Thursday, 3 January 2013

Review: The Mammoth Book Of Best New Horror 23

23! 

I remember reading some of the Mammoth horror anthologies when I was at university; possibly before. There's something pleasing about the fact that they're still around.

The Mammoth Book Of Best New Horror 23 is a strong collection of stories, although with perhaps a number of odd choices. I'm a huge Ramsey Campbell fan, as regular readers will no doubt wearily attest, but even I'd question whether he deserves to be in a yearly best-of twice. It doesn't help that his first contribution, Holding The Light didn't strike me as his best work (although even second-league Campbell is worth reading) but his second, Passing Through Peacehaven was one of my favourites in the volume.

A number of other stories in the book that I loved I'd already read before, including Tim Lebbon's story original from the House Of Fear anthology, and the two contributions taken from A Book Of Horrors (the stories by Michael Marhsall Smith and John Ajivide Lindqvist). Along with Mark Samuels' The Tower it was great to remake their acquaintance and give them a second read. Lebbon's Trick Of The Light in particular revealed lots of nuances the second time around.

Of the stories that were new to me, the most memorable were:

Steve Rasnic Tem's Miri, a haunting and disturbingly beautiful tale, about the past invading the insubstantial present.

Conrad Williams - Wait. Some brilliant imagery here, although I wasn't sure the ending dovetailed all the elements quite as neatly as I would have wanted.

Thana Niveau - White Roses, Bloody Silk. A bloodbath of a story, like Tarantino writing a drawing-room drama and getting three quarters of the way through.

Simon Strantzas - An Indelible Stain Upon The Sky. Another story which, like Steve Rasnic Tem's, shows melancholy and dull grief aren't incompatible with horror, but can enhance it.

But none of the other contributions were in any way bad, and as well as the above authors I'll certainly be on the look out for more work by Paul Kane, Alison Littlewood, Peter Atkins and Simon Kurt Unsworth.

Full contents:

Stephen Jones - Introduction: Horror In 2011
Ramsey Campbell - Holding The Light
Christopher Fowler - Lantern Jack
Paul Kane - Rag And Bone
Gemma Files - Some Kind Of Light Shines From Your Face
Joel Lane - Midnight Flight
Tim Lebbon - Trick Of The Light
Gregory Nicoll - But None Shall Sing For Me
Alison Littlewood - About The Dark
Daniel Mills - The Photographer's Tale
Mark Samuels - The Tower
Peter Atkins - Dancing Like We're Dumb
Simon Strantzas - An Indelible Stain Upon The Sky
Joan Aiken - Hair
Steve Rasnic Tem - Miri
Geeta Roopnarine - Corbeaux Bay
Michael Marshall Smith - Sad, Dark Thing
Robert Silverberg - Smithers And The Ghost Of The Thar
Reggie Oliver - Quieta Non Movere
Joe R. Lansdale - The Crawling Sky
Conrad Williams - Wait
Simon Kurt Unsworth - The Ocean Grand, North West Coast
Evangeline Walton - They That Have Wings
Thana Niveau - White Roses, Bloody Silk
John Ajivide Lindqvist - The Music Of Bengt Karlsson, Murderer
Ramsey Campbell - Passing Through Peacehaven
David Buchan - Holiday Home
Stephen Jones & Kim Newman - Necrology: 2011

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