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4.0 out of 5 stars A Great Set of Spooky Stories, 10 Oct. 2011
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This review is from: House of Fear: An Anthology of Haunted House Stories (Paperback)
It is just under a year since I reviewed Jonathan Oliver's first collection of themed original horror shorts, The End of the Line. That was, I thought, an excellent collection overall, and therfore I've been excited for this second anthology ever since it was first announced. House of Fear has the classic haunted house as its theme. This is heavily traversed ground and so the challenge here, far more than with the previous collection, is to find original and exciting ways to tell these stories. I'm pleased to say the contributors to the House of Fear have succeeded admirably in this regard.

First up is Objects In Dreams May Be Closer Than They Appear by veteran supernatural scribe, Lisa Tuttle. This is a great opener to the collection, and one which I feel perfectly sets the tone for the anthology as a whole. Focusing as it does on the search for a rural idyll and a house that may not even exist. It is well told and shows from the outset that this is a collection happy to play creatively with its theme.

Up next is one of the standout stories in the collection for me, Pied-Á-Terre by Stephen Volk. Volk is one of a number of contributors to House of Fear who also contributed to The End of the Line. This tale is poignant and understated, taking as its basis a real event and using its haunting as a warning to spur the protagonist into making a key decision about her life. It is expertly done. This is followed by another great story, In the Absence Of Murdoch, by Terry Lamsley. Lamsley is one of a handful of writers in this anthology whose work is previously unknown to me, but this quirky, darkly mischievous and very enjoyable tale has placed him firmly on my radar.

Adam Nevill is a writer whose work I am familiar with, and who, in my opinion, is very skilled at crafting tales of unease. His contribution is one of several which touch upon the subject of old age. Florrie is a sad tale that is haunting in ways not limited to the supernatural. Christopher Fowler is another whose contribution has a theme related to the elderly, but in this instance, An Injustice didn't work for me as well as the others. I wasn't entirely convinced by the actions of a key character. Also, a crucial aspect of this story brought to mind a tabloid rant, in which an elderly white woman in a multi-racial inner city, the mother of a serving soldier in Afghanistan, is the victim of Asian Hoodlums. Tim Lebbon's tale, Trick Of The Light, completes the trinity of tales that have ageing as part of their theme. Like Nevill's earlier, it is melancholic and infused with sadness and regret. It is a potent evocation of the haunting nature of memory.

Sarah Pinborough is another writer whose work is well known to me. Her story, The Room Upstairs, is actually a kind of slow burn love story. I really liked it, and it stood out for me as having a character quite different from all the other contributions without trying hard to be different. That by Robert Shearman, conversely, did feel like it was trying hard to be different. The Dark Space In The House In The House In The Garden At The Centre Of The World although clever in some aspects, left me with mixed feelings overall.

Characteristically surreal, Inside/Out by Nicholas Royle may not be as captivating as his story in the End of The Line, but is still memorable for its twisting unreality. It may also leave you scratching your head, wondering what the heck you just read. Driving The Milky Way by Weston Ochse is a spirited number in more than just the obvious ways. It is a striking tale which brings to mind strong images and creates a lasting impression. More conventional (but no less effective) tales are provided by Jonathan Green and Paul Meloy, both Villanova and the Doll's House are disturbing, and each builds to a powerful conclusion.

With so many excellent tales, choosing the best from among them is a difficult task. Aside from those already mentioned, Christopher Priest is a definite contender. Willow Weeds is a mesmerising tale of misdirection with a unique take on the concept of haunting, and it's completely brilliant. Another strong contender is the closing tale from Joe R. Lansdale, What Happened To Me wraps up the collection perfectly with its weird fiction undertones and elemental haunting.

The House of Fear is a great set of stories. An anthology that deserves to be in every horror fans collection. Editor, Jonathan Oliver is rapidly shaping up to be a key name in horror anthologies, soon able, if this standard continues, to take his place alongside the likes of Stephen Jones and Ellen Datlow. I haven't mentioned all of the stories featured, and of course, I preferred some more than others, but there really are no bad stories in House of Fear. This collection contains some of the best writers of horror and supernatural fiction at work today as well as some of the field's rising stars. I'm already impatient for the next of these themed anthologies. You should be too.
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Showing 1-1 of 1 posts in this discussion
Initial post: 25 Jul 2012 15:43:14 BDT
Thank you for your interesting and comprehensive review which has certainly aided me in my choice of what sounds like a great collection of stories.
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