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A Book of Horrors (2011)

by Stephen Jones (Editor & Introduction)

Other authors: Ramsey Campbell (Contributor), Peter Crowther (Contributor), Dennis Etchison (Contributor), Elizabeth Hand (Contributor), Brian Hodge (Contributor)9 more, Caitlin R. Kiernan (Contributor), Stephen King (Contributor), John Ajvide Lindqvist (Contributor), Richard Christian Matheson (Contributor), Reggie Oliver (Contributor), Robert Shearman (Contributor), Angela Slatter (Contributor), Michael Marshall Smith (Contributor), Lisa Tuttle (Contributor)

Other authors: See the other authors section.

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20324134,592 (3.79)9
A collection of original horror and dark fantasy from the world's best writers, including Stephen King and John Ajvide Lindqvist.

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Showing 1-5 of 26 (next | show all)
I'm not sure why this anthology isn't rated much higher on average. People must be expecting some sort of berserk maniac monster mayhem but this collection features a lot of excellent subtle weird little horrors. The book is very literate (as in literature) as well. There wasn't a stinker in the batch. Even in the longer stories, there was so much interesting going on and the writing was so good, I didn't mind that there wasn't any severed jugular edge-of-my-seat horror going on. It was just damn fine writing.

If you like your horrors literate, quiet, and genre bending this is a good book for you. ( )
  Gumbywan | Jun 24, 2022 |
I wanted to read something appropriately spooky for Halloween. I reached for Frankenstein...but I think I read that earlier this year. (GoodReads needs a way to mark re-readings.) Fortunately this book has been haunting my shelves for a while, yet another one courtesy of Macmillan's Free Book Day.

I'm not usually a fan of horror, but when I think of horror I'm usually thinking of terrifying movies. For written stories, I think the short story format captured everything best. I was able to sample different authors without committing to a longer book--which was a good thing, since I didn't even find most of the stories that creepy/horrific.

This was especially disappointing when I read the Stephen King story. Blasphemous as it may be, this was actually the first Stephen King I've read, and I wasn't too impressed. It wasn't much worse than anything I'd read in my typical fantasy fiction, I found a misplaced modifier, and this glorious sentence: "Tonya had come to the doorway and now stood beside Melissa, staring with wide eyes and a dishwiper hanging limp in one hand." (19) It...sounds like her wide eyes are hanging limp in her hands. Also, what is a dishwiper? A dishcloth? A sponge? A quick Google search doesn't clear up the question...

Anyway, it was kind of amusing to notice, as I went through the stories, which ones were my favorites. I think anyone who knows me could have picked them out! They featured strong elements of fantasy, diversity, history, and women:

>> "The Coffin-Maker's Daughter", by Angela Slatter, took place in a world of high fantasy with a complex, slowly-revealed-but-not-spelled-out culture surrounding death. Three of the four main characters are women, and the main character is strongly attracted to the daughter of her latest client. I think that was the only example of nonstandard sexuality we got in the whole collection. The story was far too short compared to the others--I would happily read an entire book set in this world.

>> "Roots and All", by Brian Hodge, is set in modern rural Appalachia (I think, please forgive me this detail!), the kind of locale perfect for characters both proud and despairing in an environment that can alternate between beauty and ruin. We get a man and a woman as main characters: relatives, which means we get to sidestep stupid romance, but not the predictable brother and sister. Both are unique, brave but flawed. We also get two older women who play strong roles in the story: the main characters' recently deceased grandmother, who left them a shocking surprise in the attic with more than a few strings attached; and her neighbor, who provides crucial information for the story. Neither old woman is held up on a pedestal as the wise "fairy godmother" sort or discounted as a dotty old lady: they're flawed but integral, bringing weight and subtle but critical information into the story.

>> "A Child's Problem", by Reggie Oliver, was pretty much a novella. It's an ekphrastic story, one based off an 1857 painting of the same name that was created by an inmate of Bedlam. In Oliver's tale, he has the curious patronage of (apparently fictional) Sir George St. Maur, who (a short preface implies) directs the artist to create a work that incorporates elements from childhood experiences at a gloomy estate with his uncle. We get historical fiction, ghosts, riddles, a delightful woman who shows up late in the story, a giant old house with dusty secrets, and a young protagonists who turns out to be much cleverer than the reader realizes at first.

>> "Near Zennor", by Elizabeth Hand, was another novella that really felt like it should have kept going: it ended quite abruptly with only an implied "big reveal"--which is extremely effective in a short story. It wasn't like she left anything out, but it did feel like the end of this story was the beginning of another that I would happily read. The main spooky happening is another campfire-type story, not that creepy, but the mystery keeps you going. Okay, yes, this one was a bit slow at parts, particularly where Hand is describing the confusing crisscrossed jumble of old stone fences in the English countryside, but it was a "slow burn" kind of story with layered narratives and a good cast of characters.

>> I also enjoyed Caitlin R. Kiernan's "Charcloth, Firesteel and Flint", Richard Christian Matheson's "Last Words" ( both were almost more character sketches/studies than plotted stories, but with really intriguing characters), Dennis Etchison's "Tell Me I'll See You Again" (a girl main character and some slight urban fantasy).

(I just noticed now that three of these four stories I listed have women who are important to the story even though they're absent from it--so yay on the importance, not so yay on the dead women.)

The only story that I found genuinely creepy was "Ghosts with Teeth" by Peter Crowther. This was probably a combination of the fact that I'm familiar with the kind of community that the main characters live in and that I've found situations similar to it (loosely--i don't want to give away the ending!) in other media disturbing. Robert Shearman's "Alice Through the Plastic Sheet" was just weird--I really couldn't figure out what was supposed to be scary about it. Seemed to me that it was the story of unfriendly neighbors from the perspective of a whiny, privileged man. The ending is completely lame--I really don't get what's supposed to be scary about it.

Overall, this was a good little Halloween-appropriate collection! ( )
  books-n-pickles | Oct 29, 2021 |
Les Edwards does the cover for this, I like it. And there is one slick color piece of artwork right at the beginning of the book. Which I'm sort of baffled by. Why not more throughout the book? I would have loved to see more of his beautifully detailed work throughout.

This was an enjoyable group of authors. Many I had never had the pleasure to experience before. As always, our kind host was represented in this anthology with Little Green God of Agony, and while I would like to hope I'm not a terrible person like our patient in this story, I do understand more and more the idea of constant discomfort. Sometimes pain. On a rare occasion agony. And dammit! Get that little green guy out of me!

I think I'll give my shout-out story to a Robert Shearman, Alice Through the Plastic Sheet.

This one had me anxious from the get go because of the neighbor thing. I have had some doozy neighbors, although this one took a strange trip at the end -- weird as heck.

All the writers did their job here. It all boils down to a matter of individual taste as to which one would speak the loudest. ( )
  DanaJean | Jun 14, 2018 |
An excellent collection that is very well written! I liked the international flavor of the stories too! The first seven stories are great, with my favorite being Stephen King's "The Little Green God of Agony" followed closely by Angela Slatter's "The Coffin-Maker's Daughter". And "Last Words" as the closing piece really ends the book with style! Lots of good scares in these pages! ( )
  Stahl-Ricco | Jan 23, 2016 |
Introduction:- Whatever Happened to Horror? Stephen Jones
The Little Green God of Agony - Stephen King
Charcloth, Firesteel and Flint - Caitlin R. Kiernan
Ghosts with Teeth - Peter Crowther
The Coffin-Maker's Daughter - Angela Slatter
Roots and All - Brian Hodge
Tell Me I'll See You Again - Dennis Etchison
The Music of Bengt Karlsson, Murderer - John Ajvide Lindqvist
Getting it Wrong - Ramset Campbell
Alice Through the Plastic Sheet - Robert Shearman
The Man in the Ditch - Lisa Tuttle
A Child's Problem - Reggie Oliver
Sad, Dark Thing - Michael Marshall Smith
Near Zennor - Elizabeth Hand
Last Words - Richard Christian Matheson

"In his introduction to A Book of Horrors, editor Stephen Jones rails against the ’horror-lite’ nature of today’s genre fiction, decrying the likes of ‘paranormal romance’, ‘urban fantasy’, and ‘steampunk’, possibly with a lit torch in hand. “The time has come to reclaim horror,” he declares, presumably from high atop a mountain of skulls. “If you enjoy the stories within these pages, you can say that you were there when the fight began.” If Jones’s valiant attempt at inspiration has properly stirred your shit up, you may enjoy a few of these honorable mentions:

The Little Green God of Agony, by Stephen King

Although this brand new piece by King was originally published in A Book of Horrors, editor Ellen Datlow included it in Best Horror of the Year, Vol. 4, which received a U.S. release back in May. Green God is vintage King, a gothic healer/exorcism story that commands your full attention for 30 pages before ending so abruptly, it seems like half a story. Oh, those Stephen King endings.

Ghosts with Teeth, by Peter Crowther

Crowther has a way of taking everyday life and tweaking it every so slightly, until you feel like you might be going a little bit crazy. It’s a novella that lies somewhere between the hallucinatory delirium of In the Mouth of Madness and Dead & Buried.

The Music of Bengt Karlsson, Murderer, by John Ajvide Lindqvist

An old fashioned ghost story, expertly penned by the author of Let Me In. After a widower bribes his young son to take piano lessons––well, the title says it all, really. Like much of Lindqvist’s work, the less spoiled, the better. Just read it.

Alice Through the Plastic Sheet, by Robert Shearman

It’s hard to complain about irritating neighbors when you’ve never laid eyes on them, an idea that Robert Shearman explores to surreal, nightmarish effect in this nominee for both the World Fantasy Award and the British Fantasy Award. A strangely disturbing story considering its lack of violence or gore.

Sad, Dark Thing, by Michael Marshall Smith

Another excellent, haunting short story by the author of The Straw Men. Aimlessly driving down country roads, a troubled man stumbles across an unusual tourist attraction––a plywood cabin, covered in moss, that houses a “sad, dark thing”. And for only a $1, you can take a peek. Although I loved more than a few of these stories, this one emerged as the clear favorite.

There’s something refreshing about an unthemed anthology like A Book of Horrors. With every page turn, you never know what you’re going to get. With angry ghosts, fire succubae, psychic premonitions, even tree monsters, this anthology is pleasantly all over the place. What’s most notable is the overall strength of the stories Jones has selected––at least half of the tales rank anywhere from great to excellent. Don’t miss this one."


Excellent collection with my favourite being the unsettling Victorian Gothic A Child's Problem by Reggie Oliver ( )
  jan.fleming | Feb 9, 2015 |
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» Add other authors

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Jones, StephenEditor & Introductionprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Campbell, RamseyContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Crowther, PeterContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Etchison, DennisContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Hand, ElizabethContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Hodge, BrianContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Kiernan, Caitlin R.Contributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
King, StephenContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Lindqvist, John AjvideContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Matheson, Richard ChristianContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Oliver, ReggieContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Shearman, RobertContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Slatter, AngelaContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Smith, Michael MarshallContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Tuttle, LisaContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Edwards, LesIllustratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Edwards, LesCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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