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The Mammoth Book of Best New Horror, #10

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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 -- B 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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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 -- B 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.

30 review for The Mammoth Book of Best New Horror, #10

  1. 5 out of 5

    Lucian Poll

    Best New Horror 10 presents nineteen horror shorts published during 1998. It’s a shame that this tenth anniversary edition of the series represents one of the weakest entries thus far. Despite boasting a number of award winners and nominees within its pages, there are only a few stories that rise above average. Still, if you’d like a goosie at what’s 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 Best New Horror 10 presents nineteen horror shorts published during 1998. It’s a shame that this tenth anniversary edition of the series represents one of the weakest entries thus far. Despite boasting a number of award winners and nominees within its pages, there are only a few stories that rise above average. Still, if you’d like a goosie at what’s 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. Darkness descends outside and they notice the train slowing to a stop. The heating fails. The lighting too. When they investigate further, it seems their carriage has become uncoupled from the train. Or, having served its useful purpose, did the train simply disappear? According to Fowler’s introduction, he wrote this deconstruction of a traditional horror story as his farewell to the genre. (He’d be back. 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 Carroll’s “The Dead Love You” (Best New Horror 2). I wasn’t a fan of that because it reeked of a half-finished story the author had kicking around which, by merely breaking the fourth wall, he felt he could get away with taking the story in a totally different direction. I termed this rug-pull in my review back then: “a fuck-you to the reader”. “Learning To Let Go”, thankfully, isn’t quite so egregious.) The Wedding Present – Neil Gaiman (3/5 – Gordon and Belinda are writing thank you cards for all the wedding presents they received, when they happen across a strange gift in a mundane manilla envelope: a single sheet of paper with a delightful description of their wedding day. But when they check the document some time later they find the text has changed, describing a version of their marriage they cannot quite reconcile. This is pretty good, told in Gaiman’s wonderful story-telling way, until the moment you sense you’ve heard it before. For me, hat-tipping “The Picture Of Dorian Gray” within the story wasn’t 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. Which, of course, happens. Fans of flash fiction might get a kick out of this one, being a mere two pages long. I’ve often found the format a tough sell, and this did nothing to win me over.) Bondage – Kathe Koja (3/5 – A couple dip their toes into bondage, taking turns to wear a featureless gimp mask while they’re doing the nasty. Turns out they rather like it. Good for them. Not quite sure where the horror lies in this one, if I’m honest. Answers on a stamp-addressed dildo, please.) The Keys To D’Espérance – Chaz Brenchley (3/5 – A young war veteran has reached his lowest ebb. He settles his affairs and initiates plans for his suicide when he receives the titular keys to a large country pile. Upon arriving there he happens across a large disused bathhouse. In the process of bringing it back into operation, he is brought to recall the tragic circumstances surrounding the fates of those he loved. This is one of those tales that favours mood ahead of, oh, I don’t know, telling the bloody story. It gets there in the end, but I nearly didn’t. Probably not one for animal lovers either.) The Song My Sister Sang – Stephen Laws (4/5 – Dean is helping in the aftermath of an oil spill on Tynemouth beach. He spots a seabird struggling in one of the sluices running from a disused open-air swimming pool nearby. It’s a pool that holds tragic memories for Dean, being the place where his little sister drowned as a young girl. Dean finds the pool choking with oil and hundreds of dead birds… and someone seeking his help. Few can match Laws when it comes to building up tension within a story, and there are a couple of terrific scenes here that really set the nerves a-jangling. This story bagged a British Fantasy Award back in the day. I can’t argue with that.) A Victorian Ghost Story – Kim Newman (4/5 – Within the oak-panelled splendour of a gentlemen’s club, some members are taking turns to tell ghost stories over cigars and brandy. Ernest Virtue, fresh from making a killing on the Stock Exchange, relates to the gathering a recent and singular experience of his where a regular London pea-souper opened up to reveal a hidden ghostly world. This is a 4/5 from me, but only just. Though enjoyable – thanks largely to Newman’s exquisite writing – the story didn’t 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. It’s 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 victim’s mother as the police fail to unearth any clues. Campbell assembles a cast of mostly unlikeable characters around the victim, leaving the reader in no doubt where their sympathies should lie. Despite this, and some clunky dialog, the story still succeeds.) Upstairs – Lawrence Watt-Evans (3/5 – The upstairs neighbours are making an awful racket, so Jack goes up to have a word. It doesn’t end well for him. Another piece of flash fiction that failed to win me over.) Postcards From The Prince Of Tides – Caitlín R. Kiernan (3/5 – Three twentysomethings are travelling back from Seattle along Highway 101 when their car breaks down. While Tam seeks to have the car repaired, Lark and Crispin go wandering. They find billboards for a nearby attraction promising wonderful sights of mermaids and sea serpents and more besides. Hoping for use of a phone, Lark and Crispin seek the place out. This was okay, with some great descriptive touches as we visit through each of the exhibits, and there were pleasingly subtle Lovecraftian nods, especially the strange geometry at play within the trailer housing all the beasties. But Kiernan overuses wordwank concatenation to the pointmoment it soswiftbecomes bastarddistracting. On top of that, if I was Tam, I’d have probably drowned both Lark and Crispin in Lake Union and travelled back alone. #MisanthopyYay) Everybody Goes – Michael Marshall Smith (3/5 – Three boys are gadding about in the summer sun, much like how kids used to before Fortnite enslaved them all. Jim keeps catching glimpses of a man watching them from a way aways. When Jim gets home, the man approaches him and introduces himself. 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. His Uncle William was the last occupier of the house, having died some three months earlier. Indeed, it seems the house has been unkind to all the Martyces who had lived there, each suffering and eventually succumbing to ill health. While poring over some old photographs in the house, Gordon accidentally splashes some whisky onto the images, spoiling them with splodges of yellow and red. When Gordon checks the photographs again, he finds a chilling truth developing in those colourful splodges. In her introduction to this story, Lee cites M.R. James as an influence she felt was perhaps only evident to herself. Ehhhhh, no. This is a story that would quickly fill any Jamesean bingo card, and rather reminded me of James’s “The Mezzotint”. 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. In fact this near-Sisyphean task has consumed his money, his marriage, every scrap of his time and that of his father and his father’s father before him. Not that anyone would notice. The place still seems an unfinished wreck. It’s a stinking hot summer out there, and not one to be hefting and humping hardware around the house. Indeed, it seems several fellow Do-It-Yourselfers in the neighbourhood have Overdone-It-Themselves and gone to the great hardware store in the sky for their troubles. Maybe Taylor should ease up a bit and take stock of things. This is one of SRT’s straighter stories and a good one at that. Anything that uses a murderous shade to reinforce my belief that DIY should be left strictly to the pros gets a thumbs-up from me.) Inside The Cackle Factory – Dennis Etchison (3/5 – Lisa Anne has recently started working at a research firm that gauges the reactions of test audiences to TV programme pilots. It is her job to help shepherd audience members to where they need to be. She tries her best to inveigle herself into the affections of Marty, her manager, impressing him with her knack for thinking up anagrams of TV shows and peoples names. But to what end? Why is Lisa Anne so keen to entrench herself into the company? And why does the company seem to take a heavy-handed approach to any unwelcome outsiders? The answers, frankly, are barely worth the effort. This was nominated for an International Horror Critics Guild award back in the day, but I fail to see the merit. This is one of those stories that seems panel-beaten into such a shape as to deliver the ending the writer had in mind. In other words, it’s as over-engineered as Lisa Anne’s tiresome anagram schtick. Eminently skippable.) The Specialist’s Hat – Kelly Link (3/5 – Claire and Samantha are twins who discover that their babysitter used to live in the big rattly old house before them. The babysitter professes to know a good deal of the house’s secrets: of its little cubbyholes and hiding places, of its large attic space, and of the creepy teeth-covered Specialist’s Hat that hangs up there, waiting for them. I wanted to like this somewhat more than I did. 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 we’ll perhaps chalk this up as one that just wasn’t 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. Sadly, it shows, and, worse, the story doesn’t survive Davis’s heavy cutting. It’s 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. We witness an attack on a family by one such creature. And then, for the remaining 60 pages, we are mostly subjected to lots of people stroking their chins and discussing Paper-Men as if they’re all Sir David Bloody Attenborough. Then, three pages before the end, a limp climax is sticky-taped to the whole affair. But the horrors don’t end there. 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. Then are there are passages that often read like screenplay outlines, juxtaposed, bizarrely, with lengthy tracts of mostly pointless infodumping. All of which contributes to a frustrating and uneven read. 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. The old man’s lack of shoes is soon explained away. The fact that he was over a hundred years old, possessed two sets of organs within his body both male and female, and was pregnant at the time of his death… well, that might take a while longer. This was okay. 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. So, yeah, it’s pretty darned good. In “Mr Clubb…” we find Straub in an unhurried and expansive mood as we hear the sorry tale of a wealthy and successful businessman who hires Messrs Clubb and Cuff – Private Detectives Extraordinaire – to punish his wife and lover after receiving evidence of their affair. What our man doesn’t count on, however, are the detectives’ deeply unusual, if not to say downright intrusive and consumptive, working methods. Having this follow so closely from “The Boss In The Wall” almost seems cruel. One is a long novel massacred into the rough shape of a much shorter novella, while this is a short story given all the room it needs to settle and mature until it becomes something much greater. It’s the literary equivalent of a sumptuous seven course meal followed by cognac and fine cigars, and for the most part it is absolutely superb. Every aspect is given the time it needs to help fulsomely flesh out the tale, and yet it’s testament to the strength and quality of Straub’s writing that the reader is gripped throughout. In fact, it’s precisely this unhurried approach to the story that slowly begins to unsettle the reader. We know something bad is going to happen, and we know that Straub is going to be equally unhurried and expansive in telling us all about it. If I had one quibble it would be with the ending, but then, in a way, it does suit the hyperreality of what comes before. Definitely worth seeking out and a great closer to the book.)

  2. 4 out of 5

    Tiffany Lynn Kramer

    Seriously can someone tell me what is Jones' criteria when he puts one of these collections together? Of the tales here in the first four are in no uncertain terms not horror. 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. A few of these I unashamedly skipped for one reason or another and most of those I did read haven't stuck with me. One I will say I struggled with was The Boss In The Wall. I loved the concept Seriously can someone tell me what is Jones' criteria when he puts one of these collections together? Of the tales here in the first four are in no uncertain terms not horror. 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. A few of these I unashamedly skipped for one reason or another and most of those I did read haven't stuck with me. One I will say I struggled with was The Boss In The Wall. I loved the concept but I couldn't get past the writing style. With the authors use of langue I had this story pegged as taking place in the late 1800's, early 1900's until obviously modern things like fast food and credit cards were mentioned. The narrative also jumped around without warning and didn't help my confusion. I really would have liked to have read this one till the end but for the sake of my sanity I had to call it quits. This collection wasn't all bad. 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. It was a wonderful surprise to read another of Caitlin R. Kiernan's works. The Key to D'Esperance, The Song of My Sister and Yellow and Red all proved to be stand outs that gave me new authors to look into. Despite my low rating I'm still not completely apposed to picking up another one of these. I will just be sure to go into with different expectations.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Phillip Smith

    I hate giving three stars (or lower) to any book, but this anthology just didn't really do it for me this time around. There's a lot of talent in here, but the stories themselves (exceptions for Kelly Link, Caitlin R. Kiernan, Neil Gaiman, and Peter Straub) weren't as memorable as I would've liked.

  4. 4 out of 5

    L.

    The introduction alone is a treasure trove of information regarding the state of horror, and the new and developing projects of many authors and editors. Mr. Jones has collected some gems from the likes of Caitlin R. Kiernan, Neil Gaiman, Tanith Lee, Harlan Ellison, and Kim Newman...and that's just to start. Neil Gaiman's, The Wedding Present is a tidy little story with a rather sardonic ending. I enjoyed Peter Straub's, Mr. Clubb & Mr. Cuff too. Harlan Ellison's, Objects of Desire in the Mirror The introduction alone is a treasure trove of information regarding the state of horror, and the new and developing projects of many authors and editors. Mr. Jones has collected some gems from the likes of Caitlin R. Kiernan, Neil Gaiman, Tanith Lee, Harlan Ellison, and Kim Newman...and that's just to start. Neil Gaiman's, The Wedding Present is a tidy little story with a rather sardonic ending. I enjoyed Peter Straub's, Mr. Clubb & Mr. Cuff too. Harlan Ellison's, Objects of Desire in the Mirror are Closer Than They Appear. I believe my absolute favorite is Avram Davidson & Grania Davis', The Boss in the Wall though. I can't think of one story that I didn't enjoy but those were, I thought, especially well done.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Clint

    Maybe this was 3 stars. 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. The very best story, however, was "Adventures in Further Education" or something like that; at only 2 pages long it just beat the shit out of everything else, unbelievably cool. The Neil Gaiman story was great, as they usually are, Harlan Ellison a little Maybe this was 3 stars. 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. The very best story, however, was "Adventures in Further Education" or something like that; at only 2 pages long it just beat the shit out of everything else, unbelievably cool. The Neil Gaiman story was great, as they usually are, Harlan Ellison a little under his standard, Peter Straub a little over his standard. A great book to keep on the nightstand and read before going to sleep.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Andre

    As far as anthologies go, this is a great read. The amount of good short horror fiction in 1998 must have been considerable seeing the quality of the stories in this collection. My least favourite story was "The keys to D'Espérance" 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. Funnily enough written by an author I never really liked much before now. Neil Gaiman's short As far as anthologies go, this is a great read. The amount of good short horror fiction in 1998 must have been considerable seeing the quality of the stories in this collection. My least favourite story was "The keys to D'Espérance" 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. Funnily enough written by an author I never really liked much before now. Neil Gaiman's short story is fabulous reading as well. Highly recommended volume in this excellent series of books.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Greg Kerestan

    Another stronger-than-usual entry in the anthology series. "Mr. Clubb and Mr. Cuff" riffs on "Bartleby the Scrivener" in increasingly dark ways, "The Wedding Present" and "The Specialist's Hat" are dark fantasy at its best, and "The Boss in the Wall" is one of those novellas that feels like you dreamed it, not read it.

  8. 4 out of 5

    DeCarabas

    Rotten opening story (a meta piece about being tired of writing horror is not the best choice for a horror anthology) but the following stories are an immediate improvement, with some real chilling moments.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Cindy Kleback

    The best stories in this anthology are Neil Gaiman's "The Wedding Present", Bruce Holland Rogers' "The Dead Boy at your Window", Kathe Koja's "Bondage", and the reason I requested this book through interlibrary loan, Harlan Ellison's "Objects of Desire in the Mirror are Closer Than They Appear".

  10. 5 out of 5

    Pat Padden

  11. 4 out of 5

    Johnzsmith

  12. 5 out of 5

    Burke Burke

  13. 4 out of 5

    Ashok Banker

  14. 5 out of 5

    Peter

  15. 5 out of 5

    Gevera Bert

  16. 4 out of 5

    Laura

  17. 5 out of 5

    Dbell

  18. 5 out of 5

    Shane Whitney

  19. 5 out of 5

    Paula Hartman

  20. 4 out of 5

    Tim Baruffi

  21. 5 out of 5

    Malloryk0422

  22. 4 out of 5

    Anthony

  23. 4 out of 5

    Sarah

  24. 5 out of 5

    Jim

  25. 5 out of 5

    Thomas Scopel

  26. 4 out of 5

    Hans

  27. 5 out of 5

    Alison C

  28. 5 out of 5

    Elena

  29. 4 out of 5

    Stephen Robert Collins

  30. 5 out of 5

    Jason Ezra

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