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4.1 out of 5 stars
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4.1 out of 5 stars
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on 27 April 2017
I got this years ago, and have only just got around to reading it. I see mixed responses among the other reviews, but I thoroughly enjoyed it. Depends what you mean by 'horror' I suppose; if you expect lots of gross and grue, 'sledge-hammer to crack a nut' material, this won't satisfy you. If you prefer intriguing, subtle, psychological, 'is it genuinely paranormal, or imagined, or a faulty mental construct?' tales, you will love this, as I did.
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TOP 100 REVIEWERVINE VOICEon 3 January 2013
Have to say I was bowled over by some of these stories and, yes, I'd willingly agree with other reviewers who point the way to "The Music of Bengt Karlsson, Murderer" by John Ajvide Lindqvist as being the best of the bunch however; "Charcloth, Firesteel and Flint" by Caitlin R. Kiernan is possibly the most unique and original. I'm particulalry impressed that A Book of Horrors features several female writers, Caitlin R. Kiernan, Angela Slatter, Lisa Tuttle & Elizabeth Hand who are all new to me and bring a breath of fresh air to the horror genre. That old stalwart of everything twisted and surreal, of course I'm talking Mr. Stephen King, starts off the collection with his own short story "The Little Green God of Agony" and it's Stephen King at his best; a tried and tested formula, possession and exorcism, given his own unique twist with darkly, horrible, comic undertones. Some of the stories are long and some, "Tell Me I'll See You Again by Dennis Etchison" for instance, shorter and perfect for a quick read when you only have limited time. There's a contribution from each author as they explain where they found the inspiration for their indiviudal stories and an introduction by Stephen Jones. Obviously, I found a couple of the stories disappointing, that's always going to happen with a collection by such diverse authors, but I can honestly say that it's worth spening money on the download just for the King and Lindqvist contributions and, who knows, like me you might find yourself introduced to a new writer you'll want to read in the future.

Contents:-

Introduction:- Whatever Happened to Horror? Stephen Jones
The Little Green God of Agony - Stephen King
Charcloth, Firesteel and Flint - Caitlin R. Kiernan
Ghosts with Teeth - Peter Crowther
The Coffin-Maker's Daughter - Angela Slatter
Roots and All - Brian Hodge
Tell Me I'll See You Again - Dennis Etchison
The Music of Bengt Karlsson, Murderer - John Ajvide Lindqvist
Getting it Wrong - Ramset Campbell
Alice Through the Plastic Sheet - Robert Shearman
The Man in the Ditch - Lisa Tuttle
A Child's Problem - Reggie Oliver
Sad, Dark Thing - Michael Marshall Smith
Near Zennor - Elizabeth Hand
Last Words - Richard Christian Matheson
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on 5 November 2013
About half these short stories were good, the other half not so much. Something for all horror lovers here. The two stories at he beginning were the best for me.
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on 5 September 2012
Stephen Jones is the editor of the long running horror anthology series "Best New Horror" published by Robinson and here he produces a book to rival, and possibly beat those books for Jo Fletcher publishers.

Jones opens the book with a short introduction entitled "Whatever Happened To Horror". It's an enjoyable 'rant' which I fully agree with and bodes well for the rest of the book.

Directly following on from the introduction is the master of horror Stephen King and from there the quality of the book rarely dips. Of course with a volume of this size (427 pages) and this many stories (14) there are likely to be one or two that don't quite hit the spot but generally each tale is worth reading and, as you would expect from authors such as Ramsey Campbell, Dennis Etchison, John Ajivde Lindqvist, Lisa Tuttle, Michael Marshall Smith, the quality of writing is very good indeed.

As the nights draw in and one's thoughts turn to October and inevitably Halloween you could do a lot worse than have this on your dressing table to read before finally turning in for the night. Be warned. I cannot suggest that sleep will come easily afterwards.
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on 27 June 2012
I'll admit that I'm not a lover of anthologies. I own several, including Robert Aickman's Cold Hand in Mine and Ramsey Campbell's Superhorror. I've had those some years and still haven't read all the stories in them. I always prefer to read a novel by a writer I like or have just discovered. A Book of Horrors is, I must say, a hefty slab in hardback and has a splendidly creepy cover, but I have been skirting around it for longer than I should. Not for the first time in my life, I've been a fool.

This collection of short stories, edited by Stephen James and published by Jo Fletcher Books assembles original works from no fewer than fourteen accomplished horrorists. The list includes Stephen King, Ramsey Campbell, Peter Crowther, Robert Shearman and John Ajvide Linqvist.

Now, it's no secret chez moi that I'm a Lindqvist fan. I have loved everything he's ever written. So it was his contribution that I went to first. The Music of Bengt Karlsson, Murderer is a splendidly chilling tale, and one of which Lindqvist himself says "It might be the one story I have written that has scared me the most......I wrote on in a state of mild but constant horror...It was a relief when it was over."

For me, quite unashamedly, A Book of Horrors is well worth having just for the Lindqvist contribution, but I'd be doubly foolish to overlook all of the others that sit so well with it between these superbly crafted covers. To have so many of the best horror writers of our day to dip in and out of makes for a must-have book.

The big surprise is the introduction from editor Stephen Jones, to my mind, a work of genius in itself. To quote from it:

"What the Hell happened to the horror genre?...These days our bloodsuckers are more likely to show their romantic nature, werewolves work for government organisations, phantoms are private investigators and the walking dead can be found sipping tea amongst the polite society of a Jane Austen novel.....Today we are living in a world that is 'horror-lite'...This appalling appellation was coined by publishers to describe the type of fiction that is currently enjoying massive success under such genres as 'paranormal romance', 'urban fantasy', 'literary mash-up' or even 'steampunk'...these books are not aimed at readers of traditional horror stories."

Thank heavens - or maybe Hell - that someone knows what we really want.

A Book of Horrors. 5 stars from me. Buy it - if only for the introduction!
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on 29 September 2013
Very good collection of short stories, some of which are excellent & only a couple that aren't quite at the same standard.

Kicking off with Stephen King's 'The Little Green God Of Agony' and ending with Richard Christian Matheson's 'Last Words' there is something in this book for every horror fan.

My personal favourites (aside from 'The Little Green God Of Agony') are 'The Music of Bengt Karlsson, Murderer' by John Ajvide Lindqvist and 'Near Zennor' by Elizabeth Hand.

A couple of the others seem a little rushed & just as the tale gets really interesting it ends which is a shame as they could have gone so much further.
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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.
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on 13 October 2013
In his introduction to this book, Stephen Jones leaves himself a lot to live up, suggesting that the horror anthology has been sorely lacking lately and that his book is an attempt to address this problem. Well, how did he do?

Let me take each tale at a time.

The book kicks off with Stephen King's `The Little Green God of Agony'. Despite hearing from others that this tale was King-lite, I rather enjoyed it. I don't think it's particularly frightening, but it has fun with issues of faith, medicine and money - the three peaks of US politics at the moment. A solid start.

I enjoyed Caitlan Kiernan's `Charcloth, Firesteel and Flint' a great deal, with its incendiary central character and powerful allusions to various forms of "Armageddon". Like a Poe prose-poem with erotic undergirdings. A fine piece.

Peter Crowther is next, with his Bradburyesque small-town tale `Ghosts with Teeth'. The prose is quite cute, and not everybody digs that, but there's no denying the power of some of the imagery (especially the cellar scene) and its headlong storytelling never lets up. I really enjoyed it.

`The Coffin-Maker's Daughter' by Angela Slatter wasn't really my kind of thing, but it was likeable enough. I don't really feel qualified to comment here, so will restrict my words to these.

`Roots and All' by Brian Hodge is a powerful novella, with all kinds of hints and allusions and garish pagan moments. I really enjoyed it. The subplot involving meth was pungent.

Dennis Etchison is next with `Tell Me I'll See You Again'. Nice to see the old master back with new fiction, every word of which is essential to the telling. And while the overall effect was slightly lost on me, I appreciated the economy of the prose and punchy, dark sentiment.

I first read John Ajvide Lindqvuist's `The Music of Bengt Karlsson, Murderer' in Best New Horror and quite enjoyed it. I felt perhaps it tried to pack too many strange episodes into its medium length, and as a result, its overall impact was diminished by a certain thinness in the writing and characterisation. It reminded me of Jonathan Aycliffe's work (remember him, folks?) and it was solid enough.

Next up is Ramsey Campbell's creepy, arch `Getting It Wrong'. Some wonderful writing here, as usual, and a semi-comic, semi-horrific story set very much in our modern cultural world. Few do it better, and this is another fine example. Frugo!

Then we have the weird and wonderful `Alice Through the Plastic Sheet' by Robert Shearman. I loved this a compelling, comical, genuinely strange story. I'm a big Ayckbourn fan, and I can detect the old master's approach deep in Shearman's prose, but that's all to the good. How they both demolition Mr. Everyday's pretensions and long may they continue to do so.

`The Man in the Ditch' by Lisa Tuttle didn't feel like her best work. Again there's a sense of too much crammed into too little space, and the overall impact isn't particularly powerful.

Reggie Oliver's `A Child's Problem' is a fine novella, very traditional, but building to a suitably grisly Jamesian conclusion with added psychological resonance for good measure. Thoroughly enjoyed it.

Then we reach the jewels in the crown of this particular book: Michael Marshall Smith's `Sad, Dark Thing' and Elizabeth Hand's `Near Zennor'. Both are incredible pieces of fiction that will live with me for years, the reason I continue reading all this stuff. Smith's tale is genuinely pungent and frightening, with the dark void at its heart resonating in a way nothing tangible ever could. Similarly, Hand's Aickmanian mystery possesses an accumulative power that leaves you thinking with that deep-rooted tingling in the gut, which every fan of classic weird fiction will recognise. Marvellous stuff, both.

Richard Christian Matheson wraps things up with the tart, punchy `Last Words', a real chiller that sticks around only long enough to break a bone or two. Nice way to end the antho.

So, did Jones set out to achieve what he pledges to in the intro? I'd say it was a qualified success. The book no way has the scope and depth of, say, Dark Forces, but at its best, it contains fiction good enough to appear in any great collection. In all, I'd give it a solid 8 out of 10, elevated to that on the strength of the Smith and the Hand, with sterling supporting performances put in by Kiernan, Crowther, Hodge, Campbell, Shearman and Oliver.
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on 24 July 2014
I am not a book critic. Why some of the stories ended being chosen for this book I will never understand.

Most of the stories are rubbish. Some I actually skipped after reading a few pages. Boring, predictable, not very well written. Some are bordering sick.

Three I liked. One by Stephen King and two others set in England. They were much deeper and provoked some thought, this is what I want from a good book. Hence the two stars from me.

It just proves that writing a good short story (let alone a good horror story) is very difficult.
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on 26 October 2013
Very enjoyable collection of stories, I love horror/ghost anthologies and this fitted the bill perfectly. It was also cheap as a kindle download- always a good selling point to a tightwad like me.

I enjoyed "Getting it Wrong" and "The Little Green God....", both good stories.

My favourites were "a Child's Problem", based on a rather strange picture by the artist Richard Dadd. It had tones of M.R James in there, and the child at the centre of the tale was a singularly horrible little brat: a great tale.

I enjoyed "Near Zennor", quite a long and haunting story. It had an eerie and quite melancholic feel to it.

"The Man in The Ditch", by Lisa Tuttle was a great tale, though I found the dialogue a bit stilted in places. The central character was being haunted, after a fashion, by the ghost of an iron age human sacrifice- a "bog man". Tuttle was inspired to write this after seeing the cover of the book by P V Glob "The Bog People".
I remember my uncle having the book by Glob when I was a child, and it's made me want to buy it now.

I would say this is one of the better collections of horror stories I have read recently.
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