I've decided I need to read more anthologies. I found a number of The Mammoth Book of... anthologies on sale and picked them up. I started with The Mammoth Book of Monsters simply because it seems to be the least reviewed.
I enjoy reading anthology introductions and was looking forward to what Stephen Jones would have to say as he is such a well known and respected editor of horror fiction. I stopped reading it because it seemed to serve mainly as a laundry list of the monster in each story: "'Blah Blah' is an example of a modern vampire story, followed by So and So's story 'Blah Blah' which deals with werewolves." I'm surprised in all his years of editing, Stephen Jones isn't better at writing introductions. Starting the book with spoilers for each of the stories in the collectionis not a good idea. Ah well, on to the stories.
Unfortunately the first story in the book, 'Visitation' by David J. Schow, got things off to a bad start. The story felt fifty years out of date. A sort of modern version of William Hope Hodgson's Carnacki the Ghost Finder stories that just didn't work for me. Things weren't much better with Ramsey Campbell's 'Down There'. A story with a promising setup and fine writing that is just missing something at its core.
Things picked up a bit with Scott Edelman's 'The Man He Was Before', a sort of I Am Legend take-off, except the survivors are a dysfunctional family. Works better than I am probably making it sound.
From there (almost) each story was an improvement on the previous one. I really enjoyed Michael Marshall Smith's 'Someone Else's Problem', Sydney J. Bounds 'Downmarket' and Kim Newman's 'The Chill Clutch of the Unseen'. But the problem is that the good stories weren't quite good enough to make up for the poor ones and there were too many stories that were just so-so.
Even the stories by very good, known writers tended to be far from their best. For instance, Clive Barker (one of the best short horror writers I've ever read) is represented by 'Rawhead Rex' one of the cheesiest stories in his excellent Books of Blood collections.
It's doubly disappointing because a collection of monster stories offers such a wide canvas. In one way or another almost any horror story could fit that requirement. So why isn't this one better? A selection of okay stories and duds with an exceptional story or three does not make for a very good collection. And front loading the collection with two disappointments kind of affected my view of the book.
I will read further 'Mammoth Horror' volumes, but would be hard pressed to recommend this one.