Best New Horror 10

Best New Horror 10

by Stephen Jones

An annual collection of short stories and novellas of supernatural and psychological terror by authors such as Ramsey Campbell, Harlan Ellison, Christopher Fowler, Neil Gaiman and Tanith Lee.Contents: Introduction : horror in 1998 / the editor --Learning to let go / Christopher Fowler --The wedding present / Neil Gaiman --Adventures in further education / Peter Atkins --Bondage / Kathe Koja --The keys to D'Espérance / Chaz Brenchley --The song my sister sang / Stephen Laws --A Victorian ghost story / Kim Newman --The dead boy at your window / Bruce Holland Rogers --Ra*e / Ramsey Campbell --Upstairs / Lawrence Watt-Evans --Postcards from the King of Tides / Caitlin R. Kiernan --Everybody goes / Michael Marshall Smith --Yellow and red / Tanith Lee --What slips away / Steve Rasnic Tem --Inside the cackle factory / Dennis Etchison --The specialist's hat / Kelly Link --The boss in the wall : a treatise on the house devil / Avram Davidson & Grania Davis --Objects of desire in the mirror are closer than they appear / Harlan Ellison --Mr Clubb and Mr Cuff / Peter Straub --Necrology : 1998 / Stephen Jones & Kim Newman.

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Still, if youd like a goosie at whats inside, Best New Horror 10 goes a little like this: Learning To Let Go Christopher Fowler (3/5 Three old friends meet up at the start of a train journey. They drink, they bicker, they tell stories and they invite their fellow travellers do likewise. They always come back...) This heads-up was perhaps key to me enjoying the story more than I would have done had I read it cold. In a way it reminded me of Jonathan Carrolls The Dead Love You (Best New Horror 2). This is pretty good, told in Gaimans wonderful story-telling way, until the moment you sense youve heard it before. For me, hat-tipping The Picture Of Dorian Gray within the story wasnt quite the Get-Out-Of-Jail-Free card Gaiman hoped it would be.) Adventures In Further Education Peter Atkins (3/5 Throughout his life, a man keeps count of the number of times he taps a pen against his desk, believing it will at some point sink straight through and unlock the metaphysical secrets of the universe. This is one of those tales that favours mood ahead of, oh, I dont know, telling the bloody story. Though enjoyable thanks largely to Newmans exquisite writing the story didnt really go anywhere, being little more than a funny thing happened to me on the way to the) The Dead Boy At Your Window Bruce Holland Rogers (4/5 Cast such pesky things as logic and real life aside for a moment and enjoy a short, bittersweet Stoker-winning story of a dead little boy who, in the course of being bullied one day, finds a unique calling between this world and the next. Its all rather lovely.) Ra*e Ramsey Campbell (4/5 Another good showing from Campbell in a novelette that explores the fallout following the rape and murder of a teenage girl, and the rage that builds within the victims mother as the police fail to unearth any clues. This is another very readable story from MMS, as they so often are, but this time the payoff is weak.) Yellow And Red Tanith Lee (5/5 Gordon Martyce is a middle-age fuddy-duddy who inherits an old house away from the hustle and bustle of London. Either way, this is an excellent read and comfortably one of the best stories in the book.) What Slips Away Steve Rasnic Tem (4/5 Taylor is working on home improvements, and has been for quite some time. This was nominated for an International Horror Critics Guild award back in the day, but I fail to see the merit. The babysitter professes to know a good deal of the houses secrets: of its little cubbyholes and hiding places, of its large attic space, and of the creepy teeth-covered Specialists Hat that hangs up there, waiting for them. The cut-up structure of the story was refreshing, and the little asides into rhyme added to the eerie atmosphere rather nicely, but the nebulous ending was a let-down. That said, this story bagged a World Fantasy Award at the time, so well perhaps chalk this up as one that just wasnt for me.) The Boss In The Wall: A Treatise On The House Devil Avram Davidson & Grania Davis (2/5 A Précis On The House Devil may have been a more appropriate subtitle, given that this 70-odd page novella was originally a 600+ page manuscript that Davidson struggled to sell. Its a shame as the story starts off rather well. We are introduced to a clandestine network of academics who all share a desire to capture, study and understand the revenant-like Paper-Men that live in the walls of old houses across the US. Despite Davis hacking away 85% of the original novel she retains far too many incidental characters, each of whom are starved of story-time and whose opinions, comments and actions consequently feel shallow and unearned. But perhaps the real tragedy here is that The Boss reeks of a writer having a great idea and never quite figuring out how to turn it into a great story.) Objects Of Desire In The Mirror Are Closer Than They Appear Harlan Ellison (3/5 Lieutenant Francine Jacobs is investigating the death of an old man and the bizarre circumstances in which he was found: shoeless, his throat cut so severely he was almost beheaded, and surrounded by three supermodels dressed up to the nines, each wailing to the darkening skies. Ellison is as readable as ever, and, as you can see, he was certainly not wanting for ideas, but the twist in the tale was weak and unearned, and felt somewhat tacked-on.) Mr Clubb And Mr Cuff Peter Straub (4/5 Straub closes another volume of Best New Horror with an award-winning novella, one that nabbed a Stoker, an International Horror Critics Guild award and a World Fantasy Award nomination back in the day. Every aspect is given the time it needs to help fulsomely flesh out the tale, and yet its testament to the strength and quality of Straubs writing that the reader is gripped throughout. In fact, its precisely this unhurried approach to the story that slowly begins to unsettle the reader.

That's not to say they where bad, I did enjoy the first two well enough but I wouldn't call anything about them horror related. I predominantly picked it up to check out Harlan Ellison, an author I've wanted to read for the better part of 10 years. While I was a little disappointed in the speedy conclusion of his story I did enjoy his writing and will definitely be checking out more in the future.

Kiernan, Neil Gaiman, Tanith Lee, Harlan Ellison, and Kim Newman...and that's just to start.

It wasn't as good as some of the others in the series, and there were 2 stories I thought were too long to be included, though they were both very good, especially "The Boss in the Wall," one of my favorites in the book.

My least favourite story was "The keys to D'Esperance" by Chaz Brenchley (admittedly I really could't finish it and skipped to the end) and by far the most enjoyable read was the excellent "Mr Clubb and Mr Cuff" by Peter Straub.