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The Year's Best Horror Stories: Series IV

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Often the line between science fiction and the weird tale defies detection. Because some science fiction can also be tales of horror and some terror tales can be science fictional. That is why you will find among the authors in this latest selection of the best horror stories of the past year some names familiar to SF: Hal Clement, R.A. Lafferty, Arthur Byron Cover. And you Often the line between science fiction and the weird tale defies detection. Because some science fiction can also be tales of horror and some terror tales can be science fictional. That is why you will find among the authors in this latest selection of the best horror stories of the past year some names familiar to SF: Hal Clement, R.A. Lafferty, Arthur Byron Cover. And you will also find some names best known for their triumphs in producing gooseflesh a la Lovecraft and Poe: Brian Lumley, Joseph Payne Brennan, Ramsey Campbell. And there are names that belong to readers of fantasy in all its many forms: Fritz Leiber, Avram Davidson, Frank Belknap Long. You will find many more, too, because this is the very special 4th Series of the one and only annual of horror tales produced in America.


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Often the line between science fiction and the weird tale defies detection. Because some science fiction can also be tales of horror and some terror tales can be science fictional. That is why you will find among the authors in this latest selection of the best horror stories of the past year some names familiar to SF: Hal Clement, R.A. Lafferty, Arthur Byron Cover. And you Often the line between science fiction and the weird tale defies detection. Because some science fiction can also be tales of horror and some terror tales can be science fictional. That is why you will find among the authors in this latest selection of the best horror stories of the past year some names familiar to SF: Hal Clement, R.A. Lafferty, Arthur Byron Cover. And you will also find some names best known for their triumphs in producing gooseflesh a la Lovecraft and Poe: Brian Lumley, Joseph Payne Brennan, Ramsey Campbell. And there are names that belong to readers of fantasy in all its many forms: Fritz Leiber, Avram Davidson, Frank Belknap Long. You will find many more, too, because this is the very special 4th Series of the one and only annual of horror tales produced in America.

48 review for The Year's Best Horror Stories: Series IV

  1. 4 out of 5

    Zach

    In which Gerald Page takes over as editor and raises the bar a good bit. Mostly reprints from 1974-1975, with a few originals tossed in (augh). All men (double augh). Forever Stand the Stones (Joe Pumilia) Stonehenge traps two spirits outside of time. The structure is ambitious, the prose better than most, the content (a series of ritualistic murders repeated throughout history) largely uninteresting. And Don’t Forget the One Red Rose (Avram Davidson) A dull worker in Queens visits his upstairs nei In which Gerald Page takes over as editor and raises the bar a good bit. Mostly reprints from 1974-1975, with a few originals tossed in (augh). All men (double augh). Forever Stand the Stones (Joe Pumilia) Stonehenge traps two spirits outside of time. The structure is ambitious, the prose better than most, the content (a series of ritualistic murders repeated throughout history) largely uninteresting. And Don’t Forget the One Red Rose (Avram Davidson) A dull worker in Queens visits his upstairs neighbor’s new bookstore, which has an eccentric pricing system. Things escalate with his shitty boss. Somewhat Blochian in its approach; the title is an injunction to the main character never uttered in the actual story, which I don't think I've ever run into before. Christmas Present (Ramsey Campbell) A Christmas party in Liverpool is cast awry by a stranger giving the antithesis of a Christmas present to prove a point. Wonderfully uncanny, full of weird sounds, put me in mind of Aickman’s “Ringing the Changes.” Short but punchy. A Question of Guilt (Hal Clement) ~200 AD, a Roman family live in a cave to protect their last son after the first 3 died because of complications from hemophilia. Dad is focused on action to find a cure, mom is convinced she's cursed by the gods. Endless descriptions of trying to invent a needle/IV. In theory an interesting spin on the origin of vampire legends, in practice exceedingly tedious. The House On Stillcroft Street (Joseph Payne Brennan) In a small New England town, voracious ivy vines have taken over a reclusive botanist's house. An utterly pro forma creature feature, but at least Brennan knew exactly what he was aiming for. The Recrudescence of Geoffrey Marvel (G.N. Gabbard) Germany, 1653, a drama-quoting English cad faces down a ghost-taunting baron to save a barmaid. Vacuous pastiche. Something Had to Be Done (David Drake) Two army guys go to serve a death notification to next of kin during the Vietnam War, but it turns out one of them had ulterior motives. Brief, but another nice spin on vampires, tying them into the imperialism of the war (whether or not Drake meant it to come across that way). Cottage Tenant (Frank Belknap Long) A boy, obsessed with his theory about parrot-ish sea monsters winning the Trojan war, accidentally summons one because of the Jungian collective unconscious and anxiety about the Bomb (or something). Ridiculous; absolutely wooden prose. The Man with the Aura (R.A. Lafferty) The handsomest, richest, most respected, most popular man in the US is really a two-bit crook with an “aura machine.” He explains this endlessly to a politician who responds to confessions of arson and matricide with “such drollery!” Quite apropo to modern American life, but spins the joke out longer than it should have (much like modern American life). White Wolf Calling (Charles L. Grant) An elderly rural couple lament their loser twin sons; the father finds a surrogate child in their Czech neighbor. How do you say "Black Shuck" in Czech? Feels authentic, strikingly better than most of the others prose-wise. Lifeguard (Arthur Byron Cover) A teenager smokes a lot of pot, sees the ghost of a colonial woman, and learns that's why some people never make it out of his dead-end town. The apathetic post-hippie youth make this feel more of-its-time than many of these other stories. The Black Captain (H. Warner Munn) A man isolates himself in the desert, terrified of any exposure to darkness or shadow. The backstory reveal is trite, the prose overwrought at points, but the whole thing is convincingly arid and desolate and terror-stricken. The Glove (Fritz Leiber) A woman is assaulted; the perpetrator’s glove takes on a life of its own. Very much lesser Leiber, although as always the SF apartment building full of freaks and outcasts is well-drawn. A reread. No Way Home (Brian Lumley) A rural area in England confuses drivers such that they end up in an alternate dimension where no one has heard of their town and they find themselves rootless and alienated. Very Twilight Zone, creepy and relatively low-key, Lumley almost had me with this one! Then, in a further-removed dimension, house-shaped monsters attack the protagonist, “plooping” after their prey.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Kevin Lucia

    Not the same quality of stories as found in later editions edited by the late Karl Edward Wagner. Whether that's a reflection of the editor, or simply happenstance, have no idea. But this definitely didn't stand up to the Wagner tomes, with the exception of the last tale, "No Way Home," by Brian Lumely. Made me want to hunt up some of his short story collections. Not the same quality of stories as found in later editions edited by the late Karl Edward Wagner. Whether that's a reflection of the editor, or simply happenstance, have no idea. But this definitely didn't stand up to the Wagner tomes, with the exception of the last tale, "No Way Home," by Brian Lumely. Made me want to hunt up some of his short story collections.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Shawn

    This is the first of the Gerald Page edited YEAR'S BEST HORROR, taking over from Richard Davis and featuring "the Year's Best Horror" stories for 1974-1975 (the orig. publication dates make it unclear - more on that later). Mr. Page did the next 3 before turning it over the Karl Edward Wagner in 1980. So, Horror circa 1974-1975? I have to admit, I'm intrigued by the period. Unfortunately, there's only one real winner in the entire batch, at least to my taste, with a couple of strong runners-up. W This is the first of the Gerald Page edited YEAR'S BEST HORROR, taking over from Richard Davis and featuring "the Year's Best Horror" stories for 1974-1975 (the orig. publication dates make it unclear - more on that later). Mr. Page did the next 3 before turning it over the Karl Edward Wagner in 1980. So, Horror circa 1974-1975? I have to admit, I'm intrigued by the period. Unfortunately, there's only one real winner in the entire batch, at least to my taste, with a couple of strong runners-up. What's striking here is the high level of dark fantasy, with the occasional funny horror and lashings of pulp. There are also some real head-scratchers like "And Don't Forget The One Red Rose" by Avram Davidson which is an excellent story but isn't anything like what you'd call horror unless you're applying that to the bright, witty little conte cruels of Roald Dahl mixed with some light "dark fantasy". And the long-winded-to-little-effect "A Question Of Guilt" by Hal Clement is supposedly a horror story because it posits a scientific origin for the myth of vampires, having to do with a couple trying to cure hemophilia in ancient Rome. Really! Not bad (I'd argue its overwritten, whatever the genre) but this should be in some science-fantasy collection. There's also an essay by E. Hoffmann Price about the then-brewing "Lovecraft controversy" attending two biographies being published. It all seems kind of silly now. Blazing, cartoony, lurid pulp surges forth from Joe Pumilia's "Forever Stand The Stones", a story consisting of everything Robert Bloch did with Jack The Ripper crossed with Robert E. Howard and a Dr. Strange comic book of the era. It's not very good dark fantasy but it is fun in that kinda comic-booky way. "The House On Stillcroft Street" by Joseph Payne Brennan is a low-key, quirky slice of New England-iana developed on the resurgent old trope of engulfment. Okay but tepid, a higher grade of pulp. "Something Had To Be Done" by David Drake is an military monster story and "The Black Captain" by H. Warner Munn is a solid cut of a "weird tale" with all the fat pared away to nothing (the main character being accursed by some slithering monstrosity from an Aztec temple is treated as a short revelation near the climax). It's kind of neat in an experimental pulp way. Fritz Leiber's "The Glove" is just okay, a slasher/detective/psychological/ghost story story. "Cottage Tenant" by Frank Belknap Long is Lovecraftian (that most overused of adjectives amongst horror fans) without containing a single Lovecraft reference, just a horror from the surf, a figure looming in the shadows, the smell of brine and rotting fish, an inquisitive child and Jungian psychology. It is an interesting oddity, although the start was confusing and the end a bit too pulpy. "The Recrudescence of Geoffrey Marvell" is a humorous pastiche of Germanic fairy tales by G.N. Gabbard. Enjoyable. "The Man With The Aura" by R.A. Lafferty is a little bit Richard Matheson dryness combined with some science fiction. "White Wolf Calling" by C.L. Grant (I assume Charles L. Grant) is, in my opinion, a confusing mess of a story, but wins points for including a realistic family scenario. Arthur Byron Cover's "Lifeguard" does an excellent job of capturing a specific place and, more importantly, time (70's college stoner stuck a home for the summer) and even has an interesting germ of an idea but never illuminates the mechanics of the threat. It should have been longer, and I'd like to check out Cover's Autumn Angels someday. "No Way Home" by Brian Lumley is a little overwrought in getting around to its parallel worlds scenario (and only so much can be gotten away with "...I read science fiction as well") but the ending is nicely creepy, leaving a feeling akin to the ending of Stephen King's "The Mist". The great story, the find of 1974-1975, is Ramsey Campbell's amazing "The Christmas Present" which is just a solid piece of inventive horror combining creepy turns of thought with terse, painterly prose and solid character stuff. Great atmosphere as well, this needs to be reprinted soon. A reading of it was supposedly broadcast on the BBC in 1969 (which again brings into sight the problems of a "year's best horror" comp. Wagner was much stricter, I believe, about making it "that *particular* year's...best horror"). So that's what you get. Let's see what Volume 5 offers, shall we?

  4. 4 out of 5

    Brad

    Average rating of all of the stories was 3.03 and that's probably a fair assessment, though I wouldn't argue with a 2.5. No reason to seek this out, I just happened to have an electronic copy of it and thought it sounded like an appropriate read for near-Halloween. Rating: PG-13, for some chills, some violence, and some references to sex, but nothing on-screen. Forever Stand the Stones - Joe Pumilia (2/5) Trippy little story about Stonehenge. (view spoiler)[The architect of it was trapped for 3400 Average rating of all of the stories was 3.03 and that's probably a fair assessment, though I wouldn't argue with a 2.5. No reason to seek this out, I just happened to have an electronic copy of it and thought it sounded like an appropriate read for near-Halloween. Rating: PG-13, for some chills, some violence, and some references to sex, but nothing on-screen. Forever Stand the Stones - Joe Pumilia (2/5) Trippy little story about Stonehenge. (view spoiler)[The architect of it was trapped for 3400 yrs, finally replaced when a druid entered under rare specific circumstances by an Englishman from the late 1800s. Who apparently can visualize any time or place past or present, but it's kind of a living hell because you can't get out. (hide spoiler)] And Don't Forget the One Red Rose - Avram Davidson (4/5) An employee who takes abuse (both verbal and physical) from a boss meets a new neighbor who sells books for interesting prices. (view spoiler)[The cost of the book he's most interested in turns out to be one he can afford--the crushed head of a Babylon sandal salesman, which happens to be his boss's other job (Babylon, Long Island). Just needs a red rose in his mouth. (hide spoiler)] Christmas Present - Ramsey Campbell (2/5) Meh, just ok. Something about an anti-Christmas, and a mob of scary-seeming people, and an argumentative college student. I guess I just didn't get it. A Question of Guilt - Hal Clement (3/5) An interesting take on the origin of the vampire myth, and Clement does it without any fantastical elements. (view spoiler)[A couple in ancient Rome tries to find a way to save the life of their hemophiliac child. (hide spoiler)] The House on Stillcroft Street - Joseph Payne Brennan (4/5) Might be one of my favorites of the anthology thus far. Short and sweet. (view spoiler)[A botanist brings a sample of ivy back home that overgrows his house and eventually overgrows him too. (hide spoiler)] The Recrudescence of Geoffrey Marvell - G. N. Gabbard (4/5) Reminded me (in a good way) of a Brothers Grimm story. (view spoiler)[Charming rogue saves a damsel from a baron with a ring that protects him from the ghosts of people he has killed withe intention of making them ghosts. He steals the ring off his finger and the ghosts get the baron. (hide spoiler)] Something Had To Be Done - David Drake (3.5/5) Another short and sweet story of a sergeant giving news to a family of the death of their son in the war. (view spoiler)[They were some kind of gypsy family, and their son had survived what should have been lethal gunfire. Then other squadmates began to die mysteriously and they discovered this guy was the cause. They killed him, and the sergeant ended up with a crazy malignant melanoma. He brought a grenade with him to the family and blew them up. (hide spoiler)] Cottage Tennant - Frank Belknap Long (1/5) Mildly Lovecraftian (which I normally like), but just boring and too long for me. (view spoiler)[A kid imagines up some creatures that attack some neighbors, then him and his family. Blah blah, Jungian theories, dad puts kid in a trance, and creatures go away. (hide spoiler)] The Man with the Aura - R. A. Lafferty (5/5) An excellent short story, my only complaint being how repetitive the listener's comments felt. (view spoiler)[Sneaky guy builds a machine that makes people like him and think the best of him, despite whatever terrible things he might do (like killing two wives, making lots of money through insurance and arson, etc.) Ends up killing the guy he's telling the truth to, and the guy thinks it's all a big joke. (hide spoiler)] White Wolf Calling - C. L. Grant (2/5) People see a big white wolf, and die shortly after. Lifeguard - Arthur Byron Cover (2/5) (view spoiler)[A loser stoner smokes a particular joint that makes him see the ?ghost of someone who had originally lived in Cook's Cabin back in frontier days. And everyone else who has smoked that same pot saw her, too, and then they don't leave town. (hide spoiler)] The Black Captain - H. Warner Munn (3/5) A treasure-seeker lives in fear of the consequences of some of his exploring. (view spoiler)[Went to a temple with a colleague to loot it, turns out that creatures still worshiped the god of it. He injured his colleague to be able to get out himself, and has avoided shadows ever since. Until the eclipse, when one of the beasties swoops down and gets him like a tarantula wasp. (hide spoiler)] The Glove - Fritz Leiber (3.5/5) Creepy story, well done. (view spoiler)[Semi-possessed glove belongs to a neighbor of the narrator who posed as someone helpful and kind, but had committed a terrible act against another neighbor and left the glove behind. He gets caught. (hide spoiler)] No Way Home - Brian Lumley (3.5/5) Another good selection for the anthology. (view spoiler)[Jerk of a guy gets lost while driving unfamiliar roads that end up taking him to a place where houses are sentient and he gets eaten. (hide spoiler)] The Lovecraft Controversy--Why? - E. Hoffman Price (-/5) Didn't read this one, as I don't care much about the different versions of Lovecraft presented in two different biographies, or even that there was a controversy.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Angela Maher

    Another nicely varied selection of stories and authors.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Bryan Stubbles

    These stories may have been the year's best for someone. That someone wasn't me. Avram Davidson's And Don't Forget the Red Rose has a crackerjack ending despite the casually racist stereotype the seller embodies. Joseph Payne Brennan's The House on Stillcroft Street is a bit of twisted fun. G.N. Gabbard's The Recrudescence of Geoffrey Marvell brings some Gothic adventure to the horror party. Brian Lumley's No Way Home creates a mencacing atmosphere. Gerald W. Page's opening essay is worth a read a These stories may have been the year's best for someone. That someone wasn't me. Avram Davidson's And Don't Forget the Red Rose has a crackerjack ending despite the casually racist stereotype the seller embodies. Joseph Payne Brennan's The House on Stillcroft Street is a bit of twisted fun. G.N. Gabbard's The Recrudescence of Geoffrey Marvell brings some Gothic adventure to the horror party. Brian Lumley's No Way Home creates a mencacing atmosphere. Gerald W. Page's opening essay is worth a read as is the closing essay by E. Hoffmann Price regarding two biographies of H.P. Lovecraft and his own experiences with the author. Worth a look for these stories, but I doubt one's life trajectory will change much if one skips this volume.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Brent Winslow

    Found in a used book store outside Orlando, this book presents a series of short horror stories considered the best of 1976. While I recognized a number of authors, one in particular is worth mentioning. Fritz Leiber's The Glove stood above the rest, and I look forward to finding more of his work. Found in a used book store outside Orlando, this book presents a series of short horror stories considered the best of 1976. While I recognized a number of authors, one in particular is worth mentioning. Fritz Leiber's The Glove stood above the rest, and I look forward to finding more of his work.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Dollie

    I always enjoy reading collections of horror short stories. There were several in this book that I enjoyed.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Bill

  10. 4 out of 5

    Edward Lengel

  11. 4 out of 5

    Matt

  12. 4 out of 5

    OTIS

  13. 5 out of 5

    Edward

  14. 5 out of 5

    Hans

  15. 4 out of 5

    Darren

  16. 5 out of 5

    Donna

  17. 5 out of 5

    Jay Rothermel

  18. 5 out of 5

    Taryn

  19. 5 out of 5

    Cody Goodfellow

  20. 5 out of 5

    Anneka Ever

  21. 5 out of 5

    R. Hoffmann

  22. 5 out of 5

    Ancapaillmor

  23. 5 out of 5

    Richard

  24. 4 out of 5

    Waffles

  25. 5 out of 5

    April Infinite

  26. 5 out of 5

    Joe Noir

  27. 4 out of 5

    Jim

  28. 4 out of 5

    Nancy Collins

  29. 5 out of 5

    D. E.

  30. 4 out of 5

    { U n s o l v e d M y s t e r y }

  31. 5 out of 5

    Alicia

  32. 4 out of 5

    Penni

  33. 4 out of 5

    Tim Goebel

  34. 4 out of 5

    Joseph

  35. 5 out of 5

    Rick

  36. 4 out of 5

    Robert Weaver

  37. 5 out of 5

    Hannah Rousey

  38. 5 out of 5

    Mark Yanes

  39. 4 out of 5

    Jordan West

  40. 5 out of 5

    Pete R.

  41. 4 out of 5

    Beth

  42. 5 out of 5

    Thewalkinglexicon

  43. 5 out of 5

    Taueret

  44. 5 out of 5

    Ana

  45. 4 out of 5

    Hhkk Jui

  46. 5 out of 5

    Dianeparant

  47. 4 out of 5

    Greg Fasolino

  48. 4 out of 5

    Brandon

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