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The Year's Best Dark Fantasy & Horror 2011 Edition

by Paula Guran (Editor)

Other authors: Mike Aronovitz (Contributor), Peter Atkins (Contributor), Laird Barron (Contributor), Steve Berman (Contributor), Holly Black (Contributor)27 more, Holly Black (Contributor), Steve Duffy (Contributor), Neil Gaiman (Contributor), Simon R. Green (Contributor), M. L. N. Hanover (Contributor), M. K. Hobson (Contributor), Stephen Graham Jones (Contributor), Caitlin Kiernan (Contributor), Jay Lake (Contributor), Margo Lanagan (Contributor), Sarah Langan (Contributor), Joe R. Lansdale (Contributor), Tanith Lee (Contributor), George R. R. Martin (Contributor), Maureen McHugh (Contributor), Norman Partridge (Contributor), Tim Powers (Contributor), Lynda E. Rucker (Contributor), Ekaterina Sedia (Contributor), John Shirley (Contributor), Michael Skeet (Contributor), Angela Slatter (Contributor), Sarah Totton (Contributor), S. D. Tullis (Contributor), Genevieve Valentine (Contributor), Peter Watts (Contributor), Gene Wolfe (Contributor)

Series: The Year's Best Dark Fantasy & Horror (2011)

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
915216,542 (3.78)2
This annual compilation of the best short fiction and novellas features an unmatched variety of the quietly weird, the merely eerie, high fantasy, modern Lovecraftian horror, nightmarish near-future scenarios, the darkly humorous, the supernatural, and the monstrously mundane.



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Showing 5 of 5
God, I love Christmas, because I usually get a load of new books. Most of them are ones I have asked for, but occasionally my wife surprises me, and this year's surprise was this hefty tome, which is I believe in its second year and appears to finally gives us a viable replacement for the venerable DAW "Year's Best Horror" series that sadly left us in 1994 when editor and author Karl Edward Wagner tragically passed away.

Guran's choices are certainly worthy, though as a whole I found the collection is a bit uneven in spots. Overall it is quite good...the stories by Joe Lansdale and Neil Gaiman, as per usual, are worth the price of admission all themselves--these guys are demented geniuses and I love their work. And there's a lot more to like between the garish green covers.

Only...it's too bad there are so many typos to be found in the text. At times they are quite jarring, and really, you would think that a commercially available volume such as this would be vetted at least a little better. For the price, which is very reasonable, it's still worth it, but I'm taking a star off the review because of it. ( )
  Jamski | Jul 18, 2018 |
As with any anthology there's going to be some good stories and some not so good stories. All of them were decent, I just liked some better than others (looking at you Neil Gaimen and Holly Black), but over all, 4.5 stars. I'd read it again and reccomend it to people that like the darker side of things. ( )
  Beammey | Feb 13, 2016 |
As with any anthology there's going to be some good stories and some not so good stories. All of them were decent, I just liked some better than others (looking at you Neil Gaimen and Holly Black), but over all, 4.5 stars. I'd read it again and reccomend it to people that like the darker side of things. ( )
  Beammey | Nov 27, 2015 |
Dark fantasy, so this isn't really my genre. Since I picked it up to get an overview of what this rather nebulous genre is about, I can't say whether this is representative or not, or good for that matter.

It covered quite a bit of ground, but few stories stood out to me, and I don't think that says much for the genre as a whole. Again, I don't know whether that's just because I don't know much about the genre and what it's compared to: but if I couldn't find much, is that really a good thing?

Maybe a year is too short in time to get a decent overview.
The first three stories were all first person and all disappointing. I almost thought there was a conclusion to be drawn there until "Tragic Life Stories" which was third person and fantastic. I think the only first person story that stood out to me was Gaiman's, and though I didn't think anything of it in particular (sacrilege!) but at least he used the first person properly—I knew who the character, the "I", was pretty quickly. I just think 3rd person is better at orientating the reader. Second person, of course, is most difficult of all for an author and reader alike, and there are three in the collection: decent, as best I recall.

As for the standout stories:

"Tragic Life Stories" How much I enjoyed this because I connected to a narrator who was an author as well may have made this story more appealing to me than a reader who doesn't write, but I hope not, because that would say nothing good about Duffy as author or my reading. Nevertheless I immediately connected to how Dan created his fictional worlds, and then that's where it all went wrong. Well-constructed, good pacing, and a fascinating premise (the inability to discriminate between hallucinations and reality) took me by surprise. And I cared about the character and wanted the best for him. But did he want the best for himself in this story?

"The Naturalist" A zombie story, and once I enjoyed [b:The Walking Dead: Rise of the Governor|10869746|The Walking Dead Rise of the Governor|Robert Kirkman|http://photo.goodreads.com/books/1311998911s/10869746.jpg|16460463] that I won on First Reads, but I'm starting to think, with the handful in this collection, that zombie stories, by definition, all sound the same. I was curious about the narrator's observations, and thought that the most interesting part of the work, but given how quickly the end came after, I'm not sure even the author knew what it meant. A disappointment, since I saw that as really the most original part of the story.

"The Broadsword" I wanted to like this one, and it is dark, I'll give it that. But it felt unsatisfying. There seemed both too much of information that contributed nothing, but then too little about the coming darkness. Some vividly disturbing description though.

"A Thousand Flowers" Not only did I not know what I was supposed to get out of it: what was the point? why was it written? (that seemed to be the weakness of much of the collection: someone had an image they wanted to share, but seemed to have trouble making it into a full story. The sheer amount of detail everywhere that made no sense, went nowhere and never connected to anything else boggled my mind. Peeing on flowers is bad. Why? I have no idea. Is it related to this world's culture? I don't know. I'm not even sure what this culture is supposed to be.

Frankly, I hated this story—terrible characters, pointless plot accomplishes nothing, plenty of creepy and unfortunate implications in a quasi-medieval setting (with Narwhals, Africa, and rhinoceros WHAT). Decent ear for dialogue at least.

"Hurt Me" I did like this one. The fantasy, the supernatural darkness of the story paralleled the character growth and back story and became a metaphor for the underlying plot. That's what I mean by a plot with a point. Not only did something happen, but it changed the characters and it made a difference. Worth it.

"Sea Warg" Only notable because it has a misanthropic philosophy that I don't disagree with, but in the story found unconvincing. I rather liked the clinical Johnson, but the uneven pacing made the end sudden and unconvincing.

"The Thing About Cassandra" Gaiman's story. I rather liked it, but the end was too telegraphed and obvious. Felt cliché, even though I couldn't say that it actually is.

"The Things" Lee developed an interesting and distinct alien consciousness.I haven't seen the movie it's based on (The Thing), so I'm not sure how it fits in? But I think I know enough of the genre tropes to get what the human characters were up to anyway.
"The Return" Again, a story without a real premise. An idea: a girl disappears, returns without her soul, but went where?

"How Bria Died" A good story I guess, like any horror story. But there's a bit about a promise at the very, very end and it made no sense and made me think I missed something. I may have. I tried rereading and it didn't help. Otherwise a fairly standard ghost-story type, and I rather liked it.

"Parallel Lines" another one where the supernatural element highlights the character growth. Engaging and good character growth: well, for someone.

"The Mystery Knight" This isn't going to be fair. But.

I didn't like [b:A Game of Thrones|13496|A Game of Thrones (A Song of Ice and Fire, #1)|George R.R. Martin|http://photo.goodreads.com/books/1330834644s/13496.jpg|1466917]. It felt bloated. I can only imagine this equally bloated so-called story means he's incapable of conciseness. Much of it is unnecessary of the story I actually did manage to discern. Also the main character is introduced with his squire as Dunk and Egg. I think Martin may have found it amusing. But I found it increasingly difficult to remember who anyone was, especially since everyone has at least three names and there are approximately one hundred named characters.

This seems to take place in the same universe as his series, though I'm not sure where or when it takes place, this is one time I would have preferred some appendices. It's some kind of really, really dull political intrigue, without any actually intrigue, just a badly put together conspiracy that's already been 'solved' before our characters were even introduced. They're just witnesses. So pointless! Yes, that may be how "real life" happens (which seems to be how Martin's work is often defended, but that doesn't mean it makes good fiction. And hey, Nick wasn't involved in Gatsby's story, but at least he had a point, and he observed a story and drew conclusions. The interlude described in this novella-length work happens but doesn't seem to matter, and the observers don't actually accomplish anything other than to be there for literally no good reason. Just terrible storytelling all over.

Unfortunately it affected my entire view toward the book as a whole, which did have some good stories.

Still, I do want to say it's probably worth picking up for anyone who does like the genre.
( )
  MarieAlt | Mar 31, 2013 |
I bought this to read while waiting for my kid's dance class to end. Just randomly picked it up. It was a pleasant surprise. There were only a couple of stories in the collection I found to be weak and unentertainng. The majority were page-turners. I found the time flying by as I read through them. One of my favorite authors (Neil Gaiman) was in this collection. Gaiman's "The Thing About Cassandra" wasn't as original as I hoped, but it was well-written and satisfying to read none the less. Joe R. Lansdale's "The Star's are Falling" was my favorite short story. Some of the stories, though, I wouldn't classify as horror or fantasy, but more as dark dramas. Overall: entertaining, well-written, amusing, and worth the time. ( )
  HotWolfie | Nov 10, 2011 |
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» Add other authors

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Guran, PaulaEditorprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Aronovitz, MikeContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Atkins, PeterContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Barron, LairdContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Berman, SteveContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Black, HollyContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Black, HollyContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Duffy, SteveContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Gaiman, NeilContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Green, Simon R.Contributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Hanover, M. L. N.Contributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Hobson, M. K.Contributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Jones, Stephen GrahamContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Kiernan, CaitlinContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Lake, JayContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Lanagan, MargoContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Langan, SarahContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Lansdale, Joe R.Contributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Lee, TanithContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Martin, George R. R.Contributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
McHugh, MaureenContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Partridge, NormanContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Powers, TimContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Rucker, Lynda E.Contributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Sedia, EkaterinaContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Shirley, JohnContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Skeet, MichaelContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Slatter, AngelaContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Totton, SarahContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Tullis, S. D.Contributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Valentine, GenevieveContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Watts, PeterContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Wolfe, GeneContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
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Collects the stories:
"Lesser demons" / Norman Partridge
"Raise your hand if you're dead" / John Shirley
"As red as red" / Caitlín R. Kiernan
"Tragic life stories" / Steve Duffy
"The naturalist" / Maureen McHugh
"The broadsword" / Laird Barron
"A thousand flowers" / Margo Lanagan
"Frumpy little beat girl" / Peter Atkins
"The stars are falling" / Joe R. Lansdale
"Hurt me" / M.L.N. Hanover
"Are you trying to tell me this is heaven?" / Sarah Langan
"Sea warg" / Tanith Lee
"Crawlspace" / Stephen Graham Jones
"Mother Urban's booke of dayes" / Jay Lake
"Brisneyland by night" / Angela Slatter
"The thing about Cassandra" / Neil Gaiman
"He said, laughing" / Simon R. Green
"Bloodsport" / Gene Wolfe
"Oaks Park" / M.K. Hobson
"Thimbleriggery and fledglings" / Steve Berman
"You dream" / Ekaterina Sedia
"Red blues" / Michael Skeet
"The moon will look strange" / Lynda E. Rucker
"The things" / Peter Watts
"Malleus, incus, stapes" / Sarah Totton
"The return" / S.D. Tullis
"The dog king" / Holly Black
"How Bria died" / Mike Aronovitz
"The dire wolf" / Genevieve Valentine
"Parallel lines" / Tim Powers
"The mystery knight" / George R.R. Martin
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