Monday, July 11, 2011

The Seventh Black Book of Horror

The Seventh Black Book of Horror
Ed. by Charles Black

Mortbury Press, 2010

Anthologies, themed or not, almost always is a cat in a bag. If the collection has at least half of successful stories, then this book is successful. And it does not depend on big names on the cover: the same failure can be obtained from an anthology of small press and from large publishing houses. Previous collection edited by Charles Black, The Sixth Black Book of Horror, included high-quality stories, and this year, another anthology is not worse than last year’s one. Nine short stories (and this is bigger part of the book) here are if not masterpieces, then the strong work of the short form most writers wouldn’t be ashamed of. Accordingly, «The Seventh Black Book of Horror» can be called a good anthology.

The trend, which can be seen in the collection this year, is that a number of successful stories here are completely devoid of supernatural elements. They are not horror stories, there is more appropriate definition, and it is not even strange prose, but a wild prose.

Falls into this category, for example, the story of John Llewellyn Probert «It Begins At Home». Paul Reynolds is a photographer on the verge of despair: the family is sitting with no money and is about to be evicted from the house, - he no matter how should get an order from a large firm. But the manager does not like photos of the starving and suffering children - «The child isn't crying enough». Paul does not know what sacrifices he would have to go to get the job. Probert masterfully constructs the story, creating homage to the horrors of the 80s, but not using otherworldly forces. David Williamson's story «Rest in Pieces» could well be in an anthology of crime or neonoir, if the author would change the style of the narrative. This is the story of a pathologist, who develops a daring plan. You can’t read the story in all seriousness because black humor can be seen there a mile away. «Ted's Collection» by Claude Lalumiere can be attributed to the horror; it's just such a wild prose. This is the story of how cruelty and pain replace all the rest of emotions inside the people. Craig Herbertson in his «New Teacher» combined elements of old school horror, crime, dystopia, sprinkling it all with black humor. Biting story.

Joel Lane is as always lyrical. Here he presented with the story «Morning's Echo» about a detective who finds a missing person with the help of dreams. There are of course zombies in the book. In David Riley’s «Romero's Children» cause of dead walking was medicine of immortality. The ones who took the untested drug became zombies. In a story there is an unusual ending, though, this already stands out in a series of colorless zombie stories. The best story in the anthology was «Swell Head» by Stephen Volk (after this story, I sincerely believe that Volk probably is the best storyteller in Britain). It’s a grotesque story about a boy, whose head eventually is growing rapidly in size, and the body remains almost infantile, it is a perfect illustration of the phrase "we are responsible for those who we have tamed." The older brother of big-head freak sacrifices his life for the needs of the giant head. Volk is accurate in detail, and in the end gets an ace from his sleeve.

Do not be afraid of the word "horror" on the cover, it's just a collection of different stories of high quality.

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