Thursday, April 28, 2011

Best New Horror 21

The Mammoth Book of Best New Horror 21
Edited by Stephen Jones

Robinson, 2010

Quality of anthologies of the best of the year is always determined by taste of the editor. When the book reaches the reader, the taste of the editor is divided into reader's taste, and that is determined the degree of pleasure from a collection.
Long-term anthologist Stephen Jones tends to old-fashioned horror stories, with their roots in Gothic fiction of the XIX century. Such devotion to tradition shows the inextricable link between horror literature of the past and the present, but most often harms a story. Because of its archaic story becomes predictable and suffers from disrepair style. In this book, there are several such stories. They are readable, not without some pleasure, but we should not expect some quality break from them. Fortunately, the book has some good stories, psychologically adjusted, often with an unexpected ending.

If the above-described type of a story is usually based on the type of story in story, when the protagonist in the now listens to the story occurred once, and this story contains elements of the supernatural, then in the most successful stories of the anthology narrator is here and now, and all the events happen to him in present tense.

There are not so much stylists among the authors of the collection, just two. Nicholas Royle in «The Reunion» elegantly tells the story of a meeting of medical graduates in a huge old hotel. Royle is able to twist the intrigue, sowing doubts in the head of the reader and his hero, and the final just baffles. Australian Terry Dowling writes with the French ease, too. In his story «Two Steps Along the Road» the author describes the case of modern exorcism in an exotic background. The scientist-exorcist at the beginning of the story seems to calm and know his business, but later he nearly becomes the victim of dark forces. I had read almost a year ago the story by Michael Marshall Smith «What Happens When You Wake Up in the Night», and after re-reading it gets even better. Smith brings life to all the worst fears of a man by throwing him to meet evil that has no explanations. This shocking story, however, has a bit of black humor.

Zambian miners and the spirits of Zambia become heroes of the story of Simon Kurt Unsworth «Mami Wata». Office manager flies to Africa to find out the reasons for sudden drop in production at one of the mines the company. The hero does not believe that all the fault is on otherworldly forces, while he is not facing them himself. In «Cold to the Touch» Simon Strantzas religious scientist arrives on the territory of the Far North, to find the cause of unexplained changes in climate. Two local residents help the scientist. Strantzas not quite manage to create a convincing image of the scientist who believes in God, but the story itself is full of horror and pain.

«Granny's Grinning» by Robert Shearman is perhaps more science fiction story than a fantasy one. Children receive gifts for Christmas from his parents: costumes of werewolf and zombie who literally grow into a person, making him a werewolf and a zombie, respectively. Grandmother after the death of her husband decides to celebrate Christmas with the family of her son. You will do everything for a loved one - even become a zombie. Very powerful story. Screenwriter and novelist Stephen Volk presents us unusual world in «After the Ape». This is indeed the world after the ape: King Kong was killed, and his beloved actress is suffering from the loss and stays for a week in her hotel room. Volk showed here his best skills: cinematic style and a world full of sex and violence (only this time without paranoia).

Lyrical and truly chilling story is told by Barbara Roden in «Out and Back». In an ordinary story about an abandoned place Rhoden adds unprecedented depth. Father and son King, I mean, Stephen King and Joe Hill, wrote a story «Throttle» about a gang of bikers. This is not the best story for King and for Hill, but it’s written in a fairly briskly, and the theme is suitable for the authors: the relationship between fathers and sons.

A decent collection with a handful of excellent stories.

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