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A Mixed Bag
on 30 July 2012
This anthology contains contributions by some of the best known modern horror writers, but strangely I found their offerings the weakest of the collection.
I am a great fan of King, Campbell and Lindqvist, and have read nearly everything they have produced, so I was really looking forward to reading their stories. The story by Stephen King failed to grip, scare, enthrall or even really hold my interest, although the characters were well drawn and the dialogue convincing. The Campbell story was just not original, the premise of a ghastly game show has been done before, so it was far too easy to predict where this story was headed. The novella by Lindqvist was better, but when he veered away from the psychological chills that he does so well, and launched into an overblown and unpleasant account of child torture, I was disappointed.
The stories I enjoyed most, were by authors I have never encountered before. The Reggie Oliver novella "A Child's Problem" was an excellent piece of gothic fiction, that reminded me of some of the great Victorian and Edwardian masters of the genre. "Near Zennor" by Elizabeth Hand (another novella) was set in modern times, and was atmospheric, creepy and full of suspense. Brian Hodge's "Roots and All" took an American backwoods setting and created a disturbing intertwining of rustic superstitions with the problems of a spreading culture of drugs dependency and production.
I will definitely be seeking out further stories and novels by Oliver, Hand and Hodge, and their offerings should merit a 5 star rating, but unfortunately the rest of the anthology is fairly mediocre. I appreciate that everybody has different tastes in horror, and that this anthology is trying to appeal to a wide audience, but the poor contributions by some of my favourite authors dragged down my overall enjoyment of this book.