a co-worker phones to get his help with a radio quiz show, he suspects a practical joke, but what he can't see may very well hurt both of them. Edgeworth at first seems an arrogant old coot, but like most of Cambell's protagonists, he's soon in so far over his head that pity becomes the more appropriate response. It's never quite clear what the consequences of a wrong answer are, but Campbell's occasional hints are more sardonically upsetting than straightforward description could be.

Like all Robert Shearman's stories, "Alice Through the Plastic Sheet" begins as a surreal dark comedy whose universal emotional themes become newly affecting through the bizarre narratives in which they're contained. But, fittingly for this anthology, the darkness eventually overwhelms the comedy in this unexpectedly upsetting story of new neighbors, very loud Christmas music, a sick dog, and the perils of social conformity. Shearman may satirize the hapless Alan, his assertive wife Alice, and their his suburban existence, but underneath is his usual sympathy for those who can no longer navigate the bewildering regulations of contemporary life.

Lisa Tuttle's contribution is one whose resolution provides that sense of grim supernatural logic, of cause and effect being twisted according to some dark design, that distinguishes a particular variety of strange story. A young wife uncertain about the future of her marriage to a loving but easily angered husband tries to enjoy her new house, but the experience is spoiled by a sense of something looming over the desolate landscape, a sense that began on the journey to the house, when she was sure she saw the corpse of "The Man in the Ditch." A visit to a psychic whose enigmatic pronouncements signal the psychological undercurrents at work is a highlight of this uncanny tale.

Set on a nineteenth-century English estate, Reggie Oliver's "A Child's Problem" may generate expectations of a pastiche of the antiquarian ghost story, a form Oliver has several times shown his mastery of. But "A Child's Problem" is, like "The Look" from his recent collection Mrs Midnight, so much a story of human evil, of the eccentricities that guilt and fear breed, that the eventual emergence of explicit supernatural vengeance is practically beside the point. The heart of the story is the coming of age of its young protagonist as he discovers the secrets of the ill-tempered uncle with whom he has been forced to live, and learns unpleasant but useful lessons about human relationships and their hierarchies. Like much of his recent work, this novella shows Oliver, always a skillful horror writer, evolving into a "literary" writer of great subtlety and complexity.

The two penultimate stories in A Book of Horrors deal with grieving husbands. The one in Michael Marshall Smith's "Sad, Dark Thing" is drifting through pointless days and nights after being abandoned by his wife and daughter, until a drive through the woods leads him down a side road toward a tiny tourist attraction that will bring about a permanent change. The story reaches for a deep melancholy, but despite Smith's effective prose the protagonist isn't well-drawn enough for his suffering to have much weight, and on the whole the story is overshadowed by Elizabeth Hand's "Near Zennor." Here the husband has suddenly become a widower, and while going through his wife's things he finds a series of letters she once wrote to a beloved children's author, whose books were "like Narnia, only much scarier". Feeling compelled to investigate this mysterious one-sided correspondence, he plans a visit to an old friend of his wife, and winds up exploring the title locale, a ruin-littered countryside where time moves oddly and technology fails. Reminiscent of the classical weird tales of Sarban and Machen, this novella is redolent of the uncertainty of liminal states both physical and emotional, and of the powerful atmosphere of its isolated rural fields and valleys.

Following "Near Zennor," the longest story in the anthology, is "Last Words," its shortest. As a rule ending an anthology with a long story and then a short one is a bad idea; the two can mutually overshadow each other and end the volume with a whimper. Here, though, master of very short horror fiction Richard Christian Matheson crafts a story of madness that, in its vastly different way, has as much impact as the novella that preceded it. Capturing the voice of insanity and arranging his simple plot in just the right way, Matheson gives readers a profound chill that ends the anthology on an intense note, reminding the reader of just how scary, in a variety of ways, all the stories have been. Loss and loneliness, whether brought on by death, disappearance, abandonment, rural life, or the rejection of society, link most or all of them, a reflection perhaps of the fact that the primal fear, one that drives many others, is the fear of being alone; but the forms this fear takes are countless, and Stephen Jones' authors explore fourteen of them without any sense of overlap or repetition.

Back at the beginning of this review, untold paragraphs ago, I took issue with the editor's implication that paranormal romances, mysteries, and thrillers have somehow usurped the market that belongs to horror fiction. But whatever the cause, I agree that horror, once too big for its own good, is now depressingly small, too much a market of small presses whose books go unnoticed and quickly become unavailable. Major writers and editors can still get horror released by large presses, but surnames other than King and Hill have less luck, especially when it comes to short fiction. I'm not sure there's any solution to this problem, but a top-notch anthology with contributions from a variety of major names can hardly hurt. A couple are less powerful than others, but most of the stories in A Book of Horrors would be standouts if they were scattered across lesser anthologies. Together, they show those who might have been inclined to doubt that, whatever its market share, horror fiction is as robust and vibrant now as at any point in its long history.
30 internautes sur 36 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
5.0 étoiles sur 5 To This Town Called Horror a Saviour Did Come... 30 octobre 2011
Par Paul Campbell - Publié sur Amazon.com
... and his name is Stephen Jones. In his introduction Jones asks what happened to the horror field: it's currently been hijacked by a sub-genre called `Paranormal Romance', a sub-category aimed at teens and featuring vampires with no bite and werewolves with no teeth. It was bad enough that horror movies descended into the torture equivalent of a pornographic thrill, now it seems horror literature is turning into `chick lit'.

Someone save us!

`A Book of Horrors', then, is a rebuttal to today's current sub-genre and a call to arms for an honest-to-goodness collection of horror stories, thus it's plain "It does exactly what it says on the box" title.

But before we begin, let us pause at the book's dedication, where five writers/editors are sited as Jones's inspiration throughout his career. Horror aficionados will, of course, be familiar with Ramsey Campbell, Dennis Etchison, Charles L. Grant and Karl Edward Wagner. Less familiar, perhaps, is David A. Sutton. But make no mistake, Sutton's importance to Jones's career is huge. They have been co-editors since the 1970s, from the multi-awarding winning `Fantasy Tales' magazines and anthologies through to six volumes each of the equally lauded `Dark Voices' and Dark Terrors' series in the 1990s and early 2000s. It's a safe bet to assume that working with Sutton all those years gave Jones the confidence to finally go it alone with "The Mammoth Book of Terror" is 1991.

And 20 years later Jones gives us `A Book of Horrors', the flagship release from the newly formed imprint Jo Fletcher Books. Jones wanted horror and STEPHEN KING gives him it with both barrels fully loaded. "The Little Green God of Agony" is about a rich man who wants to bypass the hard work of physical rehabilitation following a plane crash. He'll try anything, as his long-suffering physio-therapist will attest: religious charlatans and all. King knows about pain: he's incorporated the ground-glass sensation of his late `90's road accident into a number of his novels, from clinical descriptions to metafictional transformations, all in an attempt to understand the pain. To deal with it. But, here, he shows what he wished he could really do all those years ago to that pain - what everyone in his position wishes they could do: to literally draw it out of them, externalise it, make it manifest and then grab it and scream, "Now I gotcha!" and promptly crush the little sucker. It's unashamed pulp. It's `Night shift' era early King. It's the book's guilty pleasure.

In "Charcloth, Firesteel and Flint" by CAILTIN R. KIERNAN Aiden (although that's not her real name) is drawn to fire. All the great devastating fires throughout history. She has been to them all. Hitchhiking on a Midwestern highway she's picked up by Billy whom she shows, whilst they're in a motel room, all that she has seen. But what can this have to do with Billy? Kiernan's writing is as lyrical and as hypnotising as the dancing flames of which her character talks.

Next we have PETER CROWTHER. Readers of his fine collection `The Land at the End of the Working Day' will know just how good he is at novelette length, and here he offers up a sumptuous 55 page novella. Like Rio Youers, Crowther can at times be a little self-conscious in his emulation of Stephen King's easy going style. "Ghosts with Teeth" starts off that way, but Crowther quickly comes into his own in a tale about strange goings-on in a New England village. He paints characters deftly and quickly and the dialogue lifts off the page. No one is what they seem - and there's more than one of everyone.

Australia's rising star ANGELA SLATTER is an extraordinary re-teller of myths and legends, although "The Coffin's-Maker's Daughter" is none of those. There is a sense of heightened realism, of a world slightly skewed and not quite like our own. Hepsibah is an artist; her art is coffin making. Special coffins. Coffin's designed to make sure the dead stay dead. Her latest commission becomes complicated when she becomes involved with the widow's daughter. But there is nothing pure about the intentions of the widow's daughter. There again, there is nothing pure about the intentions of the coffin-maker's daughter either.

Recently I read "Just Outside Our Windows, Deep Inside Our Walls" by BRIAN HODGE which is, so far, the best short story I've read this year. A novelette, "Roots and All" is partly about the loss of the old country ways. No one, now, smiles and waves. No one wants to know their neighbour. The neighbours are not someone you want to know. Gina and Dylan have gone to their grandmother's house to tie things up following her death. Returning brings back memories of their cousin Shae who died 8 years ago at the age of 19. Seemingly abducted, her body was never found. Only a scrap of clothing. Old women's tall tales permeate this story, too: of the Woodwalker and old Hickory Bones. Discovering what truly happened to Shae will involve going down a dark and strange road indeed. With a sitting-around-the-campfire voice of Texan Joe R. Lansdale, Hodge is that best of genre writers: someone who can spin a fabulation of the fantastique so completely that believing in what is occurring is never a question.

DENNIS ETCHISON has written few new stories in recent years, so "Tell Me I'll See You Again" is a real treat. Short and almost ephemeral, this tells of a group of kids who fake elaborate deaths by the side of the road. David is special and his friend Sherron wants to find out what that something special is. The story's afterword tantalizes the reader by promises an upcoming collection of all-new stories from Etchison.

Swedish horror novelist sensation (`Let the Right One In', filmed twice) JOHN AJVIDE LINDQVIST gives us a 40 page novella in the form of "The Music of Bengt Karlsson, Murderer" which sees a father and son move into a new home following the mother's death. In an attempt to wean his son off computer games, the father encourages him to play their mother's old piano. But there's something eerie in the notes being played. And far more eerie is the history of the house. Locals have it that musican Bengt Karlsson, distraught at the death of his wife, hanged himself in the very house the father and son now live. Only the son is hearing voices, and the voices are children, who say Bengt Karlsson killed them. And there can never be any justification for killing children... surely?

RAMSEY CAMPBELL is a master of the paranoid conversation where how the character interprets what is said is just as important as what is actually said. "Getting it Wrong" is pure vintage Twilight Zone, pure dark. Eric Edgeworth loves his old movies, but when he receives a call from a radio quiz show saying a colleague from the cinema where he works has nominated him as a `phone a friend' Eric believes it's a wind-up and deliberately throws the answers to the movie questions he's asked. But his answers aren't greeted by the sound of a buzzer and a cry of "Wrong!" but by commands of `twist', `closer' and `wider' followed by sobs and moans. These phone calls occur over three nights. And, then, what will happen to Eric's colleague if he gets it wrong a third time? And, more, what will happen to Eric himself?

ROBERT SHEARMAN's "Alice Through the Plastic Sheet" has the cadence of a child's story book. Alan and Alice have new neighbours. Vans arrive and unload their furnishings. And everything is brand new: still cardboard boxed and shrink wrapped. The new neighbours themselves might as well be, too, because Alan and Alice never see them. Despite its premise - and indeed its creepy demise - this is a wondrously funny tale, and yet another triumph for Shearman, as it proves yet again why he is considered one of the best short story writers to recently appear.

In LISA TUTTLE's "The Man in the Ditch" Linzi and JD are moving to the country, and on the road there she thinks she sees a body lying in the ditch. As they settle into their new home she keeps seeing this dead body everywhere, dreams of it. Soon JD must spend the night away as part of his job and Linzi is home alone. A sense of unease imbues every page and the last two pages crank it up until they're giddy with tension and fright. The end socks a gut-punch.

REGGIE OLIVER has now - with this present 56 page novella - become the rightful heir to M. R. James. As the author says in the afterword, this story was inspired by the 1857 painting "The Child's Problem" by Richard Dadd (a Google search will immediately turn it up). Set in the early 19th century it follows young master George as he is left in the care of his cankerous uncle following his parents' need to move to a medical school in India. The boy's uncle sets him cryptic tasks of things to find in the estate's vast grounds. The boy is more resourceful than the uncle imagined... so much so as to uncover more than the uncle wished. A tale (as the author says in the afterword) of guilt, power games, childhood and the loss of innocence. Oliver wears the language of the past masters of horror with such ease that his tales feel like rediscovered lost classics. And this present one sets a new bar of excellence. Remarkable.

In "Sad, Dark Thing" by MICHAEL MARSHALL SMITH an aimless man wanders aimlessly into the woods to a rundown collect of shacks sign-posted `Tourists Welcome' where he discovers a sad, dark thing which he buys and takes home. Short and enigmatic, this may be a tale of a man happily embracing death. It may be many things. The power lies in its language, its wry observations and, of course, its openness to interpretation.

With "Near Zennor" ELIZABETH HAND presents the book's longest story, a 63 page novella, which has strong echoes of Hand's superb 2002 novella "The Least Trumps" (available in her stunning collection from 2006 `Saffron and Brimstone"). Both feature background stories about writers, and both are thick and tense with detail and atmosphere. Following the death of his wife, Jeffery travels to a remote Cornish village to seek a children's writer whom his wife once wrote to and visited with her friends when she was young. Jeffery doesn't find the writer - but he does find something. Hand's career is sprinkled with numerous novellas: she's a master of the form, as this new tale amply demonstrates.

Lastly we have short-short story supremo RICHARD CHRISTIAN MATHESON who closes with "Last Words" and with what at first appears to be a story-article, à la Thomas Ligotti's celebrated "Notes on the Writing of Horror: A Story". It tells of a serial killer's diary of the last moments and dying words of his victims.

`A Book of Horrors' runs the gamut; from all-out pulp screamers (King and Crowther), to enigmas (Etchison and Smith), to tales imbued with the old masters (Oliver) and dark humour (Shearman) to everything in between. Although only containing 14 tales, it consists of 5 novellas between 40 and 60+ pages for a total of 430 pages. It also presents several coups: Stephen King's first story for an original anthology since "The Road Virus Heads North" in 1999's `999: New Stories of Horror and Suspense' edited by Al Sarrantonio; Dennis Etchison's first new story in almost a decade; plus John Ajvide Lindqvist's first ever short story. It's not just an original horror anthology; it's an event.

Just as I opened with a sidebar on the book's dedication, let me close with an indulgence on the imprint under which the book is published: Stephen Jones, Ellen Datlow and Gardner Dozois are justly famous as the public faces of horror, fantasy and science fiction. But speculative fiction also has its unsung heroes - and one of them is the long-established major book publisher's editor Jo Fletcher. How important is she? Let's put it this way, as far as I know the last time in the UK a genre editor had an imprint named after them was Victor Gollancz... in 1927.

[This is my third Stephen Jones review in a row. Yes, I'm a fan of Jones's anthologies, but this triple-bill is due to all three titles being published within a period of one calendar month. Indeed, late September/early October is fast becoming Stephen Jones month! I should state, though, that I don't buy EVERYTHING Jones releases, only those titles released by trade publishers (i.e. major New York and London imprints). In other words, I don't own his recent 2 volume set of the collected stories of Basil Copper, nor will I own the forthcoming story collections by Charles L. Grant and Karl Edward Wagner, all of which are published by specialty presses at top prices and aimed at the affluent collector. Me, I'm just a humble reader earning a blue-collar wage.]
9 internautes sur 9 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
5.0 étoiles sur 5 A fine addition to your horror collection 15 mai 2012
Par Nerine Dorman - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format:Format Kindle
For those of you who despair that an antidote for all the glittery vampires and torture porn won't be found, look no further than this superb collection that Stephen Jones has put together. I appreciated the fact that I saw a few familiar names like Stephen King Caitlin R Kiernan and Ramsey Campbell, but was pleased to find new favourites among them, such as Reggie Oliver, Elizabeth Hand and Angela Slatter, whose other published works will eventually find their way onto my kindle. This one's a keeper, and I'm glad I own the paperback. It's staying on my bookshelf.
6 internautes sur 6 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
3.0 étoiles sur 5 Not terribly horrifying. 10 novembre 2012
Par Literary Omnivore - Publié sur Amazon.com
This is a new collection of short stories in the horror genre. There are a lot of top-notch names here, including perennial favorite Stephen King, but I found the stories to be pretty second tier. For horror stories, these were not terribly horrifying. For my money the best of the collection is the sad and unsettling "Roots and All," which deals with the deterioration of a rural area and the prices that must be paid to restore it. Most of the other stories were pretty "meh" to me, including that from one of my favorite writers, Elizabeth Hand. In fact I found her story to be more interesting for the fact that she claims, in her end notes, that an identical experience actually happened to her when she was growing up than for the story itself. The story was definitely not in the class of her incredible tale, "Prince of Flowers," that made fans of so many of us. I would recommend this for hard-core horror fans who are starving for something new to read but if you're looking for something outstanding you will not find it here.
3 internautes sur 3 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
4.0 étoiles sur 5 Not All That Much Horror But Still a Strong Collection 18 septembre 2012
Par Randy Stafford - Publié sur Amazon.com
You can ignore the short introduction which claims this anthology is out to reclaim the label "horror" for scary stories. Not all the stories here are scary. Some aren't even dark fantasy. And some left me somewhat unsatisfied.

But they all kept me interested.

Starting things off here is the big name: Stephen King. "The Little God of Agony" is an ok story, actually one of the lesser efforts here. It generated no disgust, revulsion, shock or, in fact, any other emotion in me. I found the biggest point of interest was King playing against type in which character he ultimately chooses to portray sympathetically: billionaire Newsome, who is in pain from an accident and is prepared to retain the strange service of a preacher, or his nurse and physical therapist Kat who thinks Newsome is trying to buy his way out of a situation where money doesn't work.

The presence of Caitlín Kiernan was the whole reason I read this book. Like some other stories in this book, her "Charcloth, Firesteel and Flint" doesn't really have much of a payoff in the end. But, if the destination isn't anything special, the trip there certainly is. And the road trip here involves a mysterious, amnesiac hitchhiker and the boy who picks her up. Sure, as Kiernan admits in the story notes, it's ultimately an excuse to string together some famous historical fires - like the firebombing of Dresden, the Peshtigo fire contemporaneous to the Great Chicago Fire, and a circus tent fire - in a plot vibrating with mythic resonance. That doesn't mean it's not enjoyable.

Angela Slatter's "The Coffin-Maker's Daughter" is not horrific, but it is an interesting character study set in a Victorianesque world where death rituals are important to prevent the dead from haunting the living. The titular character is, in fact, haunted by such a ghost even as she goes about making a coffin and trying to seduce a widow.

Dennis Etchison's "Tell Me I'll See You Again" is a sketchy story about a young boy who likes to play being dead. Or, perhaps, it's not mere play. He fascinates a young neighbor girl. However, he didn't fascinate me, and this was my least favorite story.

"The Music of Bengt Karlsson, Murderer" mixes two horror themes: haunting and, perhaps, demonic possession. Author John Ajvide Lindqvist uses a folkloric concept from his native Sweden to good effect.

Ramsey Campbell's "Getting It Wrong" is a nasty look at film buffs, quiz shows, and the social isolation of all too many in the modern world. Its protagonist gets some unwanted and unwelcome attention when he's put on the spot by a co-worker who claims she needs his knowledge of film trivia to avoid something ... well, something unpleasant.

Robert Shearman's "Alice Through the Plastic Sheet" is sort of a horror story - the urban horror of the neighbor who plays loud music late at night. But it's mostly the hilarious and surreal story of how the too calculated, de-sexed and routine, lives of a couple are changed by their mysterious tormenters.

"The Man in the Ditch" from Lisa Tuttle has a woman haunted by what looks to be a ghost of a Druidic sacrificial victim in the boggy region of England where she and her husband are building a house.

Reggie Oliver's "A Child's Problem" has a very Gothic flavor about it with its early 19th century English setting, mysterious structures, and family secrets. A smart, somewhat manipulative, boy is sent to stay on his uncle's country estate while his parents seek their fortune in India. He finds his uncle testy and fearful of some judgement and given to handing out strange assignments to him to explore the grounds. And there are mysterious figures seen at night, hostile servants, and the mysterious chess game his uncle is playing against some unseen opponent.

Michael Marshall Smith's "Sad, Dark Thing" is what is truly desired by those who wander aimlessly through life - as the protagonist finds out after he discovers it on an aimless drive through the Santa Cruz Mountains of California.

Elizabeth Hand's "Near Zennor" is a curiosity, a story that may not be fantasy at all. A man, trying to connect once more with the life of his dead wife, comes across an account of a mysterious incident she and her friends experienced in 1971's Cornwall when they were teenagers. And that incident isn't the only mystery here. There's the fantasy writer who inspired the girls to visit Cornwall and the question of whether he was a pedophile. And what explains the varying reactions of the girls to the visit? Is something going on near Zennor? Hand seems to slightly push us towards one interpretation of events, but there are still lingering mysteries. I didn't find the last mystery all that interesting but, again, this one was another story I eagerly read even at novella length.

Serial killers like their trophies, and the narrator of Richard Christian Matheson's "Last Words" likes to collect the final remarks of his victims. It's not the narrator that makes this story disturbing as the almost inevitable banality and predictability of those last words. Matheson mars his short story a bit by evoking the abused-child-turned-serial-killer-cliché.

Horror is a personal thing. Sometimes a certain image, a certain plot, a certain setting make a horror story burrow into the mind to take up a permanent spot in the memory. It's an idiosyncratic process, so your level of disquiet may vary, but two stories here fit that requirement.

The wooded, rural setting of Brian Hodge's "Roots and All" was familiar enough to me to cause an extra resonance in this tale of two cousins cleaning out the house of their beloved - and now dead - grandmother and being appalled at the changes time has wrought in the land they loved as youths. And things are markedly escalated when a new discovery is made about the fate of a family member who disappeared as a teenager.

The stand out story for me was Peter Crowther's "Ghosts with Teeth". A couple returns to their Maine town on Halloween to find it isolated by a storm, a possible intruder in their house, voices on the radio babbling about poltergeists, and sudden appearances and disappearances of their neighbors. A once trusted sheriff, now surrounded by a miasma of menace, is literally the stuff of my nightmares - as is the irrationality at the end of the story.

The Crowther, Shearman, and Hand stories by themselves justify buying this book.

[Review copy provided by publisher.]
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