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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Best original horror collection in years, 1 Oct. 2011
This review is from: House of Fear: An Anthology of Haunted House Stories (Paperback)
House of Fear collects almost twenty original short stories from some of the top names in horror (including a few that I, embarrassingly, had never read before!). All ostensibly united by the theme of "haunted houses", this isn't a collection of creaky Victorian floorboards - rather, the authors take a far-ranging and creative approach.

Robert Shearman's "The Dark Space in the House in the House in the Garden at the Centre of the World" is a grim little retelling of the Genesis myth, as set in modern suburbia. Mr. Shearman is a cult hero for his weird and terrifying short fiction and this is an excellent start.

Lisa Tuttle ("Objects in Dreams may be Closer than they Appear") and Stephen Volk ("Pied-a-terre") both look into what it is that makes a house special - not the structure, but what it means to a family or couple. Both stories having their hauntings, but they're more likely to elicit a forlorn sniffle than a shriek. They're good horror, but they make you think.

For more overtly horrifying tales, Jonathan Green ("The Doll's House), Adam Nevill ("Florrie") and Weston Ochse ("Driving the Milky Way") will all make you lose sleep. Mr. Green, known more for his swashbuckling fantasy series, unveils an unexpected dark side in this tale of a crumbling family and the difficulties of raising a child. Adam Nevill's tale has a similar theme, but in the case of "Florrie", it isn't about children, it is about the elderly. Mr. Nevill makes a grandmotherly parlour into a truly horrible place. Mr. Ochse's haunted house is a caravan in the middle of the desert - a playhouse for children over the summer and the gateway to a terrible obssession.

There are some traditional tales, but even those have unique spins. Rebecca Levene's "The Windmill" is the closest to the Victorian ghost story/morality play model, but it takes place in Brixton Prison and follows a truly damned soul as his comeuppance catches up with him. Joe Lansdale's "What Happened to Me" reminds me a bit of Arthur Machen's "The Willows" with its portrayal of the sinister atmosphere of an isolated house and its surrounding orchard. Mr. Lansdale is a little more overt than Mr. Machen, so some of his trademark action sneaks in.

Like any anthology, there are some slow points. Sarah Pinborough's "The Room Upstairs" was a little slow - relying on an emotional connection between two characters that only grudgingly grew into fruition. Garry Kilworth's "Moretta" was, if anything, the reverse - a rapid plunge through a very traditional sort of haunted house that had a twist ending with no foreshadowing and much explanation, a pet peeve with this sort of literature. Finally, Nicholas Royle's "Inside/Out" was simply 'not my thing'. Given more space to play (e.g. his new novel, Regicide), I enjoy his work more. But the complexity introduced in a few short pages made it hard for me to enjoy.

Overall, this is an incredibly strong collection - I remember reading the first half dozen stories and then consciously realizing that I'd liked each and every one of them. That's such a rare feeling with an anthology or collection of any sort. But editor Jonathan Oliver has put together over 400 pages of really good stuff.
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