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For over three decades, Ellen Datlow has been at the center of horror. Bringing you the most frightening and terrifying stories, Datlow always has her finger on the pulse of what horror readers crave. Now, with the seventh volume of this series, Datlow is back again to bring you the stories that will keep you up at night.Encompassed in the pages of The Best Horror of the Y For over three decades, Ellen Datlow has been at the center of horror. Bringing you the most frightening and terrifying stories, Datlow always has her finger on the pulse of what horror readers crave. Now, with the seventh volume of this series, Datlow is back again to bring you the stories that will keep you up at night.Encompassed in the pages of The Best Horror of the Year have been such illustrious writers as: Neil GaimanKim RobinsonStephen KingLinda NagataLaird BarronMargo LanaganAnd many othersWith each passing year, science, technology, and the march of time shine light into the craggy corners of the universe, making the fears of an earlier generation seem quaint. But this light creates its own shadows. The Best Horror of the Year chronicles these shifting shadows. It is a catalog of terror, fear, and unpleasantness, as articulated by today s most challenging and exciting writers."


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For over three decades, Ellen Datlow has been at the center of horror. Bringing you the most frightening and terrifying stories, Datlow always has her finger on the pulse of what horror readers crave. Now, with the seventh volume of this series, Datlow is back again to bring you the stories that will keep you up at night.Encompassed in the pages of The Best Horror of the Y For over three decades, Ellen Datlow has been at the center of horror. Bringing you the most frightening and terrifying stories, Datlow always has her finger on the pulse of what horror readers crave. Now, with the seventh volume of this series, Datlow is back again to bring you the stories that will keep you up at night.Encompassed in the pages of The Best Horror of the Year have been such illustrious writers as: Neil GaimanKim RobinsonStephen KingLinda NagataLaird BarronMargo LanaganAnd many othersWith each passing year, science, technology, and the march of time shine light into the craggy corners of the universe, making the fears of an earlier generation seem quaint. But this light creates its own shadows. The Best Horror of the Year chronicles these shifting shadows. It is a catalog of terror, fear, and unpleasantness, as articulated by today s most challenging and exciting writers."

30 review for The Best Horror of the Year: Volume Seven

  1. 5 out of 5

    Bob/Sally

    Ellen Datlow is probably one of the hardest working editors in speculative fiction. She was responsible for a whopping 21 volumes of The Year's Best Fantasy and Horror (from 1988 through 2008), and when that series came to end she launched The Best Horror of the Year, which hit bookshelves this year with Volume Seven. Even if you only dabble in the stories, her Summation of the year is always required reading. She recaps the genre awards, and offers her exhaustive thoughts on the most notable nov Ellen Datlow is probably one of the hardest working editors in speculative fiction. She was responsible for a whopping 21 volumes of The Year's Best Fantasy and Horror (from 1988 through 2008), and when that series came to end she launched The Best Horror of the Year, which hit bookshelves this year with Volume Seven. Even if you only dabble in the stories, her Summation of the year is always required reading. She recaps the genre awards, and offers her exhaustive thoughts on the most notable novels, anthologies, collections, magazine,webzines, and other odds-and-ends from throughout the year. If you're ever stuck for good horror to rear, that Summation is where you begin. Of the 22 stories she has selected, ranging in length from 2,500 to 10,000 words, there are 5 that I feel compelled to call out as required reading. The Culvert by Dale Bailey is a short novel, taking place long after the horrific event in question. It's a tale of diverging paths, of twin souls and bodies, that leaves you with the unsettling question of where one went and just which one survived. the worms crawl in by Laird Barron starts out as your typical tale of a cuckolded husband plotting revenge, segues into the predictable double-cross, and then gets really interesting when he claws his way out of the grave. It's a story of monsters born and monsters made, that makes you wonder where the true evil begins. Persistence of Vision by Orrin Grey is one of the two Canadian entries in the collection, with a self-aware sort of narrative structure that immediately draws you in. From one of the most intriguing openings I've ever come across, to one of the saddest closings, it's a melancholy tale of a ghostly apocalypse. Departures by Carole Johnstone immediately distinguishes itself with the unusual setting of an airport departure lounge, teases us with the promise of terror within a pair of feet, and then just gets creepier and more unsettling from there. Nigredo by Cody Goodfellow is the story of a 'exit counselor', the kind of man who helps families rescue their loved ones from cults, and the militant bibliomancy cult, Ex Libris. Perhaps the smartest, more cerebral thriller in the bunch, it's written to draw readers in. Most of the stories contained within Volume Seven are what I would call post-modern horror, dealing more with thoughts and emotions than blood and guts, so there are bound to be some readers who question the makeup here. As much as I still prefer the brutal, bloody, blasphemous books with which I grew up, there were still enough solid scares here to make it worth reading. Originally reviewed at Beauty in Ruins Disclaimer: I received a complimentary ARC of this title from the publisher in exchange for review consideration.This does not in any way affect the honesty or sincerity of my honest review.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Frank Errington

    Review copy The Best Horror of the Year - Volume 7, edited by the amazing Ellen Datlow, brings together twenty-two diverse authors in a collection that features a little bit of everything the horror genre has to offer. It truly does have something for everyone. Ellen has been at this for a long time. An editor of science fiction, fantasy, and horror short fiction for more than 30 years and has more than 50 anthologies to her credit. "The Atlas of Hell" by Nathan Ballingrud. Nathan's work has appea Review copy The Best Horror of the Year - Volume 7, edited by the amazing Ellen Datlow, brings together twenty-two diverse authors in a collection that features a little bit of everything the horror genre has to offer. It truly does have something for everyone. Ellen has been at this for a long time. An editor of science fiction, fantasy, and horror short fiction for more than 30 years and has more than 50 anthologies to her credit. "The Atlas of Hell" by Nathan Ballingrud. Nathan's work has appeared in numerous Years' Best anthologies and is a two time recipient of the Shirley Jackson Award. In this story Tobias George is selling artifacts from Hell and making lot of money in the process. Collected from the Fearful Symmetries anthology. "Winter Children" by Angela Slater. Angela is the first Australian to win a British Fantasy Award. Her writing is definitely a cut above in this story of revenge set in a nursing home. From Voyager PS 32/33. "A Dweller in Amenty" by Genevieve Valentine. Her stories have appeared in several Best of the Year Anthologies. This one is about making a living as a sin eater. Originally published in Nightmare #18. "Outside Heavenly" by Rio Youers. Rio's novel Westlake Soul was nominated for Canada's Sunburst Award. In this story no one is too upset when Beau Roth's burned body is found headless in the remains of his house. If you aren't reading Rio Youers, correct this right away. This story was in The Spectral Book of Horror Stories. "Shay Corsham Worsted" by Garth Nix. Garth makes his home in Sydney, Australia and has been writing full time since 2001 and has sold more than five million copies of his books. A very enjoyable story of forgotten tech. This one first appeared in Fearful Symmetries. "Allochton" from Livia Llewellyn. Her work has been nominated for multiple Shirley Jackson Awards. This short is a tip of the hat to H.P. Lovecraft. Originally in Letters to Lovecraft. "Chapter Six" by Stephen Graham Jones. Stephen is the author of fifteen novels and six short story collections. Many of his shorts have been published in Best of the Year anthologies. "Chapter Six" is the closest we get to a zombie story in this anthology and is more about a study of anthropology during the apocalypse. First appeared on Tor.com. "This Is Not For You" by Gemma Files. Gemma was the winner of the 1999 International Horror Guild Best Short Fiction Award. Here we have a mystery religion for women only. From the Women Destroy Horror issue of Nightmare magazine. "Interstate Love Song (Murder Ballad No. 8)" by Caitlin R Kiernan. Caitlin was recently named by the New York Times as "one of our essential authors of dark fiction." One of my favorites in the anthology. The title says it all. I easily became lost in the prose which I found to be lyrical yet callous. Originally published in Sirenia Digest 100. "The Culvert" by Dale Bailey. Dale has been nominated for numerous awards including the International Horror Guild Award, the Nebula Award, the Shirley Jackson Award, and a Bram Stoker Award. Here a twin goes missing, but which one? This short was originally in The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction. "Past Reno" by Brian Evenson. Brian is the author of more than a dozen books, most recently the short story collection Windeye and the novel Immobility. In this story, following the death of his estranged father, Bernt has second thoughts of driving all the way to Utah for the reading of the will. Originally published in Letters to Lovecraft. "The Coat Off His Back" from Keris McDonald. A captivating original concept about an Innocent Coat. Originally in Terror Tales of Yorkshire. "The Worms Crawl" by Laird Barron. Laird is the author of several books and his short stories have appeared in many magazines and anthologies. This story is about a plot to murder and a double-cross in the great outdoors. Originally published in Fearful Symmetries. "The Dogs Home" Alison Littlewood. Aunt Rose is spending her last days in a nursing home and wants nothing more than to see her beloved dog, Sandy, one more time. Her nephew Andrew is more than happy to make it happen. This story first appeared in The Spectral Book of Horror Stories. "Persistence of Vision" from Orrin Grey. Orrin was born on the night before Halloweeen. We've all read tales of the coming zombie apocalypse, but what if it's not zombies, but ghosts we should be worried about. First published in Fractured: Tales of the Canadian Post-Apocalypse. "It Flows From the Mouth" by Robert Shearman. Robert's five short story collections have earned him a number of prestigious awards. John is named godfather to Max and Lisa's son Ian in this strange and creepy story. This one originally appeared in Shadows & Tall Trees 2014. "Wingless Beasts" by Lucy Taylor. Lucy is the author of seven novels including The Safety of Unknown Cities which earned her a Stoker Award. I loved this story of the life of a loner in Death Valley. This was from her collection Fatal Journeys. "Departures" by Carole Johnstone. Story of a girl working a store at one of the departure terminals at an airport and what she sees one day in the lounge. This story first appeared in The Bright Day Is Done. "Ymir" from John Langan. John is one of the founders of the Shirley Jackson Award. Here we have a story with a touch of Norse mythology. This tale was originally published in The Children of Old Leech. "Plink" by Kurt Dinan. Kurt teaches high school English in Cincinnati and will see his first novel published in 2016. By far, this was my favorite story, the tale of a psych class playing with the mind of their teacher when he returns following bereavement leave. This story first appeared in Far Voyager PS 32/33. "Nigredo" from Cody Goodfellow. This is the story of a cult deprogrammer and his secret weapon. It was originally published in The Court of the Yellow King. In a collection this ambitious there are bound to be a few tales that don't quite hit the mark for every reader. At least I found that to be the case for me. The Best Horror of the Year - Volume 7 is published by Night Shade Books and is available in both paperback and ebook formats. Recommended.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Richard Thomas

    While I didn't LOVE every story, a number of these tales definitely blew me away. I always love Stephen Graham Jones, but other stand outs include Genevieve Valentine, Rio Youers, Garth Nix, Dale Bailey, Brian Evenson, and Livia Llewellyn. While I didn't LOVE every story, a number of these tales definitely blew me away. I always love Stephen Graham Jones, but other stand outs include Genevieve Valentine, Rio Youers, Garth Nix, Dale Bailey, Brian Evenson, and Livia Llewellyn.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Randolph

    This is a well above average annual "best of" anthology that is either a product of superior editing or maybe just representation of an exceptionally productive year. Maybe both. Anyway, Datlow does a good job of drawing some good stuff together. I have a love/hate relationship with both awards and the critical portion of the foreword in these annuals. I guess an enumeration of awards is okay, but even the inclusion of a list points towards an editorial bias versus true independence. The annual h This is a well above average annual "best of" anthology that is either a product of superior editing or maybe just representation of an exceptionally productive year. Maybe both. Anyway, Datlow does a good job of drawing some good stuff together. I have a love/hate relationship with both awards and the critical portion of the foreword in these annuals. I guess an enumeration of awards is okay, but even the inclusion of a list points towards an editorial bias versus true independence. The annual horror and fantasy awards are such a transparent circle jerk. There seems to be some effort by the various judicial committees to throw a bone to the emerging writers but the choices often make one wonder whether the judges actually read the entries or just picked something off the upper part of the pile without looking. Whoa, a lot of wind there! Once again I'm not sure I agree with Datlow about the notable novels for the year etc. but it's a good reference starting point for reading even if I suppose there are a lot of bummed out writers each year that probably produced better "best" stuff. Lastly, I think there were too many nods to Datlow's own anthology, "Fearful Symmetries" between both the "winners" and the "honorable mentions." Fully TEN stories from this collection are noted. I didn't think the anthology was that strong myself and the thing just smells of shill anyway. My worthless two cents.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Shawn

    Another "Year's Best" anthology sunk. FIRST TIER - Pretty much by now you should know what you're getting. A bunch of modern horror stories collected under the sensibility of an editor - you buys your ticket, you takes your chances. SECOND TIER - Datlow, as opposed to Jones (and his BEST NEW line) tends to favor the experimental and the poetic over the traditional and the direct - each to their benefits and faults, not to mention your personal tastes. This one seemed to have slightly less of the u Another "Year's Best" anthology sunk. FIRST TIER - Pretty much by now you should know what you're getting. A bunch of modern horror stories collected under the sensibility of an editor - you buys your ticket, you takes your chances. SECOND TIER - Datlow, as opposed to Jones (and his BEST NEW line) tends to favor the experimental and the poetic over the traditional and the direct - each to their benefits and faults, not to mention your personal tastes. This one seemed to have slightly less of the usual outstanding quality, in number at least, than usual, but these things fluctuate. THIRD TIER - As usual, the "Summation" is less of a drag than Jones' "Year In...", but not by much and that's mostly down to her writing style. So many of the briefed novels sound the same, so much PRODUCT...sigh.... As usual, weakest to strongest: No "out and out" awful stories here (as might be expected, given the organizing principal), but a few weaker ones. Unfortunately, the book opens with Nathan Ballingrud's "The Atlas Of Hell" in which a dealer in occult books is drawn back into organized crime by a Mob boss with a problem. Urban fantasy is not my bag and here its terse, clipped noir/crime dialogue filigreed with horror elements (demons, monsters) and - while well-written (the author has the hard-bitten style down) it seems to be lacking an ending and so feels like an excerpt from a work in progress. "Winter Children" by Angela Slatter immediately follows, in which a young woman passively abducts and old woman from a rest home, in pursuit of a nefarious (but mistaken) goal. Eh. Okay and - again - well written but a bit more of a mystery/thriller with horror elements than an actual horror story. Genevieve Valentine's "A Dweller in Amenty" comes next - laying out the processes of a modern sin-eater for the wealthy classes - and having not read my Elizabeth Walter in a while and with only my memories of NIGHT GALLERY to go on re: the practice, this struck me as more of a piece of poetic dark fantasy than a horror story proper, which Datlow has a penchant for anyway. Not bad, but a but flowery and unfocused. So that's the first three stories in the book, which doesn't bode well. It isn't until Brian Evenson's "Past Reno" that we hit another rough patch. This tale of man taking a trip to claim his father's inheritance, a trip that continues to increase in strangeness, struck me as "Evenson does Denis Etchison, or maybe Robert Aickman, with all that implies (evocative and well told, but solid answers to questions like "what was in the storm cellar?" or "what was up with that mirror" will not be forthcoming - the imagery is allusive/symbolic and the goal is ambiguity). Nice, but not what I was looking for. Later, Alison Littlewood's "The Dog's Home" gives us something like a conté cruel, except the build towards the nasty climax is the focus, not the cruelty, as well as something gesturing towards a possible ghost story but still, this is all about getting there, not that element (which seems almost like an afterthought). Not bad, but a long way to go for a sick punchline. Similarly, "It Flows From The Mouth" by Robert Shearman, in which a man spends a night of bizarre experiences visiting an old friend and his wife (said experiences partially involving their memorial fountain to their dead son in their lush landscaped garden) is an odd tale - engaging and unnerving and almost more of one of those "tales of unease" - and I'm not sure just what it was striving towards. Finally, there's a brief outlining of how "the ghost apocalypse" lays the world low in Orrin Grey's "Persistence Of Vision". I like and respect Orrin's writing and have featured his work many times (and soon again for Halloween 2018) on my horror fiction podcast Pseudopod, but I was not a fan of his story here. There's some great imagery here but I found the main conceit - a quippy millenial pop-culture referencing "meta" voice that deploys the "story" - to be too distancing of a stylistic conceit, undermining any suspense and excusing a lack of story. There were a handful of good but shaky stories. "Chapter Six" by Stephen Graham Jones follows a college professor and his graduate student through a series of "post-Zombie Apocalypse" experiments, as the situation is the perfect circumstances in which to validate the student's dissertation thesis about the rise of human consciousness and dietary habits. Not bad, but zomb-apoc stories are kind of played out for me. Caitlín R. Kiernan's "Interstate Love Song (Murder Ballad No. 8)" is like Natural Born Killers crossed with Thelma And Louise and told through the stylistic lens of Jack Kerouac's On the Road as large blocks of stream-of-consciousness "mad road driving" beat poetics detail the murder/torture spree of two lovers. Succeeds more as an experiment (Kerouac horror) than as a story (the ending is a bit weak) but I generally liked it. Invertedly, "The Culvert" by Dale Bailey tells of the disappearance of a man's brother when they were kids, swallowed up in an ever-changing (and seemingly infinite) series of inexplicable tunnels. "Invertedly," following the Kiernan, because "Culvert" is told in short, fractured, staccato bursts of text. "the worms crawl in" by Laird Barron starts with a simple set-up: a cuckolded husband with a sadistic streak relishes his opportunity to take a camping trip alone with his wife's lover, but it unexpectedly turns a corner into psychedelic pulp-revenge. And just as it seems to be wrapping up in that mode, turns again into Symbolist cosmic horror. It was engaging, but only that last turn seemed a turn too far. In similar Barron territory (it's even dedicated to him), "Ymir" by John Langan has a capable young woman (veteran of a "Blackwater" styled security force in Iraq) take a job as bodyguard for a wealthy man in search of another wealthy man's secret hidden at the bottom of a disused Alaskan diamond mine, a secret involving esoteric occult experiments that are attempting to contact the dismembered titan whose body constitutes the entirety of the universe. This brought to mind Langan's previous "In Paris, In The Mouth Of Kronos", and Barron's work, with its focus on titans, wealthy evil men, hardened neo-military types and cosmic horror. Engaging, and a great set-up, but for all that I felt that somewhere near the end that it was referencing other works or series characters I hadn't read - like a novella jammed into a short form. Cool but unfocused. Similarly widescreen, "Tread Upon The Brittle Shell" by Rhoads Brazos starts well, with a spelunker descending into the deepest space ever found, in an Australian cavern, only to disturb something she shouldn't have. This has a nice build-up, very suspenseful, but its married to a big-budget movie spectacle climax which wasn't bad but seemed like an odd turn given the claustrophobic start. Meanwhile, a downtrodden woman who works nights at an airport departure lounge finds herself repeatedly plagued by a malevolent, decaying figure in "Departures" by Carole Johnstone. Not bad, if a bit overwritten. As for the solid "good" stories: "Outside Heavenly" by Rio Youers is a good example of crime fiction mixed with horror that is decidedly NOT "urban fantasy." A disastrous fire kills an unpopular local man in rural Pennsylvania, while his adult daughter is traumatized and his granddaughter missing. Upon the police interview, the daughter has worse things to tell of. I liked this story - the first half is dark and heavy, full of the details of a hard and disappointing life, while the second unexpectedly moves off into a disturbing, TWIN PEAKS-styled geography all its own. Considering for Pseudopod. Livia Llewellyn's "Allochton", set in 1934, has a group of townspeople set off on an impromptu picnic at Beacon Rock, but our narrator senses something is wrong....as they set off again....and again....again. A powerful little piece of poetic, recursive nihilism that put me in mind of the odd sleeper horror film YELLOWBRICKROAD. Considering for Pseudopod. A museum conservator with an expertise in clothing, just recovering from his mother's death, manages the intake of a new donation: a Victorian-era trunk and its contents which prove to be a ceremonial magician's kit, including a dodgy leather coat in Keris McDonald's effectively nasty and old-school "The Coat Off His Back." Research proves the coat may have once belonged to a notorious historical figure, but our main character has bigger problems to grapple with. Effective and creepy, with only the final line perhaps being a bit of overkill. Considering for Pseudopod. Lucy Taylor's "Wingless Beasts" has a nasty, sadistic man track his next victim (a mysterious individual) into the desert wastes, only to get more than he bargained for - familiar but well done, I could see it as an episode of NIGHT GALLERY back in the day. "Plink" by Kurt Dinan has students, directed by a heartless peer, attempt to psychologically "break" their teacher, who has recently undergone a family tragedy, through devilish, methodical means. A short and effective modern conté cruel. Cody Goodfellow's "Nigredo" has a cult deprogrammer discover that his new target, part of the underground ex-libris cult, is part of a complicated, conspiratorial plot that involves himself, the singular drug he uses in his job, and a mind-destroying play about "The King In Yellow." Entertaining, almost Robert Anton Wilson-esque at times, and a disturbing romp, even when it becomes hard to track in the climax, over-complicated like a lot of conspiracy stories. I found two stories here to be excellent. "This Is Not For You" by Gemma Files I had previously heard on NIGHTMARE MAGAZINE's podcast (http://www.nightmare-magazine.com/fic...). A group of modern Goddess worshipers recreate the Maenad mystery religion through the ritualized hunt and murder of men - but what of the atheistic sociopath among their number, who participates only for the killing, and what happens when she "gets religion"? A really brutal and well-considered tale. Garth Nix, meanwhile, spins a short little tale of a retired London Deputy Police Chief who has to deal with bureaucracy....AND an unkillable doomsday weapon that could only be sidetracked, not stopped, years ago in "Shay Corsham Worsted." A punchy, well-told yarn - Considering for Pseudopod. And that's the whole enchilada, Jack!

  6. 4 out of 5

    Leah Polcar

    I am usually a fan of Datlow's Best Horror , but this collection was a disappointment to me. Sitting here thinking of what to say about this collection, I can only say I can't think of a single story -- never a huge endorsement -- and only have a vague feeling of distaste for this volume. Obviously, with anthologies, you usually get a mixed bag, but here the bag seemed full of stale, generic candies. Pass it up in favor of one of her other collections or Jones' or Guran's Best New Horror anth I am usually a fan of Datlow's Best Horror , but this collection was a disappointment to me. Sitting here thinking of what to say about this collection, I can only say I can't think of a single story -- never a huge endorsement -- and only have a vague feeling of distaste for this volume. Obviously, with anthologies, you usually get a mixed bag, but here the bag seemed full of stale, generic candies. Pass it up in favor of one of her other collections or Jones' or Guran's Best New Horror anthologies.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Essi🦄

    This was just something I thought I'd skim through in the few days before my book app trial ended. I had no expectations. I ended up really liking each story I read. I'm not a big fan of short stories in general. I'd much rather read a full sized novel,often the bigger the better. But I do enjoy reading scary stories. Horror works well for short stories. I didn't have time to read all the stories in this book,but I did read most. And enjoyed each of them. I guess it shouldn't come as a surprise This was just something I thought I'd skim through in the few days before my book app trial ended. I had no expectations. I ended up really liking each story I read. I'm not a big fan of short stories in general. I'd much rather read a full sized novel,often the bigger the better. But I do enjoy reading scary stories. Horror works well for short stories. I didn't have time to read all the stories in this book,but I did read most. And enjoyed each of them. I guess it shouldn't come as a surprise - it is the best horror of the year after all! The subjects varied from ghosts to hell,from murderers to zombies. In some stories I had no idea what the hell was going on. But that didn't matter,it made them even better. Well written scary stories!

  8. 5 out of 5

    Lynn

    I love to read short stories between books or if I need a break. This is the fourth scary collection edited by Ellen Datlow that I've read. She definitely has her finger on my taste for the gothic and bizarre. Three-fourths of these stories were absolutely perfect. I especially loved "This Is Not For You," "Winter Children," and "Interstate Love Song." I love to read short stories between books or if I need a break. This is the fourth scary collection edited by Ellen Datlow that I've read. She definitely has her finger on my taste for the gothic and bizarre. Three-fourths of these stories were absolutely perfect. I especially loved "This Is Not For You," "Winter Children," and "Interstate Love Song."

  9. 5 out of 5

    Ben Loory

    Favorites: "The Atlas of Hell" by Nathan Ballingrud "Persistence of Vision" by Orrin Grey "Shay Corsham Worsted" by Garth Nix "Ymir" by John Langan The Ballingrud especially was amazing-- what a crazy, fun, propulsive voice. Favorites: "The Atlas of Hell" by Nathan Ballingrud "Persistence of Vision" by Orrin Grey "Shay Corsham Worsted" by Garth Nix "Ymir" by John Langan The Ballingrud especially was amazing-- what a crazy, fun, propulsive voice.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Daniel

    A week of short story collection reviews, and the second of a horror anthology edited by the hardworking Ellen Datlow. This seventh volume of the Best Horror of the Year series came out last summer; Volume Eight is now available as well, though I haven't gotten to read it yet. For fans or the curious, you can currently enter to win a copy of the new volume in a Goodreads' giveaway courtesy of Night Shade Books (entry deadline of 12th August 2016). In the sea of short story anthologies Volume Sev A week of short story collection reviews, and the second of a horror anthology edited by the hardworking Ellen Datlow. This seventh volume of the Best Horror of the Year series came out last summer; Volume Eight is now available as well, though I haven't gotten to read it yet. For fans or the curious, you can currently enter to win a copy of the new volume in a Goodreads' giveaway courtesy of Night Shade Books (entry deadline of 12th August 2016). In the sea of short story anthologies Volume Seven is excellent, and it represents the variety of horror short fiction well. How you define horror and your expectations of the genre may cloud your appreciation of this. But if you are a regular reader there shouldn't be any big surprises in the kinds of stories here or the authors included: genre leaders who frequently appear in horror anthologies, certainly those edited by Datlow. Horror is not always synonymous with scary or supernatural, so there is a range of tales in the collection which brush against other labels within the continuum of genre - such as crime, or 'mainstream lit'. As always with such variety most readers won't love everything here, because reading has that personal component and none of us are clones of Datlow. (Or are some of you out there? Hmmm, that would explain her prolific output of quality...) For me there were several stories in Volume Seven that I just didn't care for. It also features a relatively high number of entries I had read previously, most notably three from the Datlow-edited Fearful Symmetries (reviewed by me here). Those three in question are all excellent, but I know readers may have an issue with such recycling. I didn't mind too much as I read them far enough apart, but even to me it seemed a bit too high in overlap. Then again if you aren't a regular reader of this stuff, you won't mind a bit! This volume begins with Nathan Ballingrud's "The Atlas of Hell" one of those Fearful Symmetries stories. Mixing the occult, black-market antiques, and a criminal underworld the story is dark and entertaining, in a manner that reminds me, with its bayou setting, of Albert E. Cowdrey's fantasy/horror often found in The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction. Ballingrud's story is just as entertaining and the prose is even more magical. The aforementioned magazine is the source of another of my favorite stories in this volume, Dale Bailey's "The Culvert", which deals with the creepy, dangerous explorations of childhood and the connection between twins. Robert Shearman's stories are always inventive and creepy (I previously reviewed his collection They Do the Same Things Differently There), and his offering here of "It Flows from the Mouth" is no different. Highly recommended. Langan has a story here, "Ymir" that fits in mythological fantasy more than horror. I didn't really care though, as it is an entertaining tale. One thing I was happy to note in this anthology was the inclusion of two stories from John Joseph Adams' Nightmare magazine, a relatively young sister to the SFF Lightspeed. Each month this outlet puts out a small selection of quality horror fiction, along with some nonfiction such as essays on what 'horror' means to various individuals. The two stories included here may not have been my favorite from that year from its electronic pages, but they are quite good. "This is Not for You" by Gemma Files is from their Women Destroy Horror! special issue that I still haven't managed to read, and I hope the rest of it is as interesting and well done as Files' story. Valentine's story "A Dweller in Amenty" is a poignant and powerful one on the concept of 'Sin-eating'. The biggest, and most surprising, disappointment in the collection is "Interstate Love Song (Murder Ballad No. 8)" by Caitlín R. Kiernan. I had high expectations as I like Kiernan's dark fiction, and lots of other readers were calling this a favorite. Its language is utterly melodic and beautiful, but I found it ultimately un-engaging beyond that, the story predictable and flat. On the other end of the spectrum "Plink" by Kurt Dinan impressed me greatly. Psychological horror that touches the sometimes difficult relationship between teacher and student, it perhaps connected with me even more because of my academic profession. Dinan is utterly new to me though he's appeared in other collections before, such as Paula Guran's 2010 Year's Best Dark Fantasy & Horror. He recently had his debut novel for young adults released (Don't Get Caught), and that's now on my to-read list. This wasn't my favorite collection edited by Datlow, but it was still very enjoyable overall and it reinforced some favorite authors in my memory for future reading decisions. Most fans of horror fiction or interested newbies should certainly give it a look, but if you extensively read the genre there will be better anthology options out there of original material of course. Disclaimer: I received a free advanced electronic reading copy of this from the publisher via Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review that originally appeared at Reading1000Lives.com

  11. 5 out of 5

    Jonathan Briggs

    While reading editor Ellen Datlow's opening summation of the notable novels and stories from 2014, I couldn't help but feel a bit discouraged as she reeled off recaps of rehashes featuring vampires, zombies, vampire/zombie detectives and blogging psycho killers, all overseen by the overbearing presence of H.P. Lovecraft all over the damn place. Have we come to this? Not entirely. You couldn't ask for a much better lead-in paragraph than what Nathan Ballingrud provides in this annual's opening sto While reading editor Ellen Datlow's opening summation of the notable novels and stories from 2014, I couldn't help but feel a bit discouraged as she reeled off recaps of rehashes featuring vampires, zombies, vampire/zombie detectives and blogging psycho killers, all overseen by the overbearing presence of H.P. Lovecraft all over the damn place. Have we come to this? Not entirely. You couldn't ask for a much better lead-in paragraph than what Nathan Ballingrud provides in this annual's opening story, "The Atlas of Hell." It's too long to repeat in this review, but there's no way to stop reading after that intro. (Well, I had to stop reading coz my train arrived, but as soon as I boarded, I started reading again.) Ballingrud starts in tough guy territory, like Dennis Lehane with a satanic spin. Jack, a bookseller with unseverable ties to organized crime, has a backroom sideline in grimoires. Jack is ordered into the beast-infested bayous outside New Orleans to fetch one such tome from a swamp rat grifter who sells diabolical souvenirs from an afterlife of everlasting torment. Jack works in the tradition of the occult detective, a chubby schlubby version of John Constantine or Harry D'Amour. I don't know if Ballingrud intends "Atlas" as the initial adventure of a series. The field of franchise detectives, supernatural or otherwise, is so crowded, it's a hard gig to pull off well. But whether this is a standalone or an opening salvo, Ballingrud has made his bones (yah yah, pun intended). And then ... a vampire story. Angela Slatter's generic "Winter Children" is readable as generic vampire stories go, but the heroic Shih Tzu is a bit much to ask of readers. Like Ballingrud, Slatter writes an open ending suggesting this, too, could become an ongoing series. However, the prospect of further vampire adventures crowding Sookie Stackhouse, Anita Blake and the rest of the housewife horror on the sci fi/fantasy shelves is far less appealing. I don't read nearly as much genre fiction as Ellen Datlow does, yet I've read this story many more times than I would have wished. Given how many boots have trampled this snowy ground, I have to wonder: How did this story merit inclusion? Maybe Datlow has a soft spot for dogs, which would also account for the presence of Alison Littlewood's "The Dog's Home," another saw-it-coming-from-way-off retread. Genevieve Valentine's "A Dweller in Amenty" plays more like a sin eater's mopey career day lecture at community college than a fully (atrophied) fleshed story. Valentine lays out the premise, then leaves it lying there as inert as a corpse in the parlor. Elizabeth Massie got a whole novel out of this folklore. Valentine should have at least managed an entire short story. In "Outside Heavenly," rural authorities investigate a fire of unknown origin involving the gruesome death of a hated and feared community member, "a fiercely wicked man who crushed all that could be loved." How wicked, they'll learn over the course of this sweltering Southern Gothic that winds up in a settlement that might appear in Ballingrud's atlas. Rio Youers is a new one on me. I was surprised to read in his author's bio that he's Canadian. I had him pegged as a William Gay disciple pecking at a typewriter in a tarpaper shack far south of Ontario. Some of his extended dialog is too self-conscious in its attempts to sound literary, but I'd like to see Youers make another appearance in "Best Horror." Why has it taken seven years for Caitlin Kiernan to get a story within these pages? Despite being one of the leading voices in the genre since debuting with "Silk" in 1998, Kiernan has been known to get persnickety when referred to as a horror author, so that might have something to do with the delay. One could wish for a slightly less traveled route than the muggy midnight ride of the killer couple in "Interstate Love Song (Murder Ballad No. 8)," which comes off like the product of a few too many viewings of "Natural Born Killers." Cool '70s car. Tunes on tape. Speed in the glove box. Victim in the trunk. Etc. The incestuous twin-sister twist doesn't do enough to set this road trip apart from the myriad other young psychos in love plying their trade by twos among the badlands, but Kiernan's craftsmanship and style of bloody brushstrokes make the journey, clichéd as it is, interesting enough to keep me from nodding off in the passenger seat. Fear of the unknown is an important element of horror fiction. It's debatable whether Brian Evenson's "Past Reno" is an exercise in that fear or an overly abstract extended metaphor (perhaps for Evenson's own relationship with Mormonism). I lean toward the latter interpretation, but as a story about sinister beef jerky, it could have been much worse. Who holds the record for most appearances in Datlow's annual roundups? I'm sure Laird Barron is high on the list, and deservedly so. In "the worms crawl in," a cuckold goes camping with his wife's lover -- a sonnet-writing rival, no less. "Everybody hates those guys," the narrator points out, and this outdoors jaunt presents a prime opportunity for payback. The setup is straight "Tales from the Crypt," but Barron takes us in a darker direction when his characters almost stumble into an open grave gouged out of the wilderness clay, a passage leading back millennia to a period when "dinosaurs have not been invented, but the devil is everywhere." The mind-torquing gulfs of deep time, deranged deities and hyper-masculine antiheroes have become staples of Barron's oeuvre, and he deploys them deftly, but he might want to consider taking his writing in some new directions and climbing out of his cosmic horror (dis)comfort zone. This is not one of Barron's better stories (it has a much scarier elder brother named "Blackwood's Baby"), but Barron gives such good carnage that "worms" is one of the better stories in this volume. And, hey, I learned Alaska has swamps. Orrin Grey's "Persistence of Vision" illustrates a mini-trend in this volume and a potentially unhealthy development in horror fiction as a whole: stories too explicit about expressing their debt to cinematic forebears. The literary side of the genre should be leading the way, not chasing the empty flash out of Hollywood (that goes double for remakes). "Persistence of Vision" reads less like a short story than an aspiring film treatment. Granted, the movie it's pitching does sound pretty cool, but if there was a ghost apocalypse, it's unlikely that even the most fervently maladjusted movie geek would take time out to reminisce about his favorite horror flick moments. All the references neuter the horrific elements and turn "PoV" (another movie term) into a toothless exercise in academic meta. In last year's summation, Datlow linked Nathan Ballingrud, Laird Barron and John Langan in a kind of terror triumvirate. I don't know if they're drinking buddies in their personal lives, but they've been working ceaselessly in some kind of conspiracy to ensure that at least one of them places a story in every new anthology. They're unavoidable, and they're largely responsible for whatever forward momentum has been recently achieved in a genre that too often prefers to settle into a static, staid status quo. In "Ymir," Langan emulates the kind of weird fiction Barron has been in the process of mastering. Marissa, a former security contractor struggling with PTSD from the Iraq War, takes a job guarding a rich adventurer who drives great distances for donuts. "He's walked into some pretty dodgy places." Including Marissa's current gig down a depleted diamond mine punched deep into the icy Canadian earth. Marissa is shadowed by a ghost from "the sand," and at the bottom of the frozen pit lurks ... a hotel lobby from Barron's Mythos. I agree with Datlow that it's too early in Barron's career for such tributes. I disagree with her that "Ymir" is a strong enough story regardless to rank as one of the year's best. "Ymir" is overstuffed, all over the place and leaves the unfulfilling aftertaste of an in-joke between two author cronies. Langan is a fine writer, but he's generally a step behind his companions in the trailblazing trio. Perhaps he'd be better served developing and strengthening his own quite valid voice (he especially needs to work on making his dialog sound more believably natural and less like writing) instead of borrowing Barron's. (Oh, and just a side note: Langan should be told that driving from Olympia, Wash., to Portland, Ore., for a donut isn't such a big deal. Twice I've traveled from the OTHER Washington, the D. of C., to Portland for the bacon maple bar and Memphis Mafia at Voodoo Doughnut. They're worth the trip.) This year's "Best Horror" never gets better than Ballingrud's kickoff story. Long stretches of the book -- populated by the aforementioned vampires, zombies, a small army of psychos and the spirit of Lovecraft receiving homage -- make Volume Seven seem like a placeholder, sluggish and somnambulant. "Best" becomes "Eh, good enough." There's nothing really bad among 2014's batch of tales, but there's not much to get excited about either. Over most of the contents hangs a sense of habitual autopilot repetition, like a thrice-weekly treadmill run. It's good to keep the muscles oiled and working, but we don't seem to be charting any new territory. Several stories are near-misses. Some are mildly clever. A few are rote to the point of raggedy obsolescence. And a couple are as flat as that half-bottle of Pepsi left over from last month's Halloween party. Speaking of Halloween, it's telling that this year, when I went looking for horror fiction that was fresh and original to augment the autumn revel, I most often found it by cracking anthologies (some even edited by Datlow) or collections from the early 1990s. As I was finishing the final pages of the best 2014 had to offer, I started to get that discouraged feeling again.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Bill

    This is a solid entry in Ellen Datlow's Best Horror series. I found the strongest story to be "Plink" by Kurt Dinan; it contains no supernatural element, but expresses a horrific theme that many readers should find too familiar for comfort. The final story, "Nigredo" by Cody Goodfellow, is either a brilliant smorgasbord of horror tropes or else a hopeless mishmash, I really couldn't be sure. The first three stories seem like excerpts from longer works, so a cover-to-cover read of this anthology This is a solid entry in Ellen Datlow's Best Horror series. I found the strongest story to be "Plink" by Kurt Dinan; it contains no supernatural element, but expresses a horrific theme that many readers should find too familiar for comfort. The final story, "Nigredo" by Cody Goodfellow, is either a brilliant smorgasbord of horror tropes or else a hopeless mishmash, I really couldn't be sure. The first three stories seem like excerpts from longer works, so a cover-to-cover read of this anthology starts out a little slow. Given that this volume contains none of the annoying typos and poor copy editing that have pockmarked previous volumes, I would recommend this as a good introduction to the series.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Lyndsey Silveira

    Like any anthology, it's full of stories I loved and ones that fell flat for me. Some favorites: "The Atlas of Hell" by Nathan Ballingrud "A Dweller in Amenty" by Genevieve Valentine "Outside Heavenly" by Rio Youers "Allochton" by Livia Llewellyn "the worms crawl in" by Laird Barron "Persistence of Vision" by Orrin Grey "Wingless Beasts" by Lucy Taylor The story that legitimately gave me the heebie-jeebies and made me afraid to turn off the lights was "Tread Upon the Brittle Shell" by Rhoads Brazos Like any anthology, it's full of stories I loved and ones that fell flat for me. Some favorites: "The Atlas of Hell" by Nathan Ballingrud "A Dweller in Amenty" by Genevieve Valentine "Outside Heavenly" by Rio Youers "Allochton" by Livia Llewellyn "the worms crawl in" by Laird Barron "Persistence of Vision" by Orrin Grey "Wingless Beasts" by Lucy Taylor The story that legitimately gave me the heebie-jeebies and made me afraid to turn off the lights was "Tread Upon the Brittle Shell" by Rhoads Brazos

  14. 4 out of 5

    James

    An excellent horror anthology containing various sorts of horrific tales. Overall very good. Contains the usual superstars of horror like Barron, Ballingrud, Kiernan, and Langdon. But there are some real riveting stories from some authors I had never heard of. I thought Datlow's volume last year was a bit stronger but overall this is still an excellent anthology. Recommend. ARC provided by Blackgate Magazine. An excellent horror anthology containing various sorts of horrific tales. Overall very good. Contains the usual superstars of horror like Barron, Ballingrud, Kiernan, and Langdon. But there are some real riveting stories from some authors I had never heard of. I thought Datlow's volume last year was a bit stronger but overall this is still an excellent anthology. Recommend. ARC provided by Blackgate Magazine.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Jessica Woodbury

    I haven't read any short horror before this but I was pretty amazed at the variety of pieces in here. It was a fantastic collection and the only reason it took me so long to read it was that I usually read before bed and sometimes the book left me too creeped out! I haven't read any short horror before this but I was pretty amazed at the variety of pieces in here. It was a fantastic collection and the only reason it took me so long to read it was that I usually read before bed and sometimes the book left me too creeped out!

  16. 5 out of 5

    Homefrontgirl

    Tread Upon the Brittle Shell was my favorite story.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Christopher Stanley

    It must be daunting to pick the best horror fiction of the year. It's not just the volume of stories that need to be sifted through in advance, and the need to represent diverse tastes, and to narrow the selection down to one story per author ... and the fact that the bright, shiny story in one anthology might not seem so bright and shiny when transferred to another ... and the niggling issue of subjectivity ... and of course the benefits of including marquee authors who are guaranteed to shift It must be daunting to pick the best horror fiction of the year. It's not just the volume of stories that need to be sifted through in advance, and the need to represent diverse tastes, and to narrow the selection down to one story per author ... and the fact that the bright, shiny story in one anthology might not seem so bright and shiny when transferred to another ... and the niggling issue of subjectivity ... and of course the benefits of including marquee authors who are guaranteed to shift a few units ... and so on. The big issue is that as soon as you slap a 'best of' label on the cover, readers are bound to have impossibly high expectations. With all this in mind, I think it's fair to say that Datlow acquits herself well in this, my second foray into a 'Best Horror of the Year.' For what it's worth, I thought there was some fantastic stories in this collection. Ballingrud's 'The Atlas of Hell' (which I seem to have in three anthologies now), Rio Youers' 'Outside Heavenly', Caitlin R. Kiernan's 'Interstate Love Song (Murder Ballad No. 8)', Dale Bailey's 'The Culvert', Orrin Grey's 'Persistence of Vision', Carole Johnstone's 'Departures', and Kurt Dinan's 'Plink' all left a lasting impression. Two others I particularly enjoyed were Rhoads Brazos' 'Tread Upon a Brittle Shell' and Robert Shearman's 'It Flows from the Mouth'. The former wobbled towards the end but, until that point, was a fantastic premise, which was very well realised. The latter was a little heavy-handed early on but then settled into a deliciously weird, Gothic tale, which I enjoyed immensley. 'Ymir' by John Langan and 'the worms crawl in' by Laird Barron both started off full of promise - as I expected, given the authors - but sadly both seemed to lose their way towards the end. The other eleven stories ranged between good and okay. Were they good enough for a 'best of' collection? I couldn't possibly say. There's plenty in this volume to make it worth the asking price, and I'm grateful to Datlow for shining a spotlight on some excellent stories and authors I might have missed otherwise.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Amy L. Campbell

    Highlights of the collection are: A Dweller in Amenty (Genevieve Valentine) - sin eaters, who they are, what they do, what it's like being one. Creepy more than scary. Excellent writing. Chapter Six (Stephen Graham Jones) - Darwinian survival between two academicians. Plus cannibalism. Interstate Love Song (Murder Ballad no. 8) (Caitlin R. Kiernan - really excellent writing about serial killer twins...but yeah, the incest whoooboy. The Culvert (Dale Bailey) - One twin who survives getting lost in a Highlights of the collection are: A Dweller in Amenty (Genevieve Valentine) - sin eaters, who they are, what they do, what it's like being one. Creepy more than scary. Excellent writing. Chapter Six (Stephen Graham Jones) - Darwinian survival between two academicians. Plus cannibalism. Interstate Love Song (Murder Ballad no. 8) (Caitlin R. Kiernan - really excellent writing about serial killer twins...but yeah, the incest whoooboy. The Culvert (Dale Bailey) - One twin who survives getting lost in a culvert while the other goes permanently missing and his survivors guilt. Nice twist at the end The Coat Off His Back (Keris McDonald) - what appears to be an almost cozy mystery takes a huge dive when Geoff finds a solution to the Innocent Coat ever returning to him. The Dog's Home (Alison Littlewood) - an aunt who loves no one except her dog and a nephew charged to care for her and her dog as she dies from cancer. Dog lovers will be waaaaay upset about this one. Overall a fairly solid collection. Definitely interested in checking out more work by nearly all the authors involved.

  19. 5 out of 5

    James Ranger

    I've heard a lot about the St(r)oker community and how it's all a friend's game, or a whoever kisses the most ass wins kind of game. Nepotism and cronyism, no matter how crappy a writer is. This book is proof that being friends with an editor gets you more than actually being a good writer. Not only are the stories in this volume boring and cardboard with no imagination, they are reflections of the boring authors. Ugh. The only writer here worth her weight in salt is Caitlin R. Kiernan, the only I've heard a lot about the St(r)oker community and how it's all a friend's game, or a whoever kisses the most ass wins kind of game. Nepotism and cronyism, no matter how crappy a writer is. This book is proof that being friends with an editor gets you more than actually being a good writer. Not only are the stories in this volume boring and cardboard with no imagination, they are reflections of the boring authors. Ugh. The only writer here worth her weight in salt is Caitlin R. Kiernan, the only writer I see on the social networks not sucking up, who isn't afraid to be honest, and who doesn't play the game. CRK is the only reason I even gave this book a chance, as I loved to see her blowing all of her colleagues out of the water word by word. She's the only author who can thrill me in the weird fiction world. And guess what, she actually is a damn fine writer, unlike the wannabes this book is trying to promote. Ha!

  20. 4 out of 5

    Rachel

    I'm learning my tastes in horror literature and that's worth all the stars. My favorites from this collection with weird synopses notes for my own use thank you very much: Outside Heavenly - Rio Youers (Satan in a small town) Interstate Love Song (Murder Ballad No. 8) - Caitlin R. Kiernan (Twincest manic murder spree) The Culvert - Dale Bailey (lost brother, underground city) Allochton - Livia Llewellyn (1930s Lovecraft and maybe the only "Lovecraftian" story I've read that I've ever loved) I'm learning my tastes in horror literature and that's worth all the stars. My favorites from this collection with weird synopses notes for my own use thank you very much: Outside Heavenly - Rio Youers (Satan in a small town) Interstate Love Song (Murder Ballad No. 8) - Caitlin R. Kiernan (Twincest manic murder spree) The Culvert - Dale Bailey (lost brother, underground city) Allochton - Livia Llewellyn (1930s Lovecraft and maybe the only "Lovecraftian" story I've read that I've ever loved)

  21. 5 out of 5

    Rizember

    Well. It was what it was. Skipping that summation that was copy pasted for some reason to the start was annoying. WHY WAS IT THERE? COULDNT IT HAVE GONE TO THE BACK? WHO ASKED FOR IT???? Anyway, it's a shame that dampened my enthusiasm for reading the book because many of the stories were actually pretty good. Killing retired child murderers, hell travellers, strange aliens prancing about as old men... lovely! I had a grand time reading the stories but that darn start will always haunt and annoy me Well. It was what it was. Skipping that summation that was copy pasted for some reason to the start was annoying. WHY WAS IT THERE? COULDNT IT HAVE GONE TO THE BACK? WHO ASKED FOR IT???? Anyway, it's a shame that dampened my enthusiasm for reading the book because many of the stories were actually pretty good. Killing retired child murderers, hell travellers, strange aliens prancing about as old men... lovely! I had a grand time reading the stories but that darn start will always haunt and annoy me.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Cheyenne

    As this is an anthology, it's hard for me to give an overall review of the whole work, but a lot of these stories were really good. A few of them got a little too abstract for me, and one of them featured the main character killing an animal, which I never like, but all in all, I thought this was a good collection. I especially appreciated the multitudes of strong female characters within these pages. One story even contained a trans woman who was an accepted member of a female-only cult As this is an anthology, it's hard for me to give an overall review of the whole work, but a lot of these stories were really good. A few of them got a little too abstract for me, and one of them featured the main character killing an animal, which I never like, but all in all, I thought this was a good collection. I especially appreciated the multitudes of strong female characters within these pages. One story even contained a trans woman who was an accepted member of a female-only cult

  23. 4 out of 5

    Jeff J.

    I’ve always felt that horror was well-suited for short fiction - it’s challenging to sustain dread in a novel. That being said, either 2014 was a weak year for horror or my definition of “good” is drastically different from this editor. There were a few gems here but many more I gave up on, and one story (Alison Littlewood’s) that disgusted me.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Megan Hex

    Solid collection! Enjoyed most of these; strange running theme of the narrator being the bad guy.

  25. 5 out of 5

    GollyRojer

    As is true of most anthologies, this one has some very good and very bad stories in it. Which ones are which will depend on your personal taste.

  26. 4 out of 5

    James Rice

    Very good short stories. I enjoyed this book and would recommend it to anyone who likes horror and short stories. Some had very unexpected endings.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Brad Hodges

    This is the third of Ellen Datlow's Best Horror of the Year series I've read, and it is consistent with the others, with some spine-tingling stories, as well as some that I just didn't get. There are also a few that start out gangbusters and trail off into incoherence. I'm thinking specifically of "the worms crawl in," by Laird Barron, which starts as a nifty homage to Poe's "The Cask of Amantillado" but turns into something entirely different, a kind of monster story that doesn't match up with This is the third of Ellen Datlow's Best Horror of the Year series I've read, and it is consistent with the others, with some spine-tingling stories, as well as some that I just didn't get. There are also a few that start out gangbusters and trail off into incoherence. I'm thinking specifically of "the worms crawl in," by Laird Barron, which starts as a nifty homage to Poe's "The Cask of Amantillado" but turns into something entirely different, a kind of monster story that doesn't match up with the beginning. It's a Garanimals type of story. Another story that intrigued me at first but then kind of petered out was It Flows From the Mouth," by Robert Shearman, about a couple that have a customized fountain, complete with water spout through the mouth, in the likeness of their dead child. An old friend visits for the night, and has some very weird experiences, but nothing that pays off. It does have my favorite line of the book, though: "The death of a child is a terrible thing, and I'm not a monster. But if a child was going to die, than I'm glad it was Ian." A pair of stories had to do with unearthing unimaginable things from far below. "Ymir," by John Langan, has a young woman exploring deep beneath extreme northern Canada, and calls upon Norse mythology (according to it, Odin and his brothers made the universe from the remains of a huge giant named Ymir). Rhoads Brazos "Tread Upon the Brittle Shell" has speleologists discovering something at the bottom of an immense system of caves, but I'm not quite sure what it was. Both of these stories illustrate a problem I sometimes have with these kind of stories--they never quite say just what it is that's unearthed. I understand the idea of leaving something to the imagination, but I end these stories with a furrowed brow. We get one zombie story, and it's a dandy, "Chapter Six," by Stephen Graham Jones, which has academics traversing the countryside after a zombie apocalypse. "Zombies. Zombies where the main thing that mattered these days." We also learn that the best way to cannibalize is to suck the marrow out of bones. Another creepy story is "The Coat Off His Back," by Keris McDonald, which introduced me to the "Innocent Coat" and British highwayman Dick Turpin. I won't say more than that, other than that the title is very literal. But the best stories are good old-fashioned tales of murder. "Outside Heavenly," by Rio Youers, features a grisly find by law enforcement. "Wingless Beasts" is a vicious little tale by Lucy Taylor involving the unrelenting nature of the desert, and a man who shouldn't judge by appearances. "Plink" is an extremely interesting story, especially for a teacher. The author is Kurt Dinan, and in my classes I will notice those who nod. "Winter's Children," by Angela Slatter, finds a woman looking for a notorious serial killer in an old-age home. My favorite story, though, is Caitlin R. Kiernan's "Interstate Love Song (Murder Ballad No. 8)" about traveling twin sisters who murder their way across the countryside. Of all the stories in the book, this is the one that really got under my skin. Beyond being a good horror story, it's an excellent piece of literature, and begins: "The Impala's wheels singing on the black hot asphalt sound like frying steaks, USDA choice-cut T-bones, sirloin sizzling against August blacktop in Nevada or Utah or Nebraska, Alabama or Georgia, or where the fuck ever this one day, this one hour, this one motherfucking minute is going down." On Datlow's Facebook page she has announced the contents and art for her next volume. Sign me up.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Bunny

    It was so kind of this editor to put this collection together of authors I won't ever have to read again in the future. Wait, what? That's not what the purpose of this collection was? Hunh. News to me. These are not horror stories. They're not scary. They're tiresome. The only story I genuinely enjoyed was Interstate Love Song (Murder Ballad No. 8). However, this was not a horror story. It wasn't even close to scary, I don't know what genre you would classify it as. The fact that someone gets murd It was so kind of this editor to put this collection together of authors I won't ever have to read again in the future. Wait, what? That's not what the purpose of this collection was? Hunh. News to me. These are not horror stories. They're not scary. They're tiresome. The only story I genuinely enjoyed was Interstate Love Song (Murder Ballad No. 8). However, this was not a horror story. It wasn't even close to scary, I don't know what genre you would classify it as. The fact that someone gets murdered in the story? Does not make it a horror story. Like, you cannot just Ctrl + F every story you read, search for the words "blood" or "grave", and slap it into a collection you title horror. Around the time I was ready to give up, I decided to only read the collection at night, while lying in bed with the lights out. If I'm going to get scared, it's going to be at that time. Nope. Just bored. I apologize to the authors in this collection if you've got stories that deserve a better rating. Because none of these did. Received via Edelweiss in exchange for a fair review.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Amanda

    I genuinely do not understand how this book has any good ratings. This anthology isn't the best of anything and it's definitely not horror. The definition of horror literature is "a genre of fiction whose purpose is to create feelings of fear, dread, repulsion, and terror in the audience." Very few of the stories in the book fit that description. There was so little horror here that I wonder how on earth this book ever made it to print. And horror aside, most of these stories were just boring or I genuinely do not understand how this book has any good ratings. This anthology isn't the best of anything and it's definitely not horror. The definition of horror literature is "a genre of fiction whose purpose is to create feelings of fear, dread, repulsion, and terror in the audience." Very few of the stories in the book fit that description. There was so little horror here that I wonder how on earth this book ever made it to print. And horror aside, most of these stories were just boring or poorly written. Sure there were a few decent ones here and there, but overall it was awful. And the beginning - oh my goodness! I almost tossed the book aside before even getting to the stories. Here is how an anthology should go: Introduction relating to the focus of the collection followed by the the stories followed by author bios and any other extra info. But this book had this tedious and god-awful summary. Who starts a book off like that? Ugh. So disappointed. Never reading another collection done by this editor again.

  30. 5 out of 5

    L.K. Scott

    Some of these stories really blew me away by the language, the prose, the tone and even the musicality of the sentences. Others were interesting, but not entirely engaging to me, but that's just my personal opinion, but I do understand the quality and effort behind it. My favorite aspect was the order in which the stories were placed. Ellen Datlow, a skilled editor, did a great job arranging the order in such a way that the fun, easier to read stuff was in front, with more complex stories around Some of these stories really blew me away by the language, the prose, the tone and even the musicality of the sentences. Others were interesting, but not entirely engaging to me, but that's just my personal opinion, but I do understand the quality and effort behind it. My favorite aspect was the order in which the stories were placed. Ellen Datlow, a skilled editor, did a great job arranging the order in such a way that the fun, easier to read stuff was in front, with more complex stories around the middle and some very unique stories in the back. I would definitely recommend this to horror fans whether you love literary horror or mainstream. I look forward to reading more of her work and the authors who contributed to The Best Horror of the Year.

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