999: New Stories of Horror and Suspense Hardcover – 1 Sep 1999
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Most helpful customer reviews on Amazon.com
Frankly, there are few high points in this collection. Furthermore, the high points of 999 are not particularly striking as far as horror tales go, and are only distinguishable as the points of greatest contrast to the indifferent and unmemorable horror storytelling that comprises most of 999’s entries.
Still some readers might enjoy Tim Power’s haunting & unusual ghost story “Itinerary,” my favorite story here, which manages to be witty, fantastic (in the truest sense of the word), and melancholy without straining for effect. Kim Newman’s lead-off story, set in a U.S.S.R. under siege from walking dead American tourists, is a great, well-written combination of creepy horror and understated black humor, and makes a strong start for the book. Thomas M. Disch’s “The Owl and the Pussycat” delivers a deep bite in the gentle tones of an innocent children’s story. Ramsey Campbell’s “The Entertainment” lacks the potency of much of his stunning short fiction and bears a little too much resemblance to Robert Aickman’s classic chiller “The Hospice,” but is nonetheless a thoroughly sinister piece of work suggesting the unnatural horrors that can hide behind seemingly harmless grins.
But then there’s no avoiding the negatives. Bentley Little’s “The Theater” starts off as a dully written reprise of Ramsey Campbell’s infinitely more frightening “The Show Goes On,” and quickly segues into a goofy psychodrama driven by the zero-personality main character’s unhealthy obsession with vegetables. Stephen King cruises through with a by-the-numbers tale of a demonic painting that could make for a passable episode of NIGHT GALLERY—one could be forgiven for thinking the editor was satisfied enough just having King’s name to plaster on the cover, so minor is his contribution. Peter Schneider’s “Les Saucisses, Sans Doute” might be well-intended in its mockery of the pretensions and cheesy glamor rife in “extreme” splatter-shock horror, but this short piece is too slight, the kind of thing one might scribble up to pass a lazy lunch-hour. Quite disappointingly, T.E.D. Klein’s “Growing Things,” a surprise contribution from this all-too-unprolific writer, also turns out to be a little insubstantial.
The best that can be said is that there are some fine, if unremarkable stories between the covers of 999. However, the “good” stories are not good enough nor in sufficient proportion to invite comparisons with truly exceptional horror anthologies, such as the two volumes mentioned at the beginning, or THE OXFORD BOOK OF ENGLISH GHOST STORIES, THE DARK DESCENT, and the SHADOWS series, to name but a few others.
It's not a bad book - something you might pick up what you have nothing currently at hand you want to read - but certainly not the catalyst that Mr. Sarrantonio envisioned.