3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The Stories Are Great ...
Best New Horror 21 is a varied collection of short stories from some of the great names of the genre. I really enjoyed all of the stories, they all struck me as original and strong in their own areas. The only one to disappoint slightly was Joe Hill/Stephen King's story about a biker gang being chased by a juggernaut. The standout stories of the collection for me were...
Published on 18 Jun 2011 by Green Man Music
3.0 out of 5 stars Not a vintage year
Maybe, like vineyard owners who stare around at that year's crop and find it somewhat wanting, Stephen Jones feels sometimes that the vintage he has to work with is not as good as others. But what can he do? After all he has the contract with the publishers, he has to get this year's volume out. Yet he much know, somewhere in his heart, that this is not as good a bottle...
Published on 28 Aug 2012 by F.R. Jameson
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The Stories Are Great ...,
Best New Horror 21 is a varied collection of short stories from some of the great names of the genre. I really enjoyed all of the stories, they all struck me as original and strong in their own areas. The only one to disappoint slightly was Joe Hill/Stephen King's story about a biker gang being chased by a juggernaut. The standout stories of the collection for me were Simon Strantza's "Cold To The Touch" a claustrophobic tale about an Inuit-discovered arctic anomaly, Mark Valentine's "The Axholme Toll", a solitary tale set in the borderland between ancient and modern in Lincolnshire's Isle of Axholme, particularly enjoyed because the setting is close to where I live. Finally, the most outstanding story for me is by Brian Lumley who shines as always in his tale of desolate hotel resorts and visitors from elsewhere.
My only criticism would be the 140+ pages' worth of other material - a not-so-brief essay on the machinations within the horror genre in 2009, and a long list of anyone connected to the genre who happened to have passed on recently. Still, it's a useful resource for those who are particularly keen on following the ins and outs of the genre with a fine-toothed comb.
The list of addresses of publications for aspiring writers is interesting but again possibly surplus to requirements as it's nothing a determined writer wouldn't already have in something like the The Writers' & Artists' Yearbook 2012 . Five stars would have been given for an extra 140 pages worth of fiction :-)
15 of 17 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Loses one star for padding,
While I have no quarrel with, nor would I seek to augment, the very full review already posted by Paul Campbell, I would just like to add that this 496 page compendium has a 100 page Introduction and an 88 page Necrology/Useful Addresses section. In other words, nearly 40% of the length is devoted to content other than horror stories. Having read many of these anthologies, I'm used to the conventions of both Introductions & Necrologies, but never before, I think, has this sort of content consumed so much of the total length of the book. I think if you'd paid the full dust cover price of £7.99 you might feel a little short changed. Hence only 4 stars.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Horror Review for the Year,
This is a chunky annual review of the world of horror which combines the work of some the best writers in the genre but also an invaluable review of the year in horror.
And when I say chunky, I mean chunky - it's almost 500 pages long.
Be warned, this is a summary of the year, so there is sizeable review section but Stephen Jones knows the horror world better than most so it's a informative review.
Of the stories, there are some big names as you would expect, I was disappointed with Joe Hill/Stephen Kings tale but I thoroughly enjoyed 'In the Garden' and all the others.
If you have not tried one of these volumes before, certainly worth a look but remember that you are not just getting a thick volume of fiction. It's a survey of the horror world.
I am awarding four stars purely because I would have preferred a few more short stories - am I being greedy? probably..
15 of 19 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars From strength to strength... a brilliantly varied selection,
Last month it was announced that BEST NEW HORROR had won the British Fantasy Society Award for Best Anthology (Original or Reprint) for the third consecutive year.
It now enters its 21st volume, with the editor's website already soliciting works first published in 2010 be submitted for consideration in #22. That would put the series on a par with the current record-holder for the longest running `best of' horror anthology, DAW Books' THE YEAR'S BEST HORROR STORIES (1971-1994), the final fifteen volumes of which were edited by the great Karl Edward Wagner; sales of this current volume will dictate whether or not the publishers will commission a 23rd.
And on the basis of this present selection it deserves to sell a bundle. As much as I admire - and religiously buy - Ellen Datlow's various anthologies, I got to admit that I feel Jones is better at balancing his Table of Contents: his books have an eclectic feel, slipping in an old-style tale, subtle and creepy, next to an all-out screamer, or a straight-up-whisky-shot urban angst depressor one minute and a tongue-in-cheek wry tale the next. Traditionally written, where the prose is clipped, suited and wearing a tie, to hip and flash, the writer letting their colloquialism all hang out. Datlow, meanwhile, is superb at maintaining a consistent mood throughout her choices - too successful perhaps, as witness INFERNO (2007); at times it can lend a certain lifelessness to the reading experience, as some of the sense of surprise has been subdued. You might not know what the next story will be about, but you'll know what kind of `feel' it will have to it.
Not that I'm advocating a boycott of Datlow in favour of Jones (I probably have as many Datlow edited anthologies as those by Jones, if not more); indeed, the genre is too marginalised as it is - we need both of them!
And so to #21, which marks the first appearance of JOE HILL and STEPHEN KING's novella "Throttle" in the UK. A spin on Richard Matheson's "Duel" (brilliantly filmed by Steven Spielberg in the early `70s), only here it is a gang of bikers relentless hounded by a truck driver. But the destruction is more than just mindless carnage sans motivation, as the reader discovers at the end. The true success of the tale lies in the ease of the dialogue, the pithy characterization and the interplay between the bikers. This is Hill's fourth appearance since #14 in 2003; incidentally, Jones was the first editor to reprint his work, two years before fandom learned he was the son of Stephen King. "Throttle" is their first collaboration.
Although Ellen Datlow did not feature any stories by BARBARA RODEN earlier in the year in THE BEST HORROR STORIES OF THE YEAR VOLUME TWO, in was the praise she gave in her `Summation' of Barbara Roden's debut collection, NORTHWEST PASSAGES (2009), that convinced me to buy a copy. And I'm glad I did. Here Jones selects "Out and Back", one of two stories original to the collection. Eerie and elegant, the story involves a young man whose hobby is photographing derelict structures, and who drags his long-suffering girlfriend to a disused amusement park. The ending is wonderfully executed and finely balanced. Lovers of Algernon Blackwood and Robert Aickman will not be disappointed and I urge you to seek out the entire collection.
From the well received limited edition anthology, BRITISH INVASION (from US specialty publisher Cemetery Dance) comes "Respects" by Ramsey Campbell, who examines the trend of glorifying the flotsam and detritus of human society when they come to a grisly end at the hands of the police (think of the recent Raoul Moat case: police officer shot in the face, unarmed ex-girlfriend hospitalised and new-boyfriend murdered all in a pique of jealous rage, and yet the public treat him as some kind of folk hero). A horror story indeed. It has also been reprinted in THE YEAR'S BEST DARK FANTASY AND HORROR 2010, edited by Paula Guran.
"Cold to the Touch" (from his second collection of the same name) is SIMON STRANTZAS's third consecutive appearance in BNH. Although a fine tale, about two men exploring a ring of stones in the Arctic which possess strange anomalies, my own personal preference would have been for "Like Falling Snow". However, that simply speaks to the further pleasures to be had in Strantzas's book. Jones called his first volume of short stories, BENEATH THE SURFACE (2008), "Quite possibly the most important debut collection in the genre" to appear this decade. Sadly, the book was released just as the publisher suddenly went bust and it quickly vanished as a result. Happily, though, it has been revised, expanded and re-released this year by Dark Regions Press; initially as an expensive limited edition, a trade edition is anticipated soon. Don't let this second incarnation pass you by.
"The Game of Bear" also marks REGGIE OLIVER's third consecutive appearance, although he is a man of seasoned years, unlike our young pup Strantzas. He has written and performed many plays over the past decades, but it has only been in recent years that he has come to the attention of horror aficionados for his quietly measured supernatural tales. This present story heralds a rare treat: the great-nephew of M. R. James has granted Oliver permission to complete one of the ghost story master's unfinished story fragments, that of a man being haunted by the presence of a relative who won't leave their property. It's a reflect of the high esteem that Oliver has so quickly attained that only he was considered worthy of this honour.
Set in1920's Cairo, "Shem-el-Nessim" by CHRIS BELL is a tale about a man who follows a woman after becoming captivated by the scent of her perfume. He loses her, but immediately goes on a mission to track down what kind of unique fragrance it was she wore. But some things are best left undiscovered...
A deceptively simple tale, the power of "What Happens When You Wake Up in the Night" by MICHAEL MARSHALL SMITH lies in the voice of the child Maddy from whose point of view the story is being told. A cautionary fable about what happens if you don't leave the light on during the night and (as the closing line puts it) "this is why, if you wake up in the night, you should never ever get up out of bed." There is no rationale given for what happens, but as with the novels THE OVERNIGHT (2004) by Ramsey Campbell and THE DELUGE (2007) by Mark Morris, that isn't the point, and probably wouldn't be very interesting if it was explained anyway. No, the pleasure here lies simply in the fact of what is happening. Oh, and together with having won the British Fantasy Society Award for Best Short Story it is the ONLY tale to appear in all of this year's `best of' horror anthologies: Jones's, Datlow's and Guran's. Also, get a hold of his powerful and poignant short novel THE SERVANTS (2007). A must read, and somewhat overlooked due to his `Michael Marshall' thrillers. Deserves a much wider readership. It was released in the UK under the name `M. M. Smith'.
A riff on Edgar Allan Poe's "William Wilson", NICHOLAS ROYLE offers up "The Reunion", a finely crafted tale of a couple who go to a reunion at a hotel, where the husband is convinced two corridors are not simply identical, but that they are the same corridor. It's not the only thing that's duplicated, as the title of the story doesn't simply refer to the evening gala the couple is attending.
Master of the short-short story, RICHARD CHRISTIAN MATHESON, returns with "Venturi", about a man's fear of fire in a tale inspired by his father's study in paranoia, "Legion of Plotters" (1953), and which pulls off the remarkable feat of being more unsettling than his father's original. The language is tight, the sentences short, the sense of unease palpable.
Although known for some years now for his television scripts, ROBERT SHEARMAN has made a dramatic impact on the short story scene in the last few years, with the very well received collections TINY DEATHS (2007) and LOVE SONGS FOR THE SHY AND CYNICAL (2009), both multi-award winning books, including the World Fantasy and British Fantasy Awards. His story here, "Granny's Grinning", features two youngsters being given monster costumes with a difference for Christmas. . . and the lengths Mommy and Daddy will go to keep granny happy. Meant as a blackly humorous tale, it's in fact quite unsettling. Definitely a writer whose first two books you should check out.
Next is ROSALIE PARKER with "In the Garden" from THE FIFTH BLACK BOOK OF HORROR edited by Charles Black, a series created in homage to the infamous THE PAN BOOK OF HORROR STORIES (1959-1989) and which is rapidly making a name for itself: volume eight is already in the works. Another story from #5 was selected this year be Ellen Datlow for THE BEST HORROR STORIES OF THE YEAR VOLUME TWO. Parker's comes across as a lightweight tale, and yet that's what makes it work; as with the Marshall story, it's the `voice' that clinches it. This time it's a sweet lady talking directly to the reader about the pride she takes in her garden, and the things in it... including -
- well, that would be telling. (Incidentally, the first `Pan Book of Horror Stories' - from 1959! - has just been re-released in a facsimile edition by the original publisher. I urge you to look it up on Amazon: apparently if the re-launch is successful they'll reprint further volumes in the series.)
Reader's of Caitlin R. Kiernan's "The Ape's Wife" from BNH #19 will be familiar with the concept of the next story, a sequel to the 1930's King Kong movie, where the author postulates `what happened next'. But whereas Kiernan's was an almost lyrical dream, STEPHEN VOLK's "After the Ape" is short and bitter; for Ann Darrow, after the ape's death, there isn't anything. Packs more of a punch that your initial reading might imply: a story that lingers.
Despite being one of the oldest contributor's to #21, and having a long and distinguished career in horror (his NECROSCOPE novels are world-wide bestsellers), after appearing in BNH's debut instalment in 1990, BRIAN LUMLEY was noticeably absent from the series' later Table of Contents, until #17. "The Nonesuch" - a 16,000 word novella - marks his third story since then and, as with last year's "A Place in Waiting", it's a masterclass in `old' horror, displaying a `Weird Tales' style of writing which, nevertheless, never descends into pastiche. A difficult balancing act, but one which Lumley pulls off with panache. As the narrator explains, a nonesuch is `a unique, unparalleled or extraordinary thing.' A man visits a small coastal English town, and while the hotel he is staying at is filled with quirky characters who never fail to intrigue him, it is another hotel - sitting isolated and abandoned above the town - that intrigues him more... and how what he's told (and what he sees and hears in the night) all comes to be tied into the room in which he's staying: room number seven. Not so lucky after all. Lumley appears to be that rare writer, an exception to the rule, the kind that does not peak when they're younger: instead he's like a fine wine or a single malt whisky - he gets better with age. I'm quite sure this won't be the last we'll see of him within the pages of BNH.
I started this review with the Hill and King, but that isn't the first story in this anthology. Indeed, the first and last stories are by the same person - and he's never before appeared in BNH. MICHAEL KELLY is a writer I first came across through his stunning collaboration with Carol Weekes, the novel OUROBOROS (2009); a story which, among other things, explores the horrors of growing old. His two brief stories here ("The Woods", a quite literally chilling tale of two old friends and the things which go unsaid and the suspicion that grows during their chat, and "Princess of the Night", a Halloween tale... or is it?) show off his remarkable range, and ought to convince you to seek out his tremendous novel.
There's more I haven't mentioned - an excellent tale by rising star Simon Kurt Unsworth, superbly told ghost stories by John Gaskin and Mark Valentine, together with the fabulous and underrated Terry Dowling - but this review is already long enough as it is. Go and buy this book and immerse yourself in the hours of good reading that I've merely touched on here. And with Paula Guran's inaugural bumper `best of' anthology being released around the same time, this Halloween season is turning out to be a real feast.
[NOTE: although Amazon lists a publication date of 28th October, the official date was actually moved forward to the 7th, as stated on the publisher's website and also as reflected in Amazon's `in stock' status. My copy arrived on Thursday the 7th - and, no, I'm not a speed reader; I already happened to own 12 of the 19 stories in their original publications. In the end I only had to read 100 pages of fiction. Of course, I have not yet read the 100 page `Introduction: Horror in 2009'!]
5.0 out of 5 stars Horro,
My husband was so happy when he opened this book at christmas he loves horror and has got all the mammoth book of horror and he will continue to get them.
It tells u everything u need to know about horror and more, i have horror books which i thought was good, but these books are more indepth and they tell u the history of horror too
3.0 out of 5 stars Not a vintage year,
Maybe, like vineyard owners who stare around at that year's crop and find it somewhat wanting, Stephen Jones feels sometimes that the vintage he has to work with is not as good as others. But what can he do? After all he has the contract with the publishers, he has to get this year's volume out. Yet he much know, somewhere in his heart, that this is not as good a bottle as some of the ones he's previously brought forth.
This 21st volume then is not a brilliant one, carrying as it does more than its fair share of distinctly average stories, with not even old reliables like Ramsay Campbell or Brian Lumley reaching their usual heights.
Of course, that said, there were some stories I greatly enjoyed. I'd particularly include: `After The Ape' by Stephen Volk, which spins out what happened to Fay Wray's character after King Kong fell from the rooftops; Michael Kelly's `The Woods', which is a backwards hunting story with a nasty twist; then there's the gruesome glee of murder in Rosalie Parker's `In The Garden'; Robert Shearman's bizarre and disturbing `Granny's Grinning'; the creepy Vietnam-set ghost story ` Two Steps Down The Road' by Terry Dowling; and the brilliant `What Happens When You Wake Up In The Night' by Michael Marshall Smith.
That's not to say that the others are bad, just a tad underwhelming, with the result that I finished this volume with a shrug rather than any glow of pleasure. Who knows though - if I follow my wine analogy through - perhaps it will mature with age and if I come back to it in ten years I will find that this it's actually Don Perignon '55, and I was a fool to miss the other treats here.
4.0 out of 5 stars A few minor niggles but an entertaining read,
I've been reading this book on and off over the course of a fortnight, unlike the Pan & Black Book series which I tend to finish in 1 or 2 days.
The first 100 pages or so are taken up by a review of the entire horror genre in 2009, and it is pretty exhaustive from books and magazines, film, TV, games, the law etc. I confess I speed read through several pages that were of minimal interest to me, but full credit to Stephen Jones for his obvious love of the subject. There's even an aside as to people he knows not liking bad reviews, including anonymous reviews on Amazon, perish the thought.
On to the meat of the matter and the 19 tales of horror included here, like the other two series mentioned above the word Best is subjective, there are some great tales here, a few of which I liked so much I will be looking for other books by the authors, most of the stories were good and there's a few I didn't care for. But you pay your money...etc.
It starts off good with The Woods (Michael Kelly), just 2 characters in an isolated snowbound Canadian forest with just the suggestion of horror, linked to a well known native North American legend.
Throttle by father and son team Stephen King and Joe Hill is an updating of the movie Duel, not strictly horror but a good read.
Out and Back (Barbara Roden) involves a young couple visiting an abandoned theme park, there's a few clues along the way and it has a suitably dark, if inconclusive ending that works well.
Respects (Ramsey Campbell) one of my favourite tales here, an elderly woman is harassed by her neighbours, a particularly objectionable group whose son died when the car he stole crashed, and leads up to a pretty grim conclusion. This is exactly what I hoped for from a writer of Campbell's calibre.
Cold To The Touch (Simon Strantza) an expedition to the Arctic to investigate changes in the ozone layer uncovers a buried prehistoric site, very atmospheric and well worth reading again.
The Game of Bear (M R James and Reggie Oliver) - top marks to Reggie Oliver who completes an unfinished tale by the master of Ghost stories M R James and creates a tale that surely even he would have appreciated, with a subtly dark ending.
Shem-el-Nessim: An Inspiration In Perfume (Chris Bell) a man obsessed with the smell of the perfume worn by a woman he sees only briefly follows her trail to Cairo and uncovers a tale of grave robbing and ancient curses. Not one of my favourites first time round but a well written tale of obsession.
What Happens When You Wake Up In The Night (Michael Marshall Smith) - a family wake up at night, it is dark, they cannot find the lights or even the doors and windows; the truth is not revealed till the last few lines.
The Reunion (Nicholas Royle) a reunion of medical students at a mysterious hotel where things are not what they appear to be. One of the few tales here that did not quite work for me.
Mami Wata (Simon Kurt Unsworth) a man is sent to investigate a drop in production at a Zambian mine and uncovers a local legend.
Venturi (Richard Christian Matheson) short and ambiguously suggestive based on the author's own experiences of the effects of forest fires.
Party Talk (John Gaskin) a man meets a strange woman at a party who tells him a tale of her lost love, an understated but effective ghost story.
Two Steps Along The Road (Terry Dowling) set in Vietnam a man is sent to investigate a woman who appears to have returned from the dead. One of several tales collected here that involve native legends.
The Axholme Toll (Mark Valentine) seeking a place to spend undisturbed over the Christmas holidays a man travels to research the mystery behind the true story of The MS in a Red Box The Ms. in a Red Box. A tale that involves the fate of those involved in the murder of Archbishop Thomas A Becket, almost in the spirit of M R James' "A Warning to The Curious".
Granny's Grinning (Robert Shearman) a great idea and a Christmas gift many children would love, but a zombie is for life not just for Christmas.
In The Garden (Rosalie Parker) short and pretty effective, be wary of people who are obsessed with gardening.
After The Ape (Stephen Volk) a good idea, what happened to Ann Darrow after the death of King Kong, however, apart from the ending it did not work for me.
The Nonesuch (Brian Lumley) another surprise, I am a great fan of Brian Lumley and have lots of his books but this seems an odd choice involving a recurring character of Lumley's to whom strange things just keep happening. A trip to Cornwall, a hotel with a room with a dark history, involving the death of the owner's husband but again it did not work for me.
Princess Of The Night (Michael Kelly) a great story to end on, very short and as the Editor says it is in the spirit of the old EC comics like Tales From The Crypt or Weird Tales.
The back part of the book is the Necrology, a review of genre figures who died in 2009. Some are well known but many I had never heard of, oddly I was reading the write up on David Carradine just as the advert for Kung Fu: The Legend continues appeared on the TV, now which IS really spooky.
I can see how some people don't believe the beginning and end articles are necessary in an anthology such as this; but, even though I did not read them entirely, I picked up some interesting information from them and it would not put me off buying others in the collection.
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent (as always),
I have been reading Stephen Jones Best New Horror series since the start and it never fails to disappoint. Unlike the previous reviewer, it is the inclusion of the comprehensive introduction (which provides, in my opinion, the best review of horror and fantasy books, films and other media to be found anywhere) and the necrology, which for me provides the elements of 'added value' to this series. Not only are the chosen stories the best in their field, but they are somehow put into context. A brief review of my entire 21 volume collection shows these introductions and necrologies to provide a fascinating history of the horror genre on both sides of the Atlantic. A definite must for all fans of the genre.
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The Mammoth Book of Best New Horror 21 by Stephen Jones (Paperback - 19 Oct 2010)