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The first three volumes of The Best Horror of the Year have been widely praised for their quality, variety, and comprehensiveness. With tales from Laird Barron, Stephen King, John Langan, Peter Straub, and many others, and featuring Datlow’s comprehensive overview of the year in horror, now, more than ever, The Best Horror of the Year provides the petrifying horror fiction The first three volumes of The Best Horror of the Year have been widely praised for their quality, variety, and comprehensiveness. With tales from Laird Barron, Stephen King, John Langan, Peter Straub, and many others, and featuring Datlow’s comprehensive overview of the year in horror, now, more than ever, The Best Horror of the Year provides the petrifying horror fiction readers have come to expect—and enjoy. The Little Green God of Agony - Stephen King Stay - Leah Bobet The Moraine - Simon Bestwick Blackwood's Baby - Laird Barron Looker - David Nickle The Show - Priya Sharma Mulberry Boys - Margo Lanagan Roots and All - Brian Hodge Final Girl Theory - A. C. Wise Omphalos - Livia Llewellyn Dermot - Simon Bestwick Black Feathers - Alison J. Littlewood Final Verse - Chet Williamson In the Absence of Murdock - Terry Lamsley You Become the Neighborhood - Glen Hirshberg In Paris, In the Mouth of Kronos - John Langan Little Pig - Anna Taborska The Ballad of Ballard and Sandrine - Peter Straub


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The first three volumes of The Best Horror of the Year have been widely praised for their quality, variety, and comprehensiveness. With tales from Laird Barron, Stephen King, John Langan, Peter Straub, and many others, and featuring Datlow’s comprehensive overview of the year in horror, now, more than ever, The Best Horror of the Year provides the petrifying horror fiction The first three volumes of The Best Horror of the Year have been widely praised for their quality, variety, and comprehensiveness. With tales from Laird Barron, Stephen King, John Langan, Peter Straub, and many others, and featuring Datlow’s comprehensive overview of the year in horror, now, more than ever, The Best Horror of the Year provides the petrifying horror fiction readers have come to expect—and enjoy. The Little Green God of Agony - Stephen King Stay - Leah Bobet The Moraine - Simon Bestwick Blackwood's Baby - Laird Barron Looker - David Nickle The Show - Priya Sharma Mulberry Boys - Margo Lanagan Roots and All - Brian Hodge Final Girl Theory - A. C. Wise Omphalos - Livia Llewellyn Dermot - Simon Bestwick Black Feathers - Alison J. Littlewood Final Verse - Chet Williamson In the Absence of Murdock - Terry Lamsley You Become the Neighborhood - Glen Hirshberg In Paris, In the Mouth of Kronos - John Langan Little Pig - Anna Taborska The Ballad of Ballard and Sandrine - Peter Straub

30 review for The Best Horror of the Year: Volume Four

  1. 5 out of 5

    Sheila

    Overall rating: 4 stars--I really liked it. I greatly enjoyed this collection of stories, so much so that I've given each one its own star rating. There's a good variety of topics and authors here, and I found many of them truly chilling. I always enjoy Datlow's story collections, and this was no exception. Individual story ratings: The Little Green God of Agony by Stephen King: 3 stars. Good, but a pretty standard King story. Stay by Leah Bobet: 3 stars. I loved the use of Alaskan mythology here. Th Overall rating: 4 stars--I really liked it. I greatly enjoyed this collection of stories, so much so that I've given each one its own star rating. There's a good variety of topics and authors here, and I found many of them truly chilling. I always enjoy Datlow's story collections, and this was no exception. Individual story ratings: The Little Green God of Agony by Stephen King: 3 stars. Good, but a pretty standard King story. Stay by Leah Bobet: 3 stars. I loved the use of Alaskan mythology here. The Moraine by Simon Bestwick: 3 stars. A very unique monster! Though I wondered who the narrator was speaking to? Blackwood's Baby by Laird Barron: 5 stars. I love occult horror like this. Definitely reading more Barron. Looker by David Nickle: 4 stars. Really weird and unique. The Show by Priya Sharma: 5 stars. What an ending. Mulberry Boys by Margo Lanagan: 4 stars of pure horror. Lanagan is always so brutal. Roots and All by Brian Hodge: 4 stars. This story of supernatural creatures and meth dealers took an unexpected turn. Final Girl Theory by A. C. Wise: 5 stars, despite flaws. I adore horror tales about movies. I'm just such a sucker for this genre. Omphalos by Livia Llewellyn: 5 stars. This was in another collection I read. Loved it there, loved it here. So, so sad, but I'm seeking out more by this author. Dermot by Simon Bestwick: 4 stars. Disturbing. Black Feathers by Alison J. Littlewood: 2 stars. It was okay, but I thought the fairy tale was integrated awkwardly, and character exposition was limited and forced. Final Verse by Chet Williamson: 5 stars. LOVED IT. Turns out I love stories about songs as much as I love stories about movies/books. Super chilling, great ending. In the Absence of Murdock by Terry Lamsley: 3 stars. Good sinister mood but too brief, IMO. You Become the Neighborhood by Glen Hirshberg: 5 stars, mostly for this reader. The woman who narrated this audio story is likely the best reader I've ever heard. She really got the story and made it so sad and poignant. In Paris, In the Mouth of Kronos by John Langan: 4 stars. Great monster story. Little Pig by Anna Taborska: 3 stars. I've read this one before as well. It's short and truly horrific, but since I knew the ending, the impact was lessened for me. The Ballad of Ballard and Sandrine by Peter Straub: 3 stars, I guess? I was really put off by the sexual and racial politics in this story, until I realized it was intentional. Ballard and Sandrine are awful people and deserve the cycles of love/pain they inflict on each other. (This interview here might help with the story, if you read it and are left scratching your head: https://lareviewofbooks.org/article/t... ).

  2. 5 out of 5

    Michael Adams

    Consistently excellent works of the strange and the horrific

  3. 5 out of 5

    Bogdan

    So, this Anthology of Horror proved to be much better than the mix of fantasy and horror produced by the same Datlow in collaboration with other names. Usually i`m sure that an Anthology by Datlow will be a miss, but this time i found some good surprises hidden here. And no, i`m not talking about King. i don`t know why, but his story wasn`t something worth finishing. Simon Bestwick has two stories here. The first one, The Moraine (****), was intense, chilling and fast, proving that a good ideea i So, this Anthology of Horror proved to be much better than the mix of fantasy and horror produced by the same Datlow in collaboration with other names. Usually i`m sure that an Anthology by Datlow will be a miss, but this time i found some good surprises hidden here. And no, i`m not talking about King. i don`t know why, but his story wasn`t something worth finishing. Simon Bestwick has two stories here. The first one, The Moraine (****), was intense, chilling and fast, proving that a good ideea it`s all you need to suck the breath out of the reader. The second one i didn`t enjoyed as much as the first. Blackwood Baby by Lard Barron, i knew it from some other place and it`s written in his usual style, long, dense, but so scary in the end. **** David Nickle was a nice surprise. His story, Looker, proves that a girl could have in store a lot more than meets the eyes. **** Brian Hodges, good story, Roots and all, with a great atmosphere and despite a non-so inspired ending it` was pretty intense. *** and a half A.C. Wise - Final Girl Theory, readable, about a fan of a horror flick movie and what he`ll do when he`ll find out the truth behind the scenes of his favourite movie. ** Livia Llewellyn - Omphalos - Maybe a reinterpretation of a myth or something, with all the incest stuff, but, in truth, i wasn`t a bit scared or impressed. Definitely not in my range of interests. i think that i`ve tried her collection and i didn`t liked it one bit. Final Verse, Chet Williamson. Another good one with a fair share of scares until the end. **** John Langan, In Paris, In the Mouth of Kronos **** Good ending and another story that has his style all over. Anna Taborska, Little pig. Why, why the baby!??? ** and a half Peter Straub has also a story here, but i wasn`t really interested in it. With some other two stories from the fantasy Anthology volume i conclude that im not such a big fan of his work. There were some other writers, too, present here, but not in my zone of interest. Overall, not a bad one after all.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Jonathan Briggs

    Ellen Datlow accused me of being overly snarky the last time I reviewed one of these things, so this year, I'm starting off by saying something nice: It's good to see that Datlow's back. Small presses have a reputation for unsteadiness, and last year, there were ominous Internet rumblings and grumblings about Night Shade Books. But Night Shade is still publishing, the books are still rolling out, and Datlow is still performing her invaluable service to horror fans. Though my notion of "best" may Ellen Datlow accused me of being overly snarky the last time I reviewed one of these things, so this year, I'm starting off by saying something nice: It's good to see that Datlow's back. Small presses have a reputation for unsteadiness, and last year, there were ominous Internet rumblings and grumblings about Night Shade Books. But Night Shade is still publishing, the books are still rolling out, and Datlow is still performing her invaluable service to horror fans. Though my notion of "best" may run contrary to hers at times, Datlow captures a snapshot every year of where the genre is at and where it might be headed, making her annuals required reading for those in their fright minds. Datlow went big name hunting in 2011 and bagged two titans for her bookends. Volume 4 kicks off with horror's most popular author and ends with arguably its best. As bad as he can be, Stephen King is a difficult author to consign to the Dean Koontz Memorial Slagheap of Authors I Used to Give a Crap About. Despite his flirtations with lazy, going-through-the-motions hackery, King has left himself open to an inspiration that strikes less often these days, but when it does, he becomes fully engaged and tackles that idea like the pre-jillionaire hungry young author who became such a phenomenon. That's why I keep buying Stephen King books: That young man is still lurking somewhere in the shadows of the brand name, and he's the one I come to see. The inspiration for "The Little Green God of Agony," King's first "Best Horror" entry, may have come from his personal experiences with a broken body and knitting bones. The sixth-richest man in the world is looking for a shortcut through the pain of physical rehab to recovery from a plane crash that left him shattered. He summons the Rev. Rideout (think Tom Noonan) to his bedside. Rideout is no mere faith healer. He doesn't heal, "I expel." He casts out the demon god that feeds on hurt. And on a dark and stormy night (natch), the Rev. Rideout sets about a rather unique exorcism. "The Little Green God of Agony" isn't likely to ever make the Classic Top 10 Stephen King Short Stories, but it's a refreshingly concise, lightly comic flexing of muscles King doesn't always use anymore. At the opposite end of the book and in contrast to King's sturdy simplicity is Peter Straub's intricate puzzler "The Ballad of Ballard and Sandrine." A pair of decadent lovers cruise languidly along the Amazon on a yacht of impossible dimensions, moving forward and back through different decades, tended to by an invisible crew of pygmies who speak in birdsong. Since Straub started hanging around those New Weird delinquents, his short fiction has taken a turn for the peculiar, the dream-like. "The Ballad of Ballard and Sandrine" is as likely to inspire consternation as admiration. Honestly, I'm not sure what to make of it myself. But few authors can offer readers a sensory experience equal to the luxury of sinking into Straub's plush prose. So I'm happy to go along if he wants to indulge his inner Aickman (or maybe, as the title might indicate, he's channeling J.G. Ballard). I was three or four pages short of the ending of "The Ballad" when I had to report to work, but Straub had me so ensnared in the tangles of his nefariously strange story that I kept sneaking a paragraph here and there throughout my shift until I finished. It's no surprise that one of the best stories in the book is by Laird Barron. The testosterone runs thick in "Blackwood's Baby," a Hemingwayesque horror that gathers a group of hunters (including a redneck Texan named Briggs!) in a lodge in Washington state. The men, predators all and dangerous to more than game animals, have come to hunt a mythical stag, "the king of the wood." As horror readers know from experience, the dark legends are true, the woods are cursed and there's something out there on cloven foot that's a lot more threatening than a deer. It's a story of classic campfire chills and another success for Barron in an extensive winning streak that many authors would sacrifice their right typing finger to have. Brian Hodge's "Roots and All" begins in an autumn glow of nostalgia, accumulating note-perfect details of a bittersweet return to a childhood homestead. The softly melancholic tone works with the expertly evoked bucolic setting to leave the reader that much more vulnerable when the story starts taking nasty twists. A combat veteran witnesses the effects of meth and strip mining on the community he once loved and learns the fate of his sister who vanished eight years before. I think Hodge and Laird Barron must have gone camping in the same woods together. One of the secondary purposes of Datlow's annuals is to spotlight a lot of new names, some of whom could have used a little more time on the vine, and others who bear further investigation. Simon Bestwick had a pretty good story called "The Narrows" in a previous volume, and he scores two slots this year. "The Moraine" has a feuding couple lost on a mountain in a whiteout fog with a monster. It couldn't get much more basic than that, but Bestwick tells his well-worn tale with an enthusiasm that's infectious, energetically mixing bits from "Tremors," "The Ruins" and "The Mist." Originality is great, but sometimes you just want an old-fashioned, suspenseful, gory monster stomp. Bestwick's second serving, "Dermot," is about an odd, unsettling little man (named Dermot, oddly enough) and a special police unit whose members dread his calling. I'll be picking up more of Bestwick's fiction. Also soon to join my to-read pile is David Nickle on the basis of "Looker," his tale of multi-eyed voyeurism. In A.C. Wise's "Final Girl Theory," "'Kaleidoscope' isn't a movie, it's an infection, whispered from mouth to mouth in the dark." This is the third "Best Horror" volume in a row to feature a story about an evil cult film. The mini-trend started with Gemma Files' "each thing i show you is a piece of my death," and it probably shouldn't continue until someone writes a story that tops, or at least equals, that. "Final Girl Theory" isn't bad, but it feels like a slight variation on an overly familiar rerun. "The angry expression has vanished. But there are tears." Those tears make their first appearance on the second page, the fifth paragraph of "You Become the Neighborhood" by Glen Hirshberg, horror's very own Eeyore. This triggers the urge to weep on Page 3. Followed by a teeth-rattling moaning fit on Pages 6 and 7. A full-fledged crying jag erupts on Page 9. "Then you started crying. ... And you cried some more. And I started crying." Glen Hirshberg is fully in his element: supernatural soap opera in which there's rarely much scaring but always plenty of sobbing. Hirshberg is capable of some fine writing ("Her long-fingered hands have curled up at her sides like smacked daddy longlegs." "Her husband ... was pretty much just a pool to pour morphine in."), but it gets difficult to pick out the good bits because he insists on slathering Natalie Portman-level histrionics all over everything like great undigestible gobs of lugubrious peanut butter. And the thing is, Hirshberg's stories just aren't that sad. He tells us they're sad by going blub-blub-blub every other paragraph. But that's not sad. That's just maudlin and tiresome. "My tears surprise me. I'm not even sure what they're for." It's as if Hirshberg's own character is speaking to him from the page, telling him to go blow his nose and man up. John Langan has made it into almost every volume of "Best Horror." (Last year, he got in twice.) His stories have been interesting and ambitious but somewhat flawed in one way or another. He pretty much nails it in "In Paris, in the Mouth of Kronos." Two disgraced former soldiers have a reunion with a truly spooky spook they first encountered doing wetwork in a bloodstained underground prison in Afghanistan. Now, in the City of Light, there's a certain hotel corridor that remains stubbornly in the darkness. I've enjoyed watching Langan develop and improve as a writer over the past three years. I'll have to start actively seeking out his name in anthologies. Of the four volumes of "Best Horror," this is the best yet. 2011 was apparently a good year for the genre, and Volume 4 offers fiction that's scary, transgressive and pulsing with an energy that was missing from some of the earlier annuals. Some stories are boldly experimental; others are traditional without being stale. Even the odd clunker here and there isn't unreadably bad. But now that the praise is over with, I've got to end on a slightly nastier note. Night Shade Books may have smoothed out the bumps on its production side, but it needs to address some serious deficiencies in its editing. NSB either needs to invest in more copy editors or reduce the number of titles it publishes to lessen the burden on the editor(s) it already has. I understand that no editor is perfect. There's a good chance there's a mistake lurking somewhere in this review that I won't notice til after it's published. But sections of this book are positively swarming with errors, many of which are softball pitches to the alert proofreader: dropped words, misused words, sentence fragments, clumsy phrasing ("The categories are broken down into thirteen categories."), free-floating clauses ("Too stunned to scream, Pippa did it for him." "Sickened by this small, crushed life, her headache was suddenly much worse.") and various other impediments to readability. A character named Harris becomes Harrison a few paragraphs later. Another character vacillates from sentence to sentence between Jaime and Jamie. The mistakes continue right up through the ads at the back of the book for other Night Shade titles. Why is this sloppiness endemic to the horror genre? Are horror readers and writers so much less literate than those in other genres or the mainstream? I'm sure some critics think so; why give them the typos to reinforce their prejudices? And why insult the readers who demand better? Typo-free text isn't likely to automatically win the horror genre critical respect, but it would be a sign of self-respect, and that's where it all has to start.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Mauoijenn

    This was THE perfect book to read in the month of spooky October. I'm glad I spotted this at the library. I have requested the others that have come before this one as I enjoyed this so much. As of course, with a book full of different stories, some were better than others but for the most part they each ranked about the same for me. Looking forward to the others just like this one. This was THE perfect book to read in the month of spooky October. I'm glad I spotted this at the library. I have requested the others that have come before this one as I enjoyed this so much. As of course, with a book full of different stories, some were better than others but for the most part they each ranked about the same for me. Looking forward to the others just like this one.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Nancy Oakes

    You can feel free to disagree, but while I've been kind of disappointed with this series as a whole, I did see marked improvement between Volume Three and Volume Four of this series. I have a longer discussion of this book here on the horror/sci-fi/fantasy/etc page of my online reading journal; if you'd like the short form keep reading. Overall, there were a few stories in this installment that I felt were beyond good. There are 18 total; out of those I've starred five that I thought were very You can feel free to disagree, but while I've been kind of disappointed with this series as a whole, I did see marked improvement between Volume Three and Volume Four of this series. I have a longer discussion of this book here on the horror/sci-fi/fantasy/etc page of my online reading journal; if you'd like the short form keep reading. Overall, there were a few stories in this installment that I felt were beyond good. There are 18 total; out of those I've starred five that I thought were very well done. 1. The Little Green God of Agony, by Stephen King 2. Stay, by Leah Bobet 3. *The Moraine, by Simon Bestwick 4. *Blackwood’s Baby, by Laird Barron 5. Looker, by David Nickle 6. * The Show, by Priya Sharma 7. Mulberry Boys, by Margo Lanagan 8. Roots and All, by Brian Hodge 9. Final Girl Theory, by A. C. Wise 10. Omphalos, by Livia Llewellyn 11. Dermot, by Simon Bestwick 12. Black Feathers, by Alison Littlewood 13. *Final Verse, by Chet Williamson 14. In the Absence of Murdock, by Terry Lamsley 15. You Become the Neighborhood, by Glen Hirshberg 16. In Paris, In the Mouth of Kronos, by John Langan 17. *Little Pig, by Anna Taborska 18. The Ballad of Ballard and Sandrine, by Peter Straub Five stories worth recommending -- for this series of horror anthologies, that's a good number. Not in any particular order, beginning with Simon Bestwick's "The Moraine," a married couple whose relationship is well, shall we say, on the rocks takes a trip to the crags of England's Lake District. While not my favorite entry of the book, it's well written with good pacing, but my first thought after finishing it was that it reminded me in spots of Scott Smith's The Ruins. #2 is In Laird Barron's "Blackwood’s Baby", in which a hunting party is organized at the Black Ram Lodge to go after a legendary stag. The Black Ram Lodge may sound familiar to readers of the author's story "Catch Hell," which I read in Occultation. Like that story, "Blackwood's Baby" is more on the occult side than most of Barron's works, but it's still quite good. #3: A fake medium on a tv "reality" show finds out the hard way that she has a true gift when it comes to the psychic arts in "The Show," by Priya Sharma. This one isotally on the money when it comes to a good scare. "Final Verse" by Chet Williamson is #4,where a once-popular bluegrass singer whose career is fading decides to go on the hunt for the missing last verse to a traditional Appalachian folksong. A bit of detective work leads him and a friend to an old house in the woods -- where they find much more than they bargained for. The last pick in my top five is "Little Pig," by Anna Taborska -- horrifying in the truest sense of the word. I was also entranced at first with Peter Straub's "The Ballad of Ballard and Sandrine", with its quirky kind of "deja vu" experiences aboard a strange yacht on the Amazon, but the story seemed to peter out and fall apart at the end. It had me going for a while, though, so I'm mentioning it here. With a few months to go before the release of Volume Five, I hope the improvement in this series continues.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Ben Loory

    Favorite stories: NUMBER ONE "You Become the Neighborhood" by Glen Hirshberg, which is just great, and then "Dermot" by Simon Bestwick, "In Paris, in the Mouth of Kronos" by John Langan, "Mulberry Boys" by Margo Lanagan, and "Final Verse" by Chet Williamson. Favorite stories: NUMBER ONE "You Become the Neighborhood" by Glen Hirshberg, which is just great, and then "Dermot" by Simon Bestwick, "In Paris, in the Mouth of Kronos" by John Langan, "Mulberry Boys" by Margo Lanagan, and "Final Verse" by Chet Williamson.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Evans Light

    I won't be reading all of these stories. Frankly, I don't know why I keep picking these "Best Horror of the Year" anthologies up whenever I come across them at the library. It's almost as if every semblance of fun has been scientifically purged from the pages in some stoic pursuit of literary acceptance and broad acknowledgment of the merit of horror. C'mon! Why read horror if not to have fun? If you want to be bored to sleep, read William Faulkner. Anyway, this being horror, a couple of good stor I won't be reading all of these stories. Frankly, I don't know why I keep picking these "Best Horror of the Year" anthologies up whenever I come across them at the library. It's almost as if every semblance of fun has been scientifically purged from the pages in some stoic pursuit of literary acceptance and broad acknowledgment of the merit of horror. C'mon! Why read horror if not to have fun? If you want to be bored to sleep, read William Faulkner. Anyway, this being horror, a couple of good stories usually manage to sneak in the back door of these stuffy buttoned-down collections, and those are the ones I'm looking for. The Stephen King and Brian Hodge stories were already released in A Book of Horrors (why include them in this collection then?), see my reviews for them there. The Brian Hodge story is definitely worth reading. Fortunately, I started off with a mighty fine tale: (borrowing this perfect synopsis from my Goodreads friend Nancy Oakes' review - I'll probably only read the ones she recommended) ***** "Final Verse" by Chet Williamson where a once-popular bluegrass singer whose career is fading decides to go on the hunt for the missing last verse to a traditional Appalachian folksong. A bit of detective work leads him and a friend to an old house in the woods -- where they find much more than they bargained for. Very nicely written, ol' Chet either loves his bluegrass or does good research, 'cause everything rang nice and true throughout. I really liked this story, hang in there, it's worth it. He should be right proud of this 'un. (I'll update this review with more as I get to them)

  9. 5 out of 5

    M Griffin

    This is Ellen Datlow's fourth time editing Best Horror of the Year for Night Shade Books. This edition is the best so far, combining potent, ambitious longer works by genre stars with a varied sampler of up and coming names. Eighteen stories (including several novellas) follow Datlow's lengthy introduction, a wide-ranging summary of the genre year touching on noteworthy novels, anthologies, collections, periodicals, awards and events. If the tasting menu of the year's finest short fiction weren' This is Ellen Datlow's fourth time editing Best Horror of the Year for Night Shade Books. This edition is the best so far, combining potent, ambitious longer works by genre stars with a varied sampler of up and coming names. Eighteen stories (including several novellas) follow Datlow's lengthy introduction, a wide-ranging summary of the genre year touching on noteworthy novels, anthologies, collections, periodicals, awards and events. If the tasting menu of the year's finest short fiction weren't enough to make the volume an essential overview of all things noteworthy in the horror genre, this overview tips the balance. This makes an excellent introduction to talented new writers, as well as others more established who may yet be unfamiliar to a given reader.  For example, I knew David Nickel and Brian Hodge by name, but hadn't read their works, which turned out to constitute pleasant revelations. In Nickle's "Looker," a drunk man at a party finds a woman whose qualities go beyond the merely eye-pleasing. In "Roots and All," Hodge's character revisits a town where important childhood events occurred, some of which still echo in the present.  Both stories exemplify Datlow's preference for character-driven horror, more haunting mood and troubling memory than blood and shrieking monsters. There are several more standouts: "Blackwood's Baby," like many Laird Barron stories, takes place in rural Washington state, and expands upon Barron's personal, regional mythos. This novella tracks a 1930s expedition of diverse hunters seeking a beast of legend more dangerous than any of them anticipate. It's as powerful as any previous work by Barron, who lately can be counted upon to contribute at least one rich and potent tale to each year's best.  In Livia Llewellyn's "Omphalos," a girl caught in terrible surroundings must fight complex factors keeping her in place.  Llewellyn specializes in the dark, raw-edge and harrowing. Her writing pulses with blood and seethes with emotion. Her  "Engines of Desire" is among the best weird/dark collections of recent years, certainly one of the top debuts. In John Langan's "In Paris, in the Mouth of Kronos," two fallen former agents try to claw their way back to gainful employment. They're hired to grab a "Mr. White," who may be a very different order of being from what they expect. Dark yet breezily entertaining, merging the grittiness of noir and spy thriller intrigue with a Lovecraftian hint of ancient forces lurking beneath the everyday world's seeming normalcy. Langan's a skilled writer, whose work Datlow often features. At times I've thought his work needed more of an edge. This has it. "The Ballad of Ballard and Sandrine" by Peter Straub is a tour-de-force of tender yet bitter codependent romance conveyed in a disorienting balance of straight realism and twisted surrealism. In a series of encounters separated by wide gaps of time, the title characters (the much older Ballard is a mysterious "fixer" type employed by Sandrine's father) journey down the Amazon River on boats with ever-changing names. The couple, caught up in unfathomable events, exhibit a muted curiosity about their circumstances. At times they make experimental gestures seeking to understand the odd nature of the boat or its invisible crew. What knowledge they gain always seems to be lost, forgotten or clouded by the next interlude. The effect is weirdly disorienting, yet familiar. Don't we all forget lessons we've learned, ignore warning signs, and often repeat our mistakes? The growing surreality of Ballard and Sandrine's circumstances finally unfolds at least partially. Horrific and seemingly occult aspects are revealed, yet mystery remains. Straub may be the most cerebral of horror writers, and this is one of  his best, boldest works.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Sharon

    An interesting cacophony of short horror stories everywhere from the “I don’t understand” weird kind to the “I don’t want to go to sleep” terrifying kind. Examples of some of the stories that stood out to me are: The Moraine by Simon Bestwick, two hikers confront a fatal mist, The Show by Priya Sharma, a television medium who realizes her skills are not what she thought they were, Final Girl Theory by A.C. Wise, a fan who meets a starlet from a notorious horror B film that makes you rethink what An interesting cacophony of short horror stories everywhere from the “I don’t understand” weird kind to the “I don’t want to go to sleep” terrifying kind. Examples of some of the stories that stood out to me are: The Moraine by Simon Bestwick, two hikers confront a fatal mist, The Show by Priya Sharma, a television medium who realizes her skills are not what she thought they were, Final Girl Theory by A.C. Wise, a fan who meets a starlet from a notorious horror B film that makes you rethink what really happens in those films, Omphalos by Livia Llewellyn, a family with disturbing secrets goes camping, Dermot by Simon Bestwick, the odd little man who helps the Special Needs Police Unit, and Final Verse by Chet Williamson, a singer/songwriter who finds out the frightening final verses of an old mysterious song. Of course there are several more stories in the book that I haven’t mentioned that may be more appealing to others, but no matter which you prefer, I recommend you not read the book at night while you are alone. The stories are certain to stay with you for a long time. Thank you to Night Shade Books and NetGalley for giving me this opportunity to review this book.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Verena

    If this was the best, I'd hate to read the worst. The best one was the Stephen King story. There were perhaps two others that were pretty good, the rest were a trial to plod through. If this was the best, I'd hate to read the worst. The best one was the Stephen King story. There were perhaps two others that were pretty good, the rest were a trial to plod through.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Shawn

    So, working my way backwards through the Datlows (thank goodness, less of them than Jones' MBOBNH series) on the lookout for a good read and maybe a story purchase for the PSEUDOPOD podcast (although, since I'm working retroactively here, some have already been submitted, bought and produced). This was a solidly successful installment of the series, as there were no stories I actively disliked or felt indifferent about. It's a cliche at this point to say that all anthologies are a mixed bag, but So, working my way backwards through the Datlows (thank goodness, less of them than Jones' MBOBNH series) on the lookout for a good read and maybe a story purchase for the PSEUDOPOD podcast (although, since I'm working retroactively here, some have already been submitted, bought and produced). This was a solidly successful installment of the series, as there were no stories I actively disliked or felt indifferent about. It's a cliche at this point to say that all anthologies are a mixed bag, but one hopes for a slightly higher quality mixture in a "Best" selection and it was nice to see this borne out in the contents. Even more interesting (to me at least) on finishing was to peruse the Goodreads reviews - which often are more indicative of the particular reader's specific tastes than any indication of a semi-objective "quality". And so, in doing this review, am I putting myself above this aspect - well, no, but perhaps I'm just more self-aware and willing to undermine my own thought processes. I'm a long-time horror reader and my tastes have shifted and changed over time (I hate to say "grown" or "matured", exactly, because that presumes some kind of formalistic end result to what is, in the final examination, subjective opinion) but I am blessed by two aspects that help me in being both a reader and editor (well, more than two, but two are worth mentioning now) - one, I'm a generalist. "Horror", and what I like and don't like, personally - interest me less than the entire warp and woof of the genre, the edges where it bleeds into other things, its creative core, its literary brains, its juvenile heart. So I'm more interested in what works and what doesn't and why, than in trying to argue for "literary depth and intellect" over "visceral thrills and storytelling" or vice versa - both approaches have their strengths and weaknesses to me, in their myriad manifestations. Two - is that at this point in my life I'm pretty widely read - oh, there's writing styles and genres I don't have much use for but I still try to make myself understand what makes them tick. And these two facets I recognize in the two name editors of the "best series" (Datlow, Jones) - although both have their tastes they tend to favor, they at least can see beyond "one" way of doing things. And so those who want "y'know, stories that are SCARY" are likely to only find some offerings here of interest and despise the ambiguity and wordiness of others, and those who want "you understand, stories that say something more, through direct or indirect language" are likely to be in the same boat when a monster story or straight ahead EC-style horror yarn pops up. My interest is whether or not, given my experience of the story "type", it is successful or not. So that's where I'm coming from, review wise, just to lay it out. A minor word on the introduction. As in Jones' MBOBNH "Year In" sections, Datlow provides a vast and daunting overview of everything released in the entire field - at times both depressing and interesting, you leave the perusal of it feeling that, if one can say anything, it's that horror is doing fine as a genre (if sheer volume means anything). As for the rest - as usual, this review may be too long for some. And, as usual, it's least to best.... And "least" here, as I intimated above, in this case means a pretty solid, good story with some flaws, as there's nothing overtly unlikeable here (unless one has specific tastes). "Roots And All" by Brian Hodge has two cousins return to their grandmother's rural home (where the guy's sister disappeared eight years ago) to clean it out on her death. They find local changes both environmental (strip-mining) and cultural (the rise of meth cookers) and something surprising in the attic - all of which ties into the Grandma's tales of the genius loci, "The Woodwalker". This was a perfectly serviceable slice of character driven dark fantasy with some nice details (the size variance of the spirit is very Old World fairy tradition, the spirit's desire to keep crime in the area for its own purposes) - not very visionary or, for that matter, surprising, but emotionally honest. Meanwhile, in Livia Llewellyn's "Omphalos", a severely dysfunctional family (hiding dark incestuous secrets) goes camping in the woods and things turn strange. This *is* very visionary, while also being raw and psychologically ugly in its truths - while also frustratingly fragmented in its narrative - that ends up undercutting some of the effectiveness with deliberate obtuseness (still unclear as to why/how teleportation was involved). A bluegrass singer follows an Alan Lomax-styled music ethnographer into the Appalachian backwoods to discover the "Final Verse" of a well-known but incomplete folk ballad and, as might be expected, horror results. I've seen versions of this type of story before (in a sense, it could be seen as an Americana take on M.R. James' "antiquarian" story form) and I felt like Chet Williamson's tale was reasonably successful, with a lot of verbiage and plot detail for what is essentially a very simple story. Certainly not poorly done or anything (although the intimated "slight twist" ending feels a bit bolted on - maybe if we'd been given more of the main character as a womanizer?). On the other end of the spectrum, "In The Absence Of Murdock" gives us a friend investigating the disappearance of his brother-in-law's writing partner, during which he discovers... well... what? I've written in other reviews about the various ways ambiguity can be used as a tactic or style in horror fiction. Terry Lamsley has some sharp dialogue in this well-written piece, and some great weird imagery (an underground forest complete with gigantic nest) but, as to whether all the elements add up in a satisfactory way - I guess that really comes down to your tolerance for ambiguity as a fiction strategy. I enjoyed the ride, basically. And yet again alternatively, you've got Glen Hirshberg's "You Become The Neighborhood" which, at its core, is a very simple Stephen King-like pulp horror story (think "Grey Matter") of long ago events in an unassuming neighborhood home, but padded out with familial dynamics, social/psychological details and perhaps a *smidge* too many descriptions of facial reactions and body language, all of which undercuts the vaguely comic book horror imagery at its core. Not bad, but a little long in the tooth, prose-wise. There are a gaggle of good, solid stories here, of course. Starting from the top, Stephen King (remember him?), turns in.... well, "The Green God Of Agony" doesn't really become a proper *horror* story until very close to the end (and even then one more along the lines of a monster tale) but King has such a great handle on character and plot-rolling that it doesn't matter. In fact, "Agony" highlights an interesting aspect of King's ability - as the story and character sketches build, he shows great capability in putting forth a rationalist worldview (in opposition to presumed huckster chicanery) that we, as outside readers, *know* has to be overturned for their to be any point to the story (or, at least, it being a genre story) and yet, when it comes that overturning doesn't reverse our views or opinions of the admirable and despicable characters. Very deft work. Those looking for visionary, deep, literary or artistic genre work should look elsewhere - this is meat and potatoes stuff (which is a harder meal to cook well than you may think!). Simon Bestwick has two stories here - the first is "The Moraine", another solid monster story, where a couple having relationship troubles (a standard go-to for up-front horror stories, it's true) goes hiking in the mountains and gets trapped in small valley (the titular geologic formation) by a very crafty *something* moving under the rocks. It's all immediacy of threat and occasional big budget movie action ("Run!") but the setting and mood - the isolated, quiet valley shrouded in an icy white mist - has great atmosphere (pardon the pun) and the threat that lurks under the loose stones is effectively drawn - while never being actually seen (the trick it has up its sleeve is especially good). An enjoyable read. Laird Barron is turning into an odd author for me. As I've mentioned before, I know him more by reputation than actual reading of his fiction and that reputation is quite good (with perhaps the usual grain-of-salt, over-blown quality that occurs whenever any talent or skill peeks its head above the morass of mediocre material). In actual experience though (and this is only my second Barron story proper) I find him a little wanting. He's great at taking up Karl Edward Wagner's torch of modern horror genre writing heavily informed by pulp-forebears (here, in "Blackwood's Baby", Robert E. Howard's manly men having two-fisted adventures - and some of the machismo, if not the actual style, of Ernest Hemingway shine through - I presume the title is meant to foreground Algernon Blackwood's rural prose in the reader's mind as well but I felt that Barron's gestures towards this in "Baby" lacked that author's visionary and transcendent aspects) and also excellent at generating strong historical and character detail (he seems to have learned the lesson that tough guy characters are more appealing when wounded). And yet, I find the actual horror "stuff" (the moments of terror or dread or panic or however you define that "stuff"), when they arrive, to be somewhat lacking. Not weak or poor, I just somehow want a little "more", I guess. Between the wars, in "Blackwood's Baby", our wounded Great White Hunter character is invited to a very exclusive nature preserve and a rare hunt that one must either be wealthy or skilled enough to participate in. Set loose in a massive estate near Seattle, they set their sites on a legendary, demonic stag. Good, solid pulpy fun but the ending left me a little flat, given the story's length. Back in modern times, Priya Sharma gives us the back-story to a very special episode of "The Show", in which fake TV psychic investigator/ghost-busters investigate supposedly nasty hauntings in the basement of an urban bar and, as might be expected, uncover more than they bargained for. There's nice character detail in Sharma's sketching of a fake medium with real psychic abilities (her background reminded me a bit of a detail from Fritz Leiber's "Smoke Ghost") and a nice contrast between the sanitized, calculated "awfulness" of modern television "history" and the bloody, gritty, grotty reality of the actual past. Plus, this brought to mind GHOSTWATCH, which is always a plus! Two of the stories here had previously been purchased by me and produced as episodes of PSEUDOPOD. David Nickle's "Looker" (which can be heard here) has a sketchily unscrupulous young man ditching a dubious party and meeting a... "differently gifted" woman on the beach. After joining her for a late-night swim, he begins a relationship with her, but strictly to exploit her gifts in his ongoing voyeuristic obsession with an old love. More a "weird tale" than a horror story proper, this is a good read and gets extra points for the deliberately undetailed hints at the main character's social milieu and his coterie of dubious "friends". In a similar vein of controlled detail is A.C. Wise's "Final Girl Theory" (the Pseudopod episode of which *nearly* won us a Parsec award, and which can be heard here), which opens with one of the most arresting set of paragraphs I've ever read - an evocative description of the beginning of a lurid, hideous, stylish and notorious underground exploitation film called "Kaleidoscope" (some similarity here to Tim Lucas's powerful novel Throat Sprockets: A Novel of Erotic Obsession). From there, the story follows the narrative of an obsessed fan as he tracks down the lead actress, long missing, and learns about the details of the film. This is definitely worth your time, just don't expect fireworks but, instead, something like a slow burn in a work that challenges current popular notions of the "Final Girl" figure and questions concepts of empowerment. Touches of Ray Bradbury highlight Alison Littlewood's evocation of childhood fears in "Black Feathers". The childhood POV is a frequent "go-to" in horror fiction (for reasons so obvious I need not state them) and it is also more difficult to pull off than perhaps immediately apparent, and Littlewood does a good job with it (the concern over status, fear of the unknown), relating the story of a young girl and her adventurous younger brother, the girl's instinctive, innocent belief in raw, practical magic (think Merricat in We Have Always Lived in the Castle) and what happens in the woods (that haunt of suburban children everywhere) with some ravens. Add a few touches of "The Monkey's Paw" and you've got yourself a satisfying, spooky read. Anna Taborska's "Little Pig", on the other hand, is a brief tale of necessary cruelty in service of survival, flash-backed to by an elderly woman. It's less a story than a scene wrapped in a frame, but what a scene! Another study in contrasts can be seen between two other stories: "In Paris, In The Mouth of Kronos" by John Langan is kind of like Robert Ludlum by way of Laird Barron (maybe) as two disgraced ex-Army officials (torture experts, to be blunt), are contacted by an old co-worker who now works for a Blackwater-styled (or whatever name they're now selling their "private army for the highest bidder/plutocrat goon army" services under) firm and would like them to waylay another old compatriot, a mysterious torture expert known as Mr. White. But, as might be expected, Mr. White is more than he seems. Langan has a nice, breezy character/plot style that just slides the story along. The nature of the threat is hinted at in details - a lazy part of me would say something like "clumsily" or "clunkily" introduced - but that's not fair. Langan obviously knows that deploying the information that will allow readers to put the pieces together in their minds (in the order that he'd like for the story to succeed) is a difficult task and comes up with an okay compromise hinging on a visit to a toy store and some unlikely questions from the lead. But still, one might ask if such details are even needed (which would make this a more ambiguous story) or can't instead be intimated through evocative writing and atmospheric detail - landscape description is your friend in this regard (which would make this harder work for Langan). The ending is inevitable but has some nice imagery, even if it includes a bit of 1990's comic-book whiz-bang (a (view spoiler)[demi-urge being tricked by fluorescent paint (hide spoiler)] ?). On the other end of things, Peter Straub's "The Ballad of Ballard And Sandrine" (bit of a stumbly title, there) seems to have split readers - I liked it but its definitely a heavy slice of "Lit Horror" as a wealthy, decadent, jaded pair of sadomasochists live "life" in endless, constrained loops during a cruise of the Amazon on a yacht, as details at the edges begin to even more slowly take the whole experience apart as it endlessly recreates itself. This is challenging stuff, oneiric and obsessive and not to all tastes but there are moments of real menace and fun details (the changing names of the yacht are great) that distinguish it from other "time loop" stories. Yes, in the end, you might reduce this to (view spoiler)["JACOB'S LADDER featuring with Amazonian nature-spirits in the place of the Cenobites from HELLRAISER" (hide spoiler)] but that *would* be a reduction, as the ending is ambiguous as to the overall intent of the exercise and its outcome. I liked it but, as I said, not for everyone. And now Goodreads tells me I must drop down to the comments as I've run out of space!

  13. 4 out of 5

    Beth Roberts

    I'm a little surprised this one made the full 4 stars of the previous volumes in the series. Big names in this one - big disappointments. The King only rated 4 stars from me, and the last story, the one by Peter Straub was so bad it pissed me off. It's the reason I HATE Lovecraftian horror. An author starts with some sort of reality-based tale, takes it into a narcotic haze of weirdness and then starts babbling on into nonsense about elder gods (in this case We (bold type-face included). AAAARGH I'm a little surprised this one made the full 4 stars of the previous volumes in the series. Big names in this one - big disappointments. The King only rated 4 stars from me, and the last story, the one by Peter Straub was so bad it pissed me off. It's the reason I HATE Lovecraftian horror. An author starts with some sort of reality-based tale, takes it into a narcotic haze of weirdness and then starts babbling on into nonsense about elder gods (in this case We (bold type-face included). AAAARGH! This one was a novella-length inclusion and for me it was a total waste of time. I had a better experience coming out of anesthesia from oral surgery this week than I did reading The Ballad of Ballard and Sandrine. Incidentally, the surgery took less time than reading the novella on my Kindle. I gave it 1-star because Straub is a well-known name but. . .no. Just no. As always, list of contents followed by my individual ratings: King, Stephen/The Little Green God of Agony 4 Bobet, Leah/Stay 5 Bestwick, Simon/The Moraine 5 Barron, Laird/Blackwood's Baby 4 Nickle, David/Looker 4.5 Sharma, Priya/The Show 3 Lanagan, Margo/Mulberry Boys 2 Hodge, Brian/Roots and All 5 Wise, A. C./Final Girl Theory 5 Llewellyn, Livia/Omphalos 5 Bestwick, Simon/Dermot 4.5 Littlewood, Alison/Black Feathers 5 Williamson, Chet/Final Verse 5 Lamsley, Terry/In the Absence of Murdock 2 Hirshberg, Glen/You Become the Neighborhood 5 Langan, John/In Paris, In the Mouth of Kronos 3.5 Taborska, Anna/Little Pig 4 Straub, Peter/The Ballad of Ballard and Sandrine 1 Actual Rating: 4 Format: Kindle Source: Amazon Current ebook price: $9.99 Opinion of Price: Fair, due to overall consistency My Cost: $1.99

  14. 4 out of 5

    Katy

    Book Info: Genre: Anthology: Horror Reading Level: Adult Disclosure: I received a free eGalley – eBook uncorrected proof/ARC – in exchange for an honest review. Synopsis: The first three volumes of The Best Horror of the Year from Nightshade books have been widely praised for their quality, variety, and comprehensiveness. Now, for the fourth consecutive year, editor Ellen Datlow, winner of multiple Hugo, Bram Stoker, and World Fantasy awards, has explored the entirety of the diverse horror market, Book Info: Genre: Anthology: Horror Reading Level: Adult Disclosure: I received a free eGalley – eBook uncorrected proof/ARC – in exchange for an honest review. Synopsis: The first three volumes of The Best Horror of the Year from Nightshade books have been widely praised for their quality, variety, and comprehensiveness. Now, for the fourth consecutive year, editor Ellen Datlow, winner of multiple Hugo, Bram Stoker, and World Fantasy awards, has explored the entirety of the diverse horror market, distilling it into the fourth anthology in the series and providing an overview of the year in terror. With tales from Laird Barron, Stephen King, John Langan, Peter Straub, and many others, and featuring Datlow's comprehensive overview of the year in horror, now, more than ever, The Best Horror of the Year provides the petrifying horror fiction readers have come to expect-and enjoy. Fear is the oldest human emotion. The most primal. We like to think we're civilized. We tell ourselves we're not afraid. And every year, we skim our fingers across nightmares, desperately pitting our courage against shivering dread. A paraplegic millionaire hires a priest to exorcise his pain; a failing marriage is put to the ultimate test; hunters become the hunted as a small group of men ventures deep into a forest; a psychic struggles for her life on national television; a soldier strikes a grisly bargain with his sister's killer; ravens answer a child's wish for magic; two mercenaries accept a strangely simplistic assignment; a desperate woman in an occupied land makes a terrible choice... What scares you? What frightens you? Horror wears new faces in these carefully selected stories. The details may change. But the fear remains. Table of Contents: The Little Green God of Agony - Stephen King: A paraplegic millionaire hires a priest to exorcise his pain Stay - Leah Bobet – can a woman with no medicine stop Raven and keep a wendigo human? The Moraine - Simon Bestwick – a failing marriage is put to the ultimate test Blackwood's Baby - Laird Barron – hunters become the hunted as a small group of men ventures deep into a forest. Looker - David Nickle – a young man at a party meets a girl with extraordinary eyes The Show - Priya Sharma – a psychic struggles for her life on national television Mulberry Boys - Margo Lanagan – villagers produce silk for a living, but what price have the villagers paid for this income? Roots and All - Brian Hodge – a soldier strikes a grisly bargain with his sister's killer Final Girl Theory - A. C. Wise – a film made 40 years ago fascinates a man, and when he thinks he sees one of the actresses on the street he follows her home, because he has to know: was it real? Omphalos - Livia Llewellyn – family togetherness was never meant to be like this. Dermot - Simon Bestwick – the Special Projects department of a police station requires the help of Dermot to locate the creatures that prey on the town; but is his help worth the price they pay him for it? Black Feathers - Alison J. Littlewood – ravens answer a child's wish for magic Final Verse - Chet Williamson – to what extreme would you go in order to find the answer to a long-held question? In the Absence of Murdock - Terry Lamsley – where did Murdock go and why has no one seen him in days? You Become the Neighborhood - Glen Hirshberg – mother and daughter reminisce about the event that drove the mother mad, and about the events that led up to it. In Paris, In the Mouth of Kronos - John Langan – two mercenaries accept a strangely simplistic assignment Little Pig - Anna Taborska – a desperate woman in an occupied land makes a terrible choice The Ballad of Ballard and Sandrine - Peter Straub – love and pain and pleasure and surrealism My Thoughts: Stephen King is still the master – by the end of his story, “Little Green God of Agony,” I was actually tensed up and waiting for a blow – maybe because I’ve dealt with pain for years now, I don‘t know, but wow that story got to me. “The Moraine” is a creepy story that is enough to make you nervous about walking over rocks ever again. “Blackwoods Baby,” about hunting an enormous stag, was incredibly disturbing. “The Show” was another weird one, with a woman acquiring a spirit guide in a very strange way. “Roots and All” was about the price one needs to pay – which is inevitably a steep one, as is “Little Pig”. Omphalos was extremely disturbing, and highly strange. I enjoyed the fact that the tales of the Native peoples of the extreme northern areas of North America, the tribes called Dene or Inuit, were incorporated into “Stay.” Of course, the wendigo myth is common to many tribes across North America, but it was still refreshing to see these native peoples in a new light – we hear very little about them in mainstream media. There is the smallest hint of medicine in the tale “Black Feathers,” as well – it also features Raven and emphasizes that you should be careful what you wish for... because you just might get it. Then, “In Paris in the Mouth of Kronos” we get a hint of the Greek gods, to balance things, while “The Ballad of Ballard and Sandrine” gives us a touch of Amazonia. In “You Become the Neighborhood,” I was amused by references to a wolf spider spinning a web over the apartment door every night, and the people living there carefully knocking down the web each morning so they could get out of the house. There are a lot of overly ambitious spiders around my neck of the woods and this sort of thing happens all the time. Straub is one of my favorite authors, but the story of his in this anthology really bothered me. I liked it, don’t get me wrong – it’s typical Straub, in that it’s dreamlike, surreal and haunting. However, it is also inconsistent. The character Sandrine’s age changes constantly. She is born in 1957, is 15 in 1969, is 19 in 1976, is 25 in 1982 and is 49 in 1997. Ballard is described as being both 44 and 38 in 1982. I haven’t commented on every single story, but that doesn’t mean they weren’t all good – in many cases, there’s just no way to comment on them without spoiling the story – which is a real problem when reviewing an anthology. The introduction was really long – 12% of the book – but very interesting. I ended up with a long list of books that I need to check out now (oops – like I needed more books to read!)

  15. 5 out of 5

    Laura

    This book has taken me a long time to “finish” because I refused to accept that I didn’t want to read the last story, no matter how many times I started it. I am finally coming to terms with that. There are some really haunting, standout stories here, but of course, also some that are less so. Let’s see what I think. . . Amazing, loved: Stay by Leah Bobet Mulberry Boys by Margo Lanagan (what a concept; very uncomfortable!!) Roots and All by Brian Hodge Final Girl Theory by A. C. Wise (What I wish Ni This book has taken me a long time to “finish” because I refused to accept that I didn’t want to read the last story, no matter how many times I started it. I am finally coming to terms with that. There are some really haunting, standout stories here, but of course, also some that are less so. Let’s see what I think. . . Amazing, loved: Stay by Leah Bobet Mulberry Boys by Margo Lanagan (what a concept; very uncomfortable!!) Roots and All by Brian Hodge Final Girl Theory by A. C. Wise (What I wish Night Film was! . . .) Omphalos by Livia Llewellyn Final Verse by Chet Williamson Meh: The Little Green God of Agony by Stephen King The Moraine by Simon Bestwick Looker by David Nickle Dermot by Simon Bestwick Black Feathers by Alison J. Littlewood Didn’t like or couldn’t bring myself to read: Blackwood's Baby by Laird Barron (this is the only one I skipped, other than the last one) The Show by Priya Sharma In the Absence of Murdock by Terry Lamsley You Become the Neighborhood by Glen Hirshberg In Paris, In the Mouth of Kronos by John Langan Little Pig by Anna Taborska The Ballad of Ballard and Sandrine by Peter Straub I didn’t remember disliking so many of these! The ones I did like definitely stuck with me more. However, at this point, I think I can only give three stars overall.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Angela Verdenius

    A little bit of shivers to suit every taste!

  17. 5 out of 5

    B. Barron

    Stephen King: "The Little Green God of Agony" ***** - Excellent. Leah Bobet: "Stay" **** - Do love me a good Windigo yarn. Simon Bestwick: "The Moraine" **** - Nice. Laird Barron: "Blackwood's Baby" ***** - Mr. Barron is quickly becoming one of my favorite horror writers. David Nickle: "Looker" **** - Creepy cool. Priya Sharma: "The Show" *** - Very good, but none of the characters are very personable - and having a sympathetic character in the mix helps with horror. Still sometimes bad things do Stephen King: "The Little Green God of Agony" ***** - Excellent. Leah Bobet: "Stay" **** - Do love me a good Windigo yarn. Simon Bestwick: "The Moraine" **** - Nice. Laird Barron: "Blackwood's Baby" ***** - Mr. Barron is quickly becoming one of my favorite horror writers. David Nickle: "Looker" **** - Creepy cool. Priya Sharma: "The Show" *** - Very good, but none of the characters are very personable - and having a sympathetic character in the mix helps with horror. Still sometimes bad things do happen to bad people. Margo Lanagan: "Mulberry Boys" *** - Interesting, but it seem horrific to me... Then again I usually root for the Mad Scientists. Brian Hodge: "Roots and All" **** - Again not all that horrific, but I liked that in the end he had to .... well no spoilers. I liked the end. A.C. Wise: "Final Girl Theory" ** - Wild idea, but I just didn't enjoy it. Livia Llewellyn: "Omphalos" *** - Solid story. Simon Bestwick: "Dermot" ***** - Yes, in those circumstances I fear too many would make the same deal. Alison Littlewood: "Black Feathers" ***½ - Good and creeps, but it touches a little too close to home. Chet Williamson: "Final Verse" *** - Not bad, but kind of predictable IMOP. Terry Lamsley: "In the Absence of Murdock" ***½ - Good. No idea why he disappeared when he did, but it was nice and creepy. Glen Hirshberg: "You Become the Neighborhood" **** - Slow unfold, but the payoff is excellent. John Langan: "In Paris, in the Mouth of Kronos" ***½ - Nice. It was a bit predictable, but I did like it. Anna Taborska: "Little Pig" ****½ - Yep, that is horror. Peter Straub: "The Ballad of Ballard and Sandrine" ** - Meh!

  18. 4 out of 5

    Mitch Duckworth

    My favorite stories: Normally, I maintain a list of favorite stories in any anthology I read, because, as in this case, I might be reading several collections of shorts at once, plus a novel or two; I might absorb it over a period of months. I kept a growing list for this book for the first few stories and then abandoned the idea. This is one of the most perfect anthologies I've ever read. Not even the weakest of the stories Ellen Datlow selected for this volume should rate below four-stars; I'm My favorite stories: Normally, I maintain a list of favorite stories in any anthology I read, because, as in this case, I might be reading several collections of shorts at once, plus a novel or two; I might absorb it over a period of months. I kept a growing list for this book for the first few stories and then abandoned the idea. This is one of the most perfect anthologies I've ever read. Not even the weakest of the stories Ellen Datlow selected for this volume should rate below four-stars; I'm not sure how I would decide which story would be the weakest anyway. One after another, for one reason or another, each story surpassed, or at least equalled the previous. That's no easy trick, Ms. Datlow. You have a true talent for identifying the best of what's bad; the brightest of the darkest stories around. You keep me up at night, Ms. Datlow. Please, keep it up.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Samantha

    When a horror collection begins with Stephen King and ends with Peter Straub, you can bet you're going to be in for quite a ride. I enjoy reading short story collections because I think it takes great writing skill to be able to completely tell a tale and capture a reader in such a limited space. This collection was no disappointment. The writer's craft shows through and I still find myself thinking about a number of the stories. Reactions as I read ran from chuckling to goosebumps to downright When a horror collection begins with Stephen King and ends with Peter Straub, you can bet you're going to be in for quite a ride. I enjoy reading short story collections because I think it takes great writing skill to be able to completely tell a tale and capture a reader in such a limited space. This collection was no disappointment. The writer's craft shows through and I still find myself thinking about a number of the stories. Reactions as I read ran from chuckling to goosebumps to downright revulsion! These stories range from supernatural chills and thrills to the demented destruction wrought by "regular" humanity. I highly recommend this collection to horror fans.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Alan Baxter

    A fantastic collection of horror. Not all the stories worked for me and one seemed like a very strange inclusion, very poor by comparison, but that one aside all the stories included were expert creations. Even the ones that didn't work for me personally were obviously superbly crafted works. And most of the stories were brilliant. A fantastic collection of horror. Not all the stories worked for me and one seemed like a very strange inclusion, very poor by comparison, but that one aside all the stories included were expert creations. Even the ones that didn't work for me personally were obviously superbly crafted works. And most of the stories were brilliant.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Brian Sammons

    A good collection of horror stories, but far from the best in my oh so humble opinion. I liked a lot of what I read here, but there were a surprising number to stories that I didn't care for at all. As in, not one bit. Meh, chalk that up to personal taste I guess. Still, you can find a lot worse horror anthos out there. A good collection of horror stories, but far from the best in my oh so humble opinion. I liked a lot of what I read here, but there were a surprising number to stories that I didn't care for at all. As in, not one bit. Meh, chalk that up to personal taste I guess. Still, you can find a lot worse horror anthos out there.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Ruth

    Lots of good and a few great short stories in here. Loved "Dermot," "The Final Verse," "Roots and All," "Final Girl Theory," "Looker," and "The Show." Enjoyed all the rest except "Omphalos," which I really really disliked. All in all very worth reading. Lots of good and a few great short stories in here. Loved "Dermot," "The Final Verse," "Roots and All," "Final Girl Theory," "Looker," and "The Show." Enjoyed all the rest except "Omphalos," which I really really disliked. All in all very worth reading.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Megan Hex

    Great collection. "You Become the Neighborhood" is my definite standout favorite. Great collection. "You Become the Neighborhood" is my definite standout favorite.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Danielle

    I'm giving this book a three because there are some stories that I liked, a couple I really liked, and some that I hated. I don't usually read horror. I enjoy Stephen King (mostly) and I've read a few others, but I seem to be particular about what kind of horror I read, which means I don't read a lot in the genre, so it could be that this just wasn't my cup of tea. I'll try to give a few examples without any spoilers. As with any anthology, some of the writers appealed to me more than others. Som I'm giving this book a three because there are some stories that I liked, a couple I really liked, and some that I hated. I don't usually read horror. I enjoy Stephen King (mostly) and I've read a few others, but I seem to be particular about what kind of horror I read, which means I don't read a lot in the genre, so it could be that this just wasn't my cup of tea. I'll try to give a few examples without any spoilers. As with any anthology, some of the writers appealed to me more than others. Some of the writing styles were too detailed, some just a little boring, and some were actually too vague. So you get a little of everything. Overall, I don't think I would recommend this book to anyone. I liked the King story, there were some golden thoughts/points buried in a really unique story. And the creep level was present of course. I liked "Stay" it was kind of like being told a ghost story, one with some familiar elements, but a new twist. "The Moraine" was good as well. Completely new idea for me, plenty of creep factor. "Blackwood's Baby" was odd. It felt a little long, with some details and information that I really didn't need for the story. I also had trouble picturing the action once I got to it, if that makes sense. Not my favorite, but if you wade through it, interesting. I was really freaked out by "Looker," which surprised me because it was a different form of horror than I was expecting. It wasn't blood and guts horror, more skin crawling. I felt like "The Show" was just getting interesting when it ended. I wouldn't mind reading what comes next. I didn't like "Mulberry Boys." The gross factor was there, but I didn't really understand what was going on. I liked "Roots and All." I didn't find it scary, it was, again, like a ghost story told around a fire. It has a good story, a little supernatural, and some spine tingling that will probably come back to me next time I'm in the woods. I feel like I missed something in "Final Girl Theory." I'm not sure if this is part of a larger story or something. The movie it describes was more interesting than the story itself, and it lost some of the scariness in the way it was told. I didn't like "Omphalos" and "Dermot." I think that's mostly because I feel like both were based around shock value. There are some taboo topics in both, which is fine, but that shouldn't be the only horrifying thing in the story. "Black Feathers" felt too similar to other things I had read, "Final Verse:" This one was super creepy for me, probably because I grew up in an area similar to the one in the story! I love the local legend aspect, the pace was fast, but detailed, exactly what I want from a short story, along with plenty of horror. "In the Absence of Murdock" spent too much time setting up the horror and then not enough time describing/explaining it. Very interesting bad guy, but I don't know that I understand what is really going on. "You Become the Neighborhood" is a decent story with a gross twist. It felt a little mismatched. Most of the story is not horror, but is sad. The scary part at the end feels like it was just added in for horror's sake. The story "In Paris, in the Mouth of Kronos," was just too long on details. I skimmed a lot of it. The story, if you cut the extras out, is pretty unique, but the action part is so brief, it just feels pointless. I was sad and a little horrified after I read "Little Pig." I liked the lesson and the writing was amazing. I honestly did not finish "The Ballad of Ballard and Sandrine." I tried skimming it, but I just couldn't get in to it.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Ria Bridges

    I’ll be honest. I nearly gave up on this book. I nearly stopped reading it and gave it up as a lost cause. Why? Because the introduction takes up over 10% of the book, and is mostly a rundown of the best horror novels published during the past year. I actually had to look at outside descriptions of this book to remind myself that yes, there are actual stories in here, and that it’s not just a book about other books. While having that listing certainly is nice, having it right at the beginning wa I’ll be honest. I nearly gave up on this book. I nearly stopped reading it and gave it up as a lost cause. Why? Because the introduction takes up over 10% of the book, and is mostly a rundown of the best horror novels published during the past year. I actually had to look at outside descriptions of this book to remind myself that yes, there are actual stories in here, and that it’s not just a book about other books. While having that listing certainly is nice, having it right at the beginning was a bit of a pain, especially when reading it on the Kindle, so it’s not like I could just flip a few pages and quickly discover that I can get to the stories that make up the bulk of the book. But once I found that out, and spent five minutes pressing the “forward” button on my Kindle over and over, I can say with certainty that I was glad I did. There’s some serious talent contained within this compilation, stories written by some big names and some who were — to me, at least — completely unheard of. Stephen King gets the honour of getting the ball rolling, and the only downside to that is that it sets a precedent that some of the other stories have a hard time living up to. And if King sets a high standard to live up to in the first story, the final story, written by Peter Straub, was a big bust. Most everything in between was great, and very entertaining to read, but Straub’s story was something that I couldn’t get into no matter how hard I tried. The timeline jumped about all over the place, making it hard to follow and appreciate, and aside from a couple of legitimately creepy moments (and they were just moments, mind you), I couldn’t even tell half the time where the story was going, or what the point to it was. Perhaps it’s just that Straub isn’t to my taste. But I do feel compelled to say that as much as the collection ended on a low note, it was far better than beginning on such a low note. Had this story been the first one, I might not have found much of a reason to keep reading. But looking at the stories individually, and trying not to compare them to what came before or after, ultimately this collection lives up to its name. It was a great collection of horror stories, some that make you shiver, others that make you feel a bit queasy, and others still that make you struggle to wrap your mind around what’s going on. A very good set that makes me want to keep my eyes open for next year’s compilation! In spite of a couple of low notes, this collection is definitely worth checking out, especially for horror fans and for those who want to have their spines tingled and their minds expanded. (Book received in exchange for an honest review.)

  26. 4 out of 5

    Ryan Pidhayny

    Ellen Datlow's The Best Horror of the Year series can be a bit uneven at times, but the incredible number of great stories to feature in it cannot be denied. I found Volume Four to be one of my favorites in the series. There were only a select few stories that I didn't like. The majority of them ranged from good to amazing. John Langan is probably my favorite author and I consistently enjoy his stories, but 'In Paris, in the Mouth of Kronos' was over and above my favorite in this book. 'Roots an Ellen Datlow's The Best Horror of the Year series can be a bit uneven at times, but the incredible number of great stories to feature in it cannot be denied. I found Volume Four to be one of my favorites in the series. There were only a select few stories that I didn't like. The majority of them ranged from good to amazing. John Langan is probably my favorite author and I consistently enjoy his stories, but 'In Paris, in the Mouth of Kronos' was over and above my favorite in this book. 'Roots and All' by Brian Hodge, 'Blackwood's Baby' by Laird Barron, and 'Omphalos' by Livia Llewellyn were also incredibly well done. If you enjoy the wide range of what the horror genre encompasses and can get your hands on a copy of it, I highly recommend this one.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Douglas

    As with most collections this one is uneven. I did enjoy most of the stories. I got this anthology for the Stephen King story, which it turns out I had already read, but it's a good one and I didn't mind reading it again. I give the editor, Ms. Datlow, credit for a wide ranging collection, with styles all over the map. Some stories were longer, but none ventured into novella territory and some quite short. Some straight ahead Horror, while others more subtle and artistic. Some just made me go "Hm As with most collections this one is uneven. I did enjoy most of the stories. I got this anthology for the Stephen King story, which it turns out I had already read, but it's a good one and I didn't mind reading it again. I give the editor, Ms. Datlow, credit for a wide ranging collection, with styles all over the map. Some stories were longer, but none ventured into novella territory and some quite short. Some straight ahead Horror, while others more subtle and artistic. Some just made me go "Hmm". All in all a worthwhile read and a definite improvement from my last book.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Kevin

    I'll be honest, I really like short story collections. It's like going to a rummage sale, finding a box of stuff that's all related for a song, going home and dumping it on the table. There's always some gems, some meh, and some rusty bits you weren't sure what to do with. That's what I feel we have here. There were some really intensely engaging pieces (Livia Llewellyn, Peter Straub), but others weren't even remotely creepy. Even the Stephen King piece was not particularly memorable. Moving on . I'll be honest, I really like short story collections. It's like going to a rummage sale, finding a box of stuff that's all related for a song, going home and dumping it on the table. There's always some gems, some meh, and some rusty bits you weren't sure what to do with. That's what I feel we have here. There were some really intensely engaging pieces (Livia Llewellyn, Peter Straub), but others weren't even remotely creepy. Even the Stephen King piece was not particularly memorable. Moving on ....

  29. 5 out of 5

    Јордан Коцевски

    First of all this was more like a 3.5 stars a read for me. It s much better than the first collection. There are different styles of horror here and I used it as a way to find a new horror author to read. I've read some of the comments and the funny thing is that there was a guy who disliked most of the stories that I enjoyed. my point being it's all about taste and it's impossible to enjoy all the stories. First of all this was more like a 3.5 stars a read for me. It s much better than the first collection. There are different styles of horror here and I used it as a way to find a new horror author to read. I've read some of the comments and the funny thing is that there was a guy who disliked most of the stories that I enjoyed. my point being it's all about taste and it's impossible to enjoy all the stories.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Am Y

    Most of the stories in this were engaging - you did want to read on to find out what happened... however, the payoff was very poor. Too many of them ended abruptly, with absolutely no explanation for what had happened, or else seemed pointless. My favourite was Final Verse which was pretty smart; worst of the bunch was The Ballad of Ballard and Sandrine, which was completely beyond comprehension and made me feel I had wasted my time.

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