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The Mammoth Book of Best New Horror #17
edited by Stephen Jones
Carroll & Graf, 562 pages

The Mammoth Book of Best New Horror #17
Stephen Jones
Stephen Jones is the winner of multiple World Fantasy Awards, the Horror Writers Association Bram Stoker Award and International Horror Guild Awards, British Fantasy Awards and a Hugo Award nominee. A full-time columnist, television producer/director and genre movie publicist and consultant, Stephen Jones is also one of Britain's most acclaimed anthologists of horror and dark fantasy. He has edited and written more than 50 books, including: Shadows Over Innsmouth; Exorcisms and Ecstasies, a Karl Edward Wagner collection; and Clive Barker's A-Z of Horror. He is co-editor of a number of series including Best New Horror, Dark Terrors and Dark Voices. He lives in London, England.

Stephen Jones Website
ISFDB Bibliography
SF Site Review:Shadows Over Innsmouth
SF Site Review: Dark Terrors 5
SF Site Review: White of the Moon
SF Site Review: Dark of the Night

Past Feature Reviews
A review by Mario Guslandi

Year after year the autumn brings in, besides falling leaves, a new volume of the Stephen Jones' reprint anthology, supposedly featuring the best horror stories published during the previous year. The value of "best of" anthologies -- where the selection of the material is entirely based on the editor's personal choice -- has been repeatedly questioned, so I won't address the issue again.

Let's just consider what the present volume can offer to the faithful horror fan (very little, if one has already read the year's more significant anthologies and collections) as well as to the general reader who takes his dose of horror once or twice a year from the mass market.

First of all we must give credit to Jones that he has expanded his own horizons beyond the monotonous list of usual suspects who have been representing the core of contributors to the previous volumes. Has this new attitude produced more satisfactory results? To a certain extent, yes.

The book does present a number of excellent stories which can be considered among the best appeared in print in 2005 and that must be mentioned and praised.

Joe Hill "Best New Horror" (yes, that's the title, not a pun!), taken from his astonishing debut collection 20th Century Ghosts is a captivating, excellent piece about a horror anthology editor trying to trace the author of a particularly unsettling tale.

From the superb Cemetery Dance anthology Taverns of the Dead, we have David Morrell's "Time Was" a splendid, breathtaking story featuring a man who ends up losing everything by visiting a saloon in a ghost Arizona town.

The exceptional return of Clive Barker to the short story ("Haeckel's Tale") is a strong, ghoulish feast of horror and sex to be fully enjoyed. The outstanding, disquieting "American Morons" by Glenn Hirshberg portrays a couple facing the breakdown of their car and their own paranoia while travelling in Italy.

In Roberta Lannes' fascinating "The Other Family" people meet doppelgangers from a different time and dimension. Another gem is "Sickhouse Hospitality" by the talented Terry Lamsley, a nightmarish report of the events taking place in a weird hospital where even healthy individuals get sick.

China Miéville, with Emma Bircham and Max Schaefer contribute "The Ball Room," a deeply disquieting, creepy tale taking place in the playroom of a megastore where children are happy until an eerie darkness closes in.

A woman and a child meeting a bunch of too kind people on a private beach are the characters depicted in Tim Pratt's "Gulls," a brief but truly horrific piece.

Solid, very entertaining fiction is provided by Elizabeth Massie in "Pinkie" a surrealistic tale mixing horror and humour, featuring a farmer and his peculiar pig.

Veteran Brian Lumley is up to his usual, high standard of terrific storyteller with "The Taint," a tale inspired to the atmospheres of H.P. Lovecraft.

Fine, but not outstanding stories are Peter Atkins' The Cubist's Attorney," an offbeat piece concerning an unusual inheritance, Ramsey Campbell's "The Decorations," about a little boy, his deranged grandmother and a gloomy Christmas, and Carol Emshwiller's "I Live With You and You Don't Know It" in which a mysterious stalker intrudes on the life of a plain-looking woman.

The remaining eight stories are remarkable only for either the lack of originality of their plot or the author's inability to tell a story in a straightforward, passable way or both. The reasons for including them in the book are beyond my understanding.

In addition to a fair amount of excellent stories the volume offers once again an exhaustive, invaluable introduction reporting any possible information about the horror world (books and magazines, movies, small imprints, awards etc.), a real treat for any lover of the genre.

Copyright © 2006 by Mario Guslandi

Mario Guslandi lives in Milan, Italy, and is a long-time fan of dark fiction. His book reviews have appeared on a number of genre websites such as The Alien Online, Infinity Plus, Necropsy, The Agony Column and Horrorwold.

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