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No matter your expectations, the dark is full of the unknown: grim futures, distorted pasts, invasions of the uncanny, paranormal fancies, weird dreams, unnerving nightmares, baffling enigmas, revelatory excursions, desperate adventures, spectral journeys, mundane terrors, and supernatural visions. You may stumble into obsession - or find redemption. Often disturbing, occa No matter your expectations, the dark is full of the unknown: grim futures, distorted pasts, invasions of the uncanny, paranormal fancies, weird dreams, unnerving nightmares, baffling enigmas, revelatory excursions, desperate adventures, spectral journeys, mundane terrors, and supernatural visions. You may stumble into obsession - or find redemption. Often disturbing, occasionally delightful, let The Year's Best Dark Fantasy and Horror be your annual guide through the mysteries and wonders of dark fiction. Introduction by Paula Guran Wheatfield with Crows by Steve Rasnic Tem Blue Amber by David J. Schow The Legend of Troop 13 by Kit Reed The Good Husband by Nathan Ballingrud The Soul in the Bell Jar by KJ Kabza The Creature Recants by Dale Bailey Termination Dust by Laird Barron Postcards from Abroad by Peter Atkins Phosphorus by Veronica Schanoes A Lunar Labyrinth by Neil Gaiman The Prayer of Ninety Cats by Caitlín R. Kiernan Shadows for Silence in the Forests of Hell by Brandon Sanderson The Plague by Ken Liu The Gruesome Affair of the Electric Blue Lightning by Joe R. Lansdale Let My Smile Be Your Umbrella by Brian Hodge Air, Water, and the Grove by Kaaron Warren A Little of the Night by Tanith Lee A Collapse of Horses by Brian Evenson Pride: A Collector’s Tale by Glen Hirshberg Our Lady of Ruins by Sarah Singleton The Marginals by Steve Duffy Dark Gardens by Greg Kurzawa Rag and Bone by Priya Sharma The Slipway Gray by Helen Marshall To Die for Moonlight by Sarah Monette Cuckoo by Angela Slatter Fishwife by Carrie Vaughn The Dream Detective by Lisa Tuttle Event Horizon by Sunny Moraine Moonstruck by Karin Tidbeck The Ghost Makers by Elizabeth Bear Iseul’s Lexicon by Yoon Ha Lee


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No matter your expectations, the dark is full of the unknown: grim futures, distorted pasts, invasions of the uncanny, paranormal fancies, weird dreams, unnerving nightmares, baffling enigmas, revelatory excursions, desperate adventures, spectral journeys, mundane terrors, and supernatural visions. You may stumble into obsession - or find redemption. Often disturbing, occa No matter your expectations, the dark is full of the unknown: grim futures, distorted pasts, invasions of the uncanny, paranormal fancies, weird dreams, unnerving nightmares, baffling enigmas, revelatory excursions, desperate adventures, spectral journeys, mundane terrors, and supernatural visions. You may stumble into obsession - or find redemption. Often disturbing, occasionally delightful, let The Year's Best Dark Fantasy and Horror be your annual guide through the mysteries and wonders of dark fiction. Introduction by Paula Guran Wheatfield with Crows by Steve Rasnic Tem Blue Amber by David J. Schow The Legend of Troop 13 by Kit Reed The Good Husband by Nathan Ballingrud The Soul in the Bell Jar by KJ Kabza The Creature Recants by Dale Bailey Termination Dust by Laird Barron Postcards from Abroad by Peter Atkins Phosphorus by Veronica Schanoes A Lunar Labyrinth by Neil Gaiman The Prayer of Ninety Cats by Caitlín R. Kiernan Shadows for Silence in the Forests of Hell by Brandon Sanderson The Plague by Ken Liu The Gruesome Affair of the Electric Blue Lightning by Joe R. Lansdale Let My Smile Be Your Umbrella by Brian Hodge Air, Water, and the Grove by Kaaron Warren A Little of the Night by Tanith Lee A Collapse of Horses by Brian Evenson Pride: A Collector’s Tale by Glen Hirshberg Our Lady of Ruins by Sarah Singleton The Marginals by Steve Duffy Dark Gardens by Greg Kurzawa Rag and Bone by Priya Sharma The Slipway Gray by Helen Marshall To Die for Moonlight by Sarah Monette Cuckoo by Angela Slatter Fishwife by Carrie Vaughn The Dream Detective by Lisa Tuttle Event Horizon by Sunny Moraine Moonstruck by Karin Tidbeck The Ghost Makers by Elizabeth Bear Iseul’s Lexicon by Yoon Ha Lee

30 review for The Year's Best Dark Fantasy & Horror, 2014 Edition

  1. 5 out of 5

    Mir

    I got this collection for one story, Sarah Monette's "To Die for Moonlight." This story is part of a series which begins in the collection The Bone Key: The Necromantic Mysteries of Kyle Murchison Booth. It is still good as a stand-alone, but I think better if you know that character and his background adventures. 4 stars Since I had the book anyway, I read some stories by authors I tend to like: "Cuckoo" by Angela Slatter was directly after Monette so I read that first. I liked it, although not a I got this collection for one story, Sarah Monette's "To Die for Moonlight." This story is part of a series which begins in the collection The Bone Key: The Necromantic Mysteries of Kyle Murchison Booth. It is still good as a stand-alone, but I think better if you know that character and his background adventures. 4 stars Since I had the book anyway, I read some stories by authors I tend to like: "Cuckoo" by Angela Slatter was directly after Monette so I read that first. I liked it, although not as much as her changeling story, Finnegan's Field. Definitely planning to read more Slatter in the future. 3.5 stars Neil Gaiman's "Lunar Labyrinth" was good, but very predictable if one has read American Gods. And a bit slight. 3 stars Bear's "Ghost Makers" was an interesting fantasy story, less dark and more traditional high fantasy with wizards and swordsmen. Nice world-building. 4 stars "Air, Water, and the Grove" by Kaaron Warren was a sad, subdued, human story about the aftermath of an encounter with alien life. Biology, not aliens per se -- one rarely sees this type of longer term ecological approach in science fiction. Admirable, if depressing. 4 stars Everything I have read by Yoon Ha Lee has been smart and unique, and "Iseul's Lexicon" is, too. Linguistics based magic, very intriguing. 5 stars Kiernan's "Prayer of 90 Cats" is not technically a fantasy story, as the frame narrative of a person watching a fictional movie that sounds like it wants to be an X-rated version of "Company of Wolves" sets it firmly in the real world. The approach of describing various frames and scenes from the viewer's point of view, along with complaints about other audience members etc, was original and conveniently eliminated the need to flesh out the entire story (I certainly didn't want it to go on longer) but rather reduced the impact of the darkness of Bathory's story. 3.5 stars I started "Phosphorous" and realized I had read it already, in Queen Victoria’s Book of Spells: An Anthology of Gaslamp Fantasy. A solid, substantially researched story set in a context that has only recently gotten some attention, the women who died (absolutely unnecessarily!) literally rotting from within from working in factories with phosphorous. 4 stars Then I read some other stories, until I ran out of ones that interested me. Tem's "Wheatfield with Crows" was a short, evocative piece about a man and his neglectful mother revisiting the site of his sister's mysterious disappearance. Schow's "Blue Amber" is pure sci-fi horror, very classic b-movie feel. Peter Atkins' "Postcards from Abroad" was an excellent short piece about a employee of a government agency that deals with supernatural problems. Think of the people who handle broken water pipes, not Men in Black. It felt like an episode from a larger work, but doesn't seem to be, which is a pity because I'd read more. "Our Lady of Ruins" is an evocative title, and the story had some nice imagery, but it was ultimately a Rip van Winkle type deal with the strange people/religion not really having a lot of weight. "Dream Detective" is a great title, too bad no dream detecting happens. Lisa Tuttle never seems to work for me. Steve Duffy's character invites a new coworker, There's some of them little Scotch eggs in the glove compartment, help yourself. Good God, this really is horror!

  2. 5 out of 5

    Althea Ann

    A nice big chunky collection of recent stories. As with any anthology, I liked some selections more than others, but there are more than enough gems here to make the chaff worth sifting. 3.51 average rounds up to 4... **** “Wheatfield with Crows,” Steve Rasnic Tem Steve Rasnic Tem is a master of horror, and demonstrates it here. Seemingly simple things are imbued with an ominous aura - and things that are less simple are even spookier. A young man, accompanied by his mother, returns to the scene A nice big chunky collection of recent stories. As with any anthology, I liked some selections more than others, but there are more than enough gems here to make the chaff worth sifting. 3.51 average rounds up to 4... **** “Wheatfield with Crows,” Steve Rasnic Tem Steve Rasnic Tem is a master of horror, and demonstrates it here. Seemingly simple things are imbued with an ominous aura - and things that are less simple are even spookier. A young man, accompanied by his mother, returns to the scene of his sister's disappearance. Rural fields are a traditional horror setting - but this one's particularly eerie. *** “Blue Amber,” David J. Schow Previously read in 'Impossible Monsters.' A pretty good take on the alien-pod-people theme, set on a rural ranch. A couple of cops come to investigate, and get far more than they bargained for. Firmly in the horror genre, with a 'zombie' feel to it... ** “The Legend of Troop 13,” Kit Reed (Asimov’s Science Fiction, Jan 2013 / The Story Until Now: A Great Big Book of Stories, Wesleyan) There are a few humorous moments in this tall tale of a girl scout troop run wild in the woods surrounding an observatory - but they don't make up for the overwhelming misandry of the piece. In addition, I found the ending to be very unsatisfying, especially from a feminist perspective. (view spoiler)[The 'wild' girl is like, "I don't care if he thinks I'm ugly, but he called me OLD! Oh Noes! (hide spoiler)] Weird stuff going on here, and I just didn't particularly like it. *** “The Good Husband,” Nathan Ballingrud (North American Lake Monsters, Small Beer Press) Captures the claustrophobic, desperate feeling of being trapped in a relationship with someone with severe, suicidal depression very, very well. The husband here has been pushed past his limits. He's no longer sure what is love and what, obligation. And he's got a really bad case of denial. There are 'supernatural' occurrences here - but they work perfectly as a metaphor for real life events. *** “The Soul in the Bell Jar,” K. J. Kabza (The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction, Nov/Dec 2013) Steampunk-influenced horror. A young girl is sent to stay with her scientist great-uncle, at his decaying Victorian estate - and discovers all kinds of horrific experiments. I liked the writing; thought the setting and ideas would be very suited to a longer novel. The conclusion here felt a little muddled, though. ** “The Creature Recants,” Dale Bailey (Clarkesworld, Issue 85, October 2013) What if the Creature From The Black Lagoon were captured in a swamp and brought to Hollywood. Ennui might set in... ** “Termination Dust,” Laird Barron (Tales of Jack the Ripper, ed. Ross Lockhart, Word Horde) A serial killer is on the loose in a tiny, claustrophobic Alaskan town. The story's written in an odd, disjointed way, in order to throw doubt and suspicion upon every single character. The jumpiness of the narrative didn't really work for me. *** “Postcards from Abroad,” Peter Atkins (Rolling Darkness Revue 2013, Earthling Publications) Paranormal investigation genre fiction? Yes, this is. But the touching and unexpected ending really put this piece a notch above most of the current fiction of the type. **** “Phosphorous,” Veronica Schanoes, (Queen Victoria’s Book of Spells: An Anthology of Gaslamp Fantasy, eds. Ellen Datlow & Terri Windling, Tor) Well, that was rough. It's worse because it's all pretty much true, with the exception of a few fictional details thrown in. The actually didn't like the narrative voice (addressing the readers as 'you' throughout), but the story was still disturbing and powerful. It's based on the historical events related here: http://www.bbc.co.uk/legacies/work/en... ***** “A Lunar Labyrinth,” Neil Gaiman (Shadows of the New Sun: Stories in Honor of Gene Wolfe, eds. J. E. Mooney & Bill Fawcett, Tor) I didn't catch a specific Gene Wolfe reference here (which isn't to claim there isn't one), but this story is a superb example of the genre of: 'strange and eerie rituals persisting in remote towns and rural areas, discovered by an outsider.' ** “The Prayer of Ninety Cats,” Caitlín R. Kiernan (Subterranean Online, Spring 2013) Generally, I like Kiernan's writing, but this overlong mash-up of nostalgia about The Cinema and a classsic-horror-style screenplay didn't work for me. I liked the story, about a fictionalized version of Elizabeth Bathory, quite a lot, and would have preferred it if it had just been written 'straight,' as a story in and of itself, without the commentary. **** “Shadows for Silence in the Forests of Hell,” Brandon Sanderson (Dangerous Women, eds. George R. R. Martin & Gardner Dozois, Tor) Ever realize you've been missing out on something? I just did. I have read zero books by Sanderson, and his Wheel of Time takeover discouraged me from trying any. (Not a Jordan fan.) However, this is a great story. An innkeeper in a dangerous, shade-haunted forest is secretly a notorious bounty hunter. No one knows the lengths she goes to to keep herself and her children alive in a hostile world. **** “The Plague” Ken Liu (Nature, 16 May 2013) A nice commentary on the human urge to 'take responsibility and help' - and what the reaction to a misguided effort might very well often be. Honestly, I thought it could've been a bit more even-handed, but in such a short piece there isn't room for a full exploration of all ramifications of a complex situation. And the ending will hit you like a smack upside the head... **** “The Gruesome Affair of the Electric Blue Lightning,” Joe R. Lansdale (Beyond Rue Morgue: Further Tales of Edgar Allan Poe’s First Detective, ed. Paul Kane & Charles Prepole, Titan) A humorous mash-up of Arthur Conan Doyle, Mary Shelley and HP Lovecraft. On the face of it, that doesn't sound like something that'd be up my alley - but it was a fun read. ** “Let My Smile Be Your Umbrella,” Brian Hodge (Psycho-Mania!, ed. Stephen Jones, Robinson) I find a narration style that addresses the reader(or, as it may be, another character), directly, as "You" to be annoying. Earlier in this anthology, Veronica Schanoes pulled it off. Hodge, I felt, does not. The murderous narrator calls out an attention-seeking mopey girl for her annoying ways. But who is the narrator, and what are his own issues? **** “Air, Water and the Grove,” Kaaron Warren (The Lowest Heaven, eds Anne C. Perry & Jared Shurin, Jurassic London) A weird and original post-apocalyptic science fiction story. At first, I thought it was going to be something like 'The Purge.' But then, it got stranger. Bleak and dark - but I liked it quite a lot. ***** “A Little of the Night,” Tanith Lee (Clockwork Phoenix 4, ed. Mike Allen, Mythic Delirium) Among the things that make me happy in life is the fact that Tanith Lee is still kicking it and writing stories like this one. Years ago, a soldier, pushed to the limit, fled his troop and encountered strange events in a gothic castle. Now, junior military men wonder about the secrets the legendary commandant holds - but his story may remain an enigma. This is an elegant, lovely story that works on several levels. *** “A Collapse of Horses,” Brian Evenson (The American Reader, Feb/Mar 2013) A well-crafted psychological horror piece. A husband returns to his family after an accident has affected his brain. His trouble keeping track of reality is both touching and chilling. **** “Our Lady of Ruins”, Sarah Singleton (The Dark 2, Dec 2013) This story would make an excellent surrealist art film. After a breakdown at the side of the road, a man follows a girl, glimpsed running away, and finds a strange wheeled church in the forest... When he is finally 'found' he has amnesia, and his life is falling apart. What then, but to try to find what he has lost... Or is it to embrace that he is lost? Eerie imagery suffuses this piece... *** “The Marginals,” Steve Duffy (The Moment of Panic, PSPublishing) Would possibly work better as part of a longer novel... I liked this paranormal incident, and was intrigued by the characters - but I also felt they all needed more background. Who are our duo, who are they working for, and why? What is their relationship to each other? What are the parameters of this world, and the magic they encounter? **** “Dark Gardens,” Greg Kurzawa (Interzone # 248) Starts out as if it's going to be one of those magician-and-haunted-ventriloquist's-dummy stories. But then the road takes a dip, and it gets much darker. This has some genuinely creepy moments. *****“Rag and Bone,” Priya Sharma (Tor.com, 10 April 2013) A re-read - and just as good the second time through. (previously read in: The Best Science Fiction and Fantasy of the Year: Volume 8 - Jonathan Strahan)Oh, this one is creepy. Think: Ishiguro's 'Never Let Me Go' meets Thompson's 'Divided Kingdom' in a Dickensian alternate England. A bit of a steampunk feel to it (think George Mann's 'Affinity Bridge') - minus the steam. But it's also a wonderful story in which humanity and compassion come to the fore, even in the face of complete and utter callousness. It illustrates both the best and the worst that people are capable of. I hope to read more from Sharma in the future. **** “The Slipway Gray,” Helen Marshall (Chilling Tales 2, ed. Michael Kelly, Edge Publications) Not really fantasy, or horror - but a rather lovely musing on the tribulations (and rewards) of life, and the inevitability of death. A South African grandfather tells a child of the times in his life that he faced death, and of the things that made life worth living. **** “To Die for Moonlight,” Sarah Monette (Apex Magazine, Issue #50) A Kyle Murchison Booth story. Monette fans will be delighted to be granted another encounter with her archivist. Here, when called upon to catalog a rather disappointing collection of 19th-century literature, Booth has an uncomfortable (and unexpected) encounter with family curses and the paranormal. *** “Cuckoo,” Angela Slatter (A Killer Among Demons, ed. Craig Bezant, Dark Prints Press) A demon (Lucifer?) encounters evil here on earth that stumps even his wiles... very dark. **** “Fishwife,” Carrie Vaughn (Nightmare, Jun 2013) Nice piece, with the feeling of a timeless legend and a Lovecraftian ending. An impoverished fishing village makes a devil's bargain... *** “The Dream Detective,” Lisa Tuttle (Lightspeed, Mar 2013) At a dinner party, a young man meets a woman who calls herself a 'dream detective.' Is it coincidence that soon afterward, he finds images of the woman haunting his dreams? Guilt and violence blend with the psychological and the paranormal... *** “Event Horizon,” Sunny Moraine (Strange Horizons, 21 Oct 2013) Technically, the house in this story isn't 'haunted' - but I'd still put this in the 'haunted house' genre. A couple of outcast teens put up with the bullies at their schools - but an impending personal crisis leads to more drastic measures. **** “Moonstruck,” Karin Tidbeck (Shadows and Tall Trees, Vol. 5, ed. Mike Kelly, Undertow) Riffing on the connections between the moon and a woman's cycle, Tidbeck creates a surreal, pre-apocalyptic tale. Beautiful writing... **** “The Ghost Makers,” Elizabeth Bear (Fearsome Journeys, ed. Jonathan Strahan, Solaris) Not so much dark fantasy as classic fantasy. Sure, it has a dark edge... A masked cyborg, former servant of a wizard, teams up with a masterless swordsman in order to track down a soul-stealing, serial killing wizard. Really well done. The story creates a fascinating world that I'd like to spend more time discovering. ***** “Iseul’s Lexicon,” Yoon Ha Lee (Conservation of Shadows, Prime Books) A spy from a conquered nation seeks to defend against the oppressors - but uncovers a plot that threatens not just her people, but all of humanity. The threat is from beings who were long thought defeated and destroyed. Borrowed magic may be of some help - but magic is decaying... This novella contains a remarkably well-realized world, and a fascinating and original system of lexical magic. The plot is full of political and personal complexity, with a heartbreaking conclusion. Wonderful. (Although, again, more classic fantasy/sci-fi than 'dark' or 'horror.') Advance reading copy provided by NetGalley - much appreciation for the opportunity to read. As always, my opinions are solely my own.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Audrey Dagenais

    This rating represent the average of the rating of each story (see my status updates for more information). Overall, I must say that I was tired of the theme at the end, even if the last stories weren't that much close to it. If the book have been a little less long (and stories more carefully chosen), I would probably have enjoyed it more. ***Now I can say that my challenge for 2015 is truly finished :)

  4. 5 out of 5

    Jen

    My thanks to NetGalley and Diamond Book Distributors for an eARC copy of this book to read and review. This book received two stars from me because it wasn't absolutely horrid. The third star was all Brandon Sanderson. That man can write and he is the only reason I would recommend this book. Don't get me wrong, some of the stories were very good, but the ones that were bad or confusing outweighed the good ones in my opinion. I usually don't read compilations edited by anyone other than Ellen Datlo My thanks to NetGalley and Diamond Book Distributors for an eARC copy of this book to read and review. This book received two stars from me because it wasn't absolutely horrid. The third star was all Brandon Sanderson. That man can write and he is the only reason I would recommend this book. Don't get me wrong, some of the stories were very good, but the ones that were bad or confusing outweighed the good ones in my opinion. I usually don't read compilations edited by anyone other than Ellen Datlow. Compilations are tricky things, because if the first few stories are not good to the reader, the thought to continue is that since not all the stories are by the same person, then there have to be some good stories in the book. Not true, the editor is the connecting thread throughout all of the stories. If you don't agree with the taste of the editor, every story will be bad. This wasn't bad, but the stories seem to range from the amazing (Brandon Sanderson), to the absolutely putrid and stomach turning ("Cuckoo"). As is the case with many short stories, many had insane narrators or unclear occurrences and or reasons why the occurrences happened at all. I guess I prefer what I read to make more sense. And horror/dark fantasy can make sense. But due to the dark nature of it, much of it can be unclear as well. Purposefully or due to author inability to write clearly, it is difficult to tell. Not a bad book, but one that it may be better to skip around in and read favorite authors or be ready to not finish a story if it's going a bad way. I completely understand the love for Brandon Sanderson. After having read the story by him, I am going to run out and get all of his works. No hesitation, none. I recommend you do the same. :)

  5. 4 out of 5

    Ari

    Anthologies are always an interesting conglomeration of new and veteran authors in a particular genre, and since horror has been mostly neglected, books like Guran’s are more useful than ever. In this 2014 edition, we take a look at what she deems the most interesting stories of 2013. There were a couple written in the second person but I don’t find that bothering in any way. Some would say a story or two don’t have ‘horror’ elements (ie, monsters, ghosts, etc) but even something that puts you o Anthologies are always an interesting conglomeration of new and veteran authors in a particular genre, and since horror has been mostly neglected, books like Guran’s are more useful than ever. In this 2014 edition, we take a look at what she deems the most interesting stories of 2013. There were a couple written in the second person but I don’t find that bothering in any way. Some would say a story or two don’t have ‘horror’ elements (ie, monsters, ghosts, etc) but even something that puts you off (like weird, unorthodox sex descriptions, or too gory scenes, even outright --on purpose-- misogynist phrases) is allowed to be included, I find. As always, 3 star stories are those which I think will fare better with other people, therefore, I’d recommend those first. 4 and over starred stories are for my very personal taste (sometimes very weird!). [**] Wheatfield with Crows, by Rasnic Tem. An eerie story about a mother and son visiting her daughter’s disappearance in the midst of a wheat field. There is mostly no dialogue, but Tem’s prose is very good. However, the ending doesn’t quite deliver. [**] Blue Amber, by David J. Schow. A sort of insect horror story which prose reminds me of Stephen Kings’. It is humorous but a bit self-conscious in that it repeatedly states that this is not a horror movie and hence, movie tropes don’t fit in here therefore this is an original take(?). The ending is alright. [**] The Legend of Tropp 13, by Kit Reed. A darkly humorous story about a missing group of girl scouts near an observatory that is visited by rich people and nasty men. Given that premisa alone, that could have been great in showing this clash of genres (male-female) that is ripe in horror films and novels. However, the way Reed tells it diminishes the impact or novelty of the story and it delves in short bursts into each character’s perspective. The ending was fast and seemed hurried. [**] The Good Husband, by Nathan Ballingrud. A sort of metaphor (?) for a suicidal person. The living corpse of a man’s wife keeps trying to kill herself while he stops her at every turn, while having it very difficult to live with her. [***] The Soul in the Bell Jar, by K. J. Kabza. The Victorian ambient felt really refreshing and was a throwback to classical horror. It is a well written story about a girl who visits his uncle's estate where strange experiments take place. The ending felt a bit rushed, though. [***] The Creature Recants, by Dale Bailey. What if the Creature from the Black Lagoon had human feelings? Would he like starring in movies? Well, in this one can find out. It was funny and endearing writing. [*] Termination Dust, by Laird Barron. A sort of Alaskan murder story. The setting is fresh but the way Barron tells it is way too disjointed for it to work. Short vignettes don’t always work well. It looks like it’s part of a series with some of the same characters. Too bad it was not ‘self-conclusive’. [**] Postcards from Abroad, by Peter Atkins. A guy with a supernatural job visits an old lady. Good prose and an apt ending. However, it was not that original. [***] Phosphorous, by Veronica Schanoes. Now this one was original. A retelling of the London’s Match Girl Strike in which the protagonist suffers from ‘phossy jaw’ while living with her grandma. The ending is truly poignant. [***] A Lunar Labyrinth, by Neil Gaiman. Usually not a Gaiman fan but this one worked for me. A tourist visits an old labyrinth where rituals took place in the past. The ending was a bit unexpected and I liked it a lot. It’s a slow burner for sure. [****] The Prayer of Ninety Cats, by Caitlín R. Kiernan. One of those ‘lost movie’ that doesn’t exist type of story but a very inventive one at that about a mysterious film about Elizabeth Bathory. The invented movie is really interesting and the writing itself of it it’s really engaging. An author revelation. [***] Shadows for Silence in the Forests of Hell, by Brandon Sanderson. A bounty hunter story with fantasy elements. Even though it’s a novelette in size, Sanderson conjures a mystical world with myth in them in such a short space which is quite impressive. However the story is not at gripping, but has good prose. [**] The Plague, by Ken Liu. A metaphor about man’s dangerous doings to the environment and then the relation between the healthy and those ‘plagued’ by that pollution. It deals with the former’s helping of the latter but then, what makes them the ‘right’ aid? Do the plagued want to be helped? [***] The Gruesome Affair of the Electric Blue Lightning, by Joe R. Lansdale. A fast-paced story about a detective investigating some paranormal happenings in Paris. Ape men, demons (?) from beyond and even the Necronomicon appear here. Inventive and fun tale. [***] Let My Smile Be Your Umbrella, by Brian Hodge. At first, I thought this one was going to be about an unnamed narrator mocking an ‘attention-whore’ type of person that ‘tries’ to commit suicide by doing a hunger strike. It is a mockery of a story and you’d think that the narrator shouldn’t commit so much of his time in someone that is ‘worthless’, and yet he/she keeps on mocking, on and on until you realize that his attention to her (even if it’s in a joking way) is what he wasn’t supposed to give someone that ‘tricks’ people into feeling misery for her. That didn’t hit me until the very last lines, meanwhile you’re thinking is this a guardian angel speaking? a demon maybe? whoever the narrator is, it’s well written. [****] Air, Water and the Grove, by Kaaron Warren. In the first few pages it feels like The Purge kind of story until it keeps growing weirder and weirder. It is another ‘ecological’ science fiction but a very bleak one. Really good. [**] A Little of the Night, by Tanith Lee. The commander of an army retells one supernatural story in a german (?) castle and the finding of his pet, a dog-wolf. There are some ghosts, but ultimately, he fights the Nothingness, which is a nice concept. Well written, although a bit too long. [****] A Collapse of Horses, by Brian Evenson. The main pivot of the story is about a man’s encounter with four horses on a paddock and a man with the back to them. Are the horses dead, or simply asleep? The protagonist's shock at the scene and the imagining of its nature haunt him for days. After that he starts to have visions in his house of his family who sometimes is complete but sometimes lacks some of its members. He starts to lose his mind fast. For some reason, the image of the horses repeatedly in his mind reminded me of the video sequence of the Ring films. [*] Pride: A Collector’s tale, by Glen Hirshberg. A man who calls himself the Collector visits a town along with his girl friend. There they find a woman who bewitches (?) the women around her. It feels like the main character is part of a series of stories because we get no background for him, and yet he seems to fight evil spirits or beings quite regularly. It was mostly forgettable. [*] Our Lady of Ruins, by Sarah Singleton. One of the most cliché stories of the lot involves a man finding in the middle of nowhere a girl who leads him to a moving church where he meets a cult of virgins. The story is predictable to the end, the writing isn’t necessarily witty or inventive. One of the most annoying parts is that the character after finding the girl doesn’t really give a damn about his car or trying to get back to home or getting help, he just follows along with this weird lot of people as if it was the most natural thing and not even asking questions. [***] The Marginals, by Steve Duffy. Short and mysterious. A man takes a job that involves spying on some people on a highway. He only sees their silhouettes, sometimes there are more, sometimes less people but he can’t catch the moment a new person arrives or leaves. The title is a bit of a giveway, but Duffy maintains the enigma all the way. [****] Dark Gardens, by Greg Kurzawa. Probably the creepiest story in this anthology. It has weird mannequins, a magician and a subterranean pool. The story is fast paced and Kurzawa doesn’t deal with too much description, it goes where it needs fast, that doesn’t mean the story doesn’t work, but sometimes, when a story is bare bones and still captivates you, you know you have a good story. [***] Rag and Bone, by Priya Sharma. In a dystopian England rich people buy the poor’s skin and bones. What for? Well that’s not explicitly explained but one can gather it is to replace theirs and hence, live longer or better. The character is one of the poors who procures ‘bodies’ for the rich. It is well written and the end was fitting. [*] The Slipway Gray, by Helen Marshall. Not really horror per se, but a fantasy story about a guy that comes in close contact with an ethereal being in certain points of his life. Not really a standout for me. [**] To Die for Moonlight, by Sarah Monette. Apparently the main character, Kyle Murchison Booth, is the protagonist of other stories. He is an archivist and is called to inspect a library and find out anything of value. The owners of the place and their intentions are somewhat sketchy and some familiar curses are involved. Passable. [*] Cuckoo, by Angela Slatter. The writing is sharp and to-the-point, but the story is very ambiguous. A demon (?) possesses several people only to find the mind of said people a bit disgusting. [**] Fishwife, by Carrie Vaughn. A deal with the devil kind of story about a fishwife that wishes for a better hunt for her community, of course, there is a payment to be made. [***] The Dream Detective, by Lisa Tuttle. A man dates a woman who calls herself a Dream Detective. Although it is a bit misleading, there is no sleuthing to be done, but the guy thinks he sees that woman recurrently in his dreams. [*] Event Horizon, by Sunny Moraine. One of those type of stories where the author feels incumbent upon him (or is it their?) to infuse the story with pro-trans/gay background. The story doesn’t really need it, but ok, it’s fine. A haunted house serves as background for a teenage love story that involves some bullies and a gay couple. Meh. [***] Moonstruck, by Karin Tidbeck. A beautiful story about women and the influence of the moon on them and the planet. Very haunting writing, with a nice original ending. Melancholia movie vibes. [***] The Ghost Makers, by Elizabeth Bear. A former servant robot (?) of a wizard seeks revenge and teams up with a warrior who also is looking for the same person. The writing is gritty and reminded me of the Conan the Cimmerian tales. Very fun yarn. [***] Iseul’s Lexicon, by Yoon Ha Lee. Bonus points for using words as a weapon (although not an original spin on the theme). A spy fights wizards and learns new spells to fight some beings that control her enemies in a colonized country. Well written.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Daniel

    If you aren’t too familiar with the current fantasy and/or horror that is being published today, or if you only know these genres from the novel form, there is no better place to start than this mammoth collection. Featuring varied stories across the genres from both print and electronic sources, regular and individual publications, established and upcoming authors, Paula Guran assembles a great overview of 2014. As typical for these types of anthologies, I wouldn’t consider all of these my favo If you aren’t too familiar with the current fantasy and/or horror that is being published today, or if you only know these genres from the novel form, there is no better place to start than this mammoth collection. Featuring varied stories across the genres from both print and electronic sources, regular and individual publications, established and upcoming authors, Paula Guran assembles a great overview of 2014. As typical for these types of anthologies, I wouldn’t consider all of these my favorites of the year – and some of the stories here I had no appreciation for at all – but there is assuredly a good chunk of material to satisfy most readers here. Even if you don’t normally read short stories, this would be useful for finding authors whose voice and style you enjoy to perhaps then search out a novel you otherwise would never have picked up. A handful of stories in this were familiar to me from their original printings in the magazines I regularly consume and for the most part they had remained in my mind fondly. Kabza’s “The Soul in the Bell Jar” and “Fishwife” by Carrie Vaughn fall into this category with tales that feel timelessly familiar yet with beautiful unique voices. I also adored “The Creature Recants”, by Dale Bailey for its take on the outsider ‘monster’ and for being immersed in the world of film and the classic Universal Films Horror. The story isn’t particularly dark or horrific (in the sense of scary), however, and indeed many of the stories in the collection aren’t particularly ‘dark’, so don’t let that term scare you off if you don’t typically go for such tales. The majority of pieces included in the anthology were completely new to me. Since I first read about it prior to its release I’ve been interested in Nathan Ballingrud’s North American Lake Monsters from Small Beer Press. “The Good Husband” affirms this feeling and his collection now is in the top of my list of volumes to get as soon as possible. I was also particularly impressed by Schow’s “Blue Amber”, Evenson’s “A Collapse of Horses”, and Marshall’s “The Slipway Gray”. (I have a review of a Marshall collection that I read soon after this coming up). Some of the authors known to me have strong showings here, particularly Tem (“Wheatfield with Crows”), Gaiman (“A Lunar Labyrinth”), and both Lees (“A Little of the Night”, Tanith and “Iseul’s Lexicon”, Yoon Ha). Typically I’m nothing but praise for Ken Liu (I can’t wait to write up the review of his upcoming novel), but “The Plague” failed for me here. I may try a reread, but it felt too short and unfulfilling. One of the things I noticed in the midst of reading this anthology was a few stories that are written in the second person. Unfortunately I’ve been noticing this crop up more frequently throughout my reading. I don’t know if this is because I’m reading a greater range of short fiction or if it is some kind of trend, but I find it incredibly awful. In general I know most people feel this way and that the stories published with the narration constantly referring to ‘you’ are supposed to be the minority exceptions where this point of view is made to work. Only in the extreme minority of these published cases do I find them worthwhile, and in most of those cases it is just random chance that they do align vaguely with ‘me’. I previously reviewed the 2014 science fiction entry from Prime Books ‘Year’s Best’ series for Skiffy & Fanty. Both that anthology and the one here were the first I’ve read in the series. Despite reading fairly widely in the genres there was a lot of new stuff here for me to discover and fond rereads. I look forward to the years to come. Disclaimer: I received a free advanced reading copy of this from Prime Books via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review, which was originally published on reading1000lives.com

  7. 4 out of 5

    Sharon

    RATING: 3.5 This is a collection of 32 short stories, edited by Paula Guran. I'm not usually drawn to short story collections, but with a desire to read more paranormal and horror, I chose this. There are some standouts - Blue Amber by David J Schow, The Good Husband by Nathan Ballingrud, The Soul in the Bell Jar by KJ Kabza, Postcards from Abroad by Peter Atkins, Phosphorous by Veronica Schanoes, A Lunar Labyrinth by Neil Gaiman, A Collapse of Horses by Brian Evenson, Dark Gardens by Greg Kurzawa RATING: 3.5 This is a collection of 32 short stories, edited by Paula Guran. I'm not usually drawn to short story collections, but with a desire to read more paranormal and horror, I chose this. There are some standouts - Blue Amber by David J Schow, The Good Husband by Nathan Ballingrud, The Soul in the Bell Jar by KJ Kabza, Postcards from Abroad by Peter Atkins, Phosphorous by Veronica Schanoes, A Lunar Labyrinth by Neil Gaiman, A Collapse of Horses by Brian Evenson, Dark Gardens by Greg Kurzawa, Rag and Bone by Priya Sharma were all stand-out tales. Dark Gardens in particular was something unique, refreshing and genuinely creepy. There were some I thought were just okay, they needed more background, more meat. I enjoyed them but thought they'd work better as longer stories. In particular - Wheatfield With Crows by Steve Rasnic Tem, The Gruesome Affair of the Electric Blue Lightning by Joe R. Lonsdale (very Sherlock-esque), Let My Smile Be Your Umbrella by Brian Hodge, Air, Water and The Grove by Kaaron Warren, A Little of The Night by Tanith Lee, Pride: A Collectors Tale by Glen Hirshberg, Our Lady of Ruins by Sarah Singleton, The Marginals by Steve Duffy, Fishwife by Carrie Vaughn, The Dream Detective by Lisa Tuttle, Event Horizon by Sunny Moraine, and Moonstruck by Karin Tidbeck. Some, I felt, were too long to be included. Kindle estimated the reading time of both Shadows For Silence in The Forests of Hell by Brandon Sanderson and Iseul's Lexicon by Yoon Ha Lee as over 35 minutes, so in all honesty I skimmed them. I couldn't get into the stories, and they didn't grab me from the offset. Other stories just plain confused me - Termination Dust by Laird Barron had murders, visions of murders, and an appearance from Michael Jackson. The Prayer of Ninety Cats by Caitlín R. Kiernan had a load of waffle about the history of cinema before revealing that the main story was a film in a cinema, but I felt the tale could have stood up on its own without the history parts. The Plague by Ken Liu was extrememly short and very confusing. The Creature Recants by Dale Bailey was about The Creature from the Lagoon realising he was being used by a production crew, and falling in love with his leading lady. I found it ridiculous. Cuckoo by Angela Slatter was about some kind of body snatcher - but it was rushed and I couldn't get a handle on the character. Overall, I found this book very enjoyable and I have discovered some horror authors I want to follow up on. My favourite story from the whole (almost 600 page) book was Dark Gardens by Greg Kurzawa - it was beautifully written and genuinely creepy. There were two other stories that stood out, mainly for the fact that the horror lay in the human elements of the stories. The Good Husband by Nathan Ballingrud was a heartbreaking tale of how a husband dealt with his repeatedly suicidal wife. A Collapse of Horses by Brian Evenson was about a man who had suffered a horrific brain injury and therefore had a very inaccurate and skewed version of the world. One story I would avoid altogether is The Legend of Troop 13 by Kit Reed. A crowd of girl scouts go missing in the mountains, and for years later, busloads of curious people (mainly horny men) go on trips up the mountains to try and find the girls (who must be grown up and horny by now) so they can seduce them. I didn't enjoy that story at ALL. Sincere thanks to Netgalley and the publisher for providing a copy in exchange for honest review. I will be keeping an eye out for next years' anthology, and tracking down the previous ones!

  8. 4 out of 5

    Sarah

    I received this book through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. I'm still not convinced that short stories are for me. One of the main things I like about stories tends to be world building and character development and with short stories, these two aspects tend to be left by the wayside and the plot focused on more heavily. There's nothing wrong with that but I often feel that I am just getting to know the characters and becoming invested in whether they triumph or fail just as the sto I received this book through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. I'm still not convinced that short stories are for me. One of the main things I like about stories tends to be world building and character development and with short stories, these two aspects tend to be left by the wayside and the plot focused on more heavily. There's nothing wrong with that but I often feel that I am just getting to know the characters and becoming invested in whether they triumph or fail just as the story is ending. However, I really wanted to give this book a go because I like the Dark Fantasy and Horror genres plus two of my favourite authors, Neil Gaiman and Brandon Sanderson, had short stories included in the anthology. It's much more difficult to review a collection of stories versus just one story because they are all written by different people, about different things and everyone has their different styles. So whenever I pick up a book of short stories, I'm always faced with the dilemma of whether to go straight to the stories by the authors I know and like, or whether to just start somewhere random and pick stories that I like the title of, or whether to start from the beginning of the book and work my way to the end. On this occasion, I started from the beginning. The first story, “Wheatfield With Crows”, was very short. I felt intrigued by it but it was nothing special. The second story, “Blue Amber”, was really good, although quite gruesome in places. I then started to loose momentum when the realisation came back to me that short stories aren't for me. So I skipped straight to the stories by Neil Gaiman and Brandon Sanderson. I really liked Gaiman's story, "A Lunar Labyrinth". I've always liked mazes and labyrinths since I was a kid and I watched David Bowie in Labyrinth over and over again. While I liked the story, it had an abrupt end and left me wondering what it was all about. Short stories are just too short for me. Sanderson's was a bit more substantial. "Shadows for Silence in the Forests of Hell" was more of a novella I'd say. I believe it also featured in George RR Martin's Dangerous Women anthology. The story had a western feel to it. It tells the story of Silence who runs a bar and she is secretly a bounty hunter, the infamous White Fox. A Dangerous Woman indeed! In addition to your everyday criminal on the loose, the Shades are also in abundance in the forest. I wouldn't want to be out at night with Shades around – they were seriously spooky! And devastating too! This story was fantastic and was well worth me picking the book up for. Because I didn't finish the book, I am not rating the book overall.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Anatha

    Ratings of the stories so far: 1. '"Wheatfield with Crows" by Steven Rasnic Tem ★★★★½ 2. "Blue Amber" by David J. Schow ★★★★ 3. "The Legend of Troop 13" by Kit Reed ★★★½ 4. "The Good Husband" by Nathan Ballingrud ★★★★★!

  10. 4 out of 5

    Baal Of

    Yet another solid anthology with the expected mix of really good stories with a couple duds. I really should be more disciplined about noting which stories are my favorites, especially for cases like this where my reading spanned nearly two and a half months. The final story in this volume was a particular stand-out with a fascinating premise about language controlling the manipulation of reality, and was an excellent choice to close out the proceedings.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Leah Polcar

    Solid anthology. One of the better collections.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Skjam!

    Even the fastest, most dedicated readers can’t read everything that’s published each year. Not even in relatively limited genres like fantasy or horror. That’s where “Year’s Best” collections come in handy. Someone or several someones has gone through the enormous pile of short literature produced in the previous year, and winnowed it down to a manageable size of good stories for you. Admittedly, these collections also come down to a matter of personal taste. In this case, Ms. Guran has chosen no Even the fastest, most dedicated readers can’t read everything that’s published each year. Not even in relatively limited genres like fantasy or horror. That’s where “Year’s Best” collections come in handy. Someone or several someones has gone through the enormous pile of short literature produced in the previous year, and winnowed it down to a manageable size of good stories for you. Admittedly, these collections also come down to a matter of personal taste. In this case, Ms. Guran has chosen not to pick just straight up horror stories (which do not necessarily include fantastic elements) but fantasy stories with “dark” elements. She mentions in the introduction that at least some good stories were excluded because they weren’t brought to her attention–small internet publishers might not even know such a collection exists to submit to. This thick volume contains thirty-two stories, beginning with “Wheatfield with Crows” by Steve Rasnic Tem. Years ago, a man’s sister vanished in a wheatfield. Now, he and his mother have returned to the site as darkness falls. Will history repeat? The final story is “Iseul’s Lexicon” by Yoon Ha Lee. A spy discovers that the army occupying half her country is being aided by not-quite-human wizards everyone thought were wiped out centuries before. They are compiling a lexicon of every human language for nefarious purposes, and it is up to Iseul to find a way to stop them. In the end, she learns that there are innocent casualties in war no matter how targeted the weapon. Some stories I particularly liked: “The Legend of Troop 13” by Kit Reed, about Girl Scouts gone feral, and the foolish men who think to possess them. This one has a logical stinger in its tail, and very dark humor. “Phosphorous” by Veronica Schanoes is about the women who made phosphorous matches, and their fight for better working conditions. The viewpoint character is a woman dying of “phossy jaw” caused by the poison she’s been exposed to. She is determined to see the strike through, and her grandmother knows a way–but the cost is high indeed. “Shadows for Silence in the Forests of Hell” by Brandon Sanderson concerns a bounty hunter who must track her prey in the forest that has Three Simple Rules. Don’t start fires, don’t shed blood…and don’t run at night. So simple. But there are other bounty hunters in the forest tonight, and treachery. Some rules will be broken, and the shades will descend. One story I didn’t care much for was “The Prayer of Ninety Cats” by Caitlin R. Kiernan, which is a description of a horror movie based on the legend of Elizabeth Bathory, the Blood Countess. There are some good scenes, but the presentation muffles the effect, taking me out of the story. There’s also use of “Gypsy” stereotypes within the film. Most of the other stories are good to decent, and there are big names like Tanith Lee and Neil Gaiman represented. If this is the sort of genre fiction you like, it would be worthwhile to check the book out at your library–and then buy it if enough of the stories please you.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Travis Heermann

    I've been reading these Best of anthologies for years. This one I found exceptionally weak. There were a handful of great stories, but I probably stopped reading about half of them, which made me sad. I was expecting to be wowed.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Zach

    This was a fat collection and I got a bit of sensory overload by the time I finished and couldn't wait to be done already. Maybe I shoulda spread it out more over a couple months. It's so hard to find an anthology that is thrilling top to bottom and this is no exception. Especially with just so many stories involved. However, I did really enjoy quite a lot of them. Plenty were merely fine, and there were a few here or there I skipped all together after a couple pages because life is short and if y This was a fat collection and I got a bit of sensory overload by the time I finished and couldn't wait to be done already. Maybe I shoulda spread it out more over a couple months. It's so hard to find an anthology that is thrilling top to bottom and this is no exception. Especially with just so many stories involved. However, I did really enjoy quite a lot of them. Plenty were merely fine, and there were a few here or there I skipped all together after a couple pages because life is short and if you can’t tell if a short story is good after 5 pages then something is definitely wrong there. I don’t have the wherewithal to give a detailed compendium of my thoughts on each story so here’s my top favs: Blue Amber The Soul in the Bell Jar Postcards From Abroad Phosphorous The Gruesome Affair of the Electric Blue Lightning Our Lady of Ruins Dark Gardens The Ghost Makers

  15. 4 out of 5

    Mythlee

    Overall, I liked it. For me, the standout was "Iseul’s Lexicon" by Yoon Ha Lee. The heroine is a spy in occupied territory, where the occupiers have forbidden use of the native language and are confiscating books in that language. She learns that the censors are not destroying the books, but are instead compiling a lexicon. And yes, they have a breath-takingly nefarious purpose in mind. I also really liked "Shadows for Silence in the Forests of Hell" by Brandon Sanderson and "A Little of the Nigh Overall, I liked it. For me, the standout was "Iseul’s Lexicon" by Yoon Ha Lee. The heroine is a spy in occupied territory, where the occupiers have forbidden use of the native language and are confiscating books in that language. She learns that the censors are not destroying the books, but are instead compiling a lexicon. And yes, they have a breath-takingly nefarious purpose in mind. I also really liked "Shadows for Silence in the Forests of Hell" by Brandon Sanderson and "A Little of the Night (Ein Bisschen Nacht)" by Tanith Lee. The core idea of Tanith Lee's story inverts the usual monster trope in a particularly lovely way.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Critter Reyome

    Christmas truly is the Most Wonderful Time of the Year, and I'm not just referring to the celebrations or the music or even the 24 Hours of A Christmas Story, though truly all of those things are most wondrous. Actually in our house it's the sudden influx of new books which are inevitably given and received as gifts. If you're a Goodreads user, it's a fair bet that you harvest this holiday (your choice of holiday may vary) bounty each year as well and probably look forward to it with the same re Christmas truly is the Most Wonderful Time of the Year, and I'm not just referring to the celebrations or the music or even the 24 Hours of A Christmas Story, though truly all of those things are most wondrous. Actually in our house it's the sudden influx of new books which are inevitably given and received as gifts. If you're a Goodreads user, it's a fair bet that you harvest this holiday (your choice of holiday may vary) bounty each year as well and probably look forward to it with the same relish we do. Along with the stack of new offerings from our customary favorites there is annually delivered "The Year's Best Dark Fantasy and Horror" as edited by Paula Guran. I've enjoyed the eclectic mix of stories—Guran has developed a fine touch and without fail she manages to pick the best from her peculiar genres, and this year she must've had a lot of fun picking, because this volume is just jam-packed with Good Stuff. Steve Rasnic Tem gets things going with his "Wheatfield With Crows", a missing persons story with a difference. It reminds me of something I wrote myself many years ago, which in turn was based on an Ambrose Bierce tale. Nice to know we're all feeling those vibes. Anyway, things are off to a good start, and the pace only picks up with a story from the master of splatterpunk, Dave Schow. Oh, how I have missed him! Great, great, great. Then a missive about a girl scout troop gone native. Wow! Well done, Kit Reed. Additionally, there are lamentations from the Creature from the Black Lagoon as related by Dale Bailey, a tale of striking laborers and missing body parts in victorian England by Veronica Scanoes, attacking shadows whilst collecting bounty in a grim forest as presented by Brandon Sanderson…epic and gripping. A mysterious traveling church in Sarah Singleton's "Our Lady of Ruins"…awesome. And the amazing Priya Sharma checks in with a oddly affecting story of a street person dealing more than the subject of the title in "Rag And Bone". Out. Stand. Ing. There is so much to love here, but I would be remiss in not noting the best of a very good lot, and to me that would be Nathan Ballingrud's "The Good Husband". Terrific Terrific Terrific. If this isn't already an award winner of some sort, I shall make up my own. Three Gold Stars and a Platinum Cluster for this one. A name to look for, certainly! The same goes for Angela Slatter's "Cuckoo" and Sunny Moraine's "Event Horizon"…Big Steve would approve of this one, methinks. Amazing and inventive, as is Karin Tidbeck's "Moonstruck" and Elizabeth Bear's epic "The Ghost Makers". There's five right there I will single out for special praise…but seriously, it's an overused phrase I know, but It's All Good. Really. Some tomes this weighty might take weeks to read, but you'll tear right through this one. Trust me. It's THAT good. In fact, there's so much GOOD going on here that I hesitate to bring out the bad, and as one will note having read all of these collections, it's the copy editing. There are still far too many typos for a professional piece chock-full of so much amazing writing. Still, the good news—and it is good news indeed—is that on the whole, it's not as bad as it has been in the past and seems to be confined to a couple of stories. I wonder if certain folk at Prime Books get these as assignments, to hunt typos in certain stories? Heck, for a free copy of the book each year I'd do it MYSELF… Anyway. Enough with the negatives, which are FAR outweighed by the plentiful plusses. This is by far the best of the Dark Fantasy and Horror collections Ms. Guran has ever assembled, and it's one you will treasure and re-read as the years go by. Make sure it's on your Christmas list for 2015…if you can wait that long!

  17. 4 out of 5

    Brad Hodges

    This is my first time reading a volume of The Year's Best Dark Fantasy & Horror and I'm hooked. Editor Paula Guran has assembled several spooky tales from across the span of the genre--whether it be ghost stories, vampires, werewolves, or sword-and-sorcery fantasy, this collection has it. While some of the stories are just okay, more than enough of them were terrific. Possibly the most horrific story is "Blue Amber," by David J. Schow, which starts when police are called to investigate a human sk This is my first time reading a volume of The Year's Best Dark Fantasy & Horror and I'm hooked. Editor Paula Guran has assembled several spooky tales from across the span of the genre--whether it be ghost stories, vampires, werewolves, or sword-and-sorcery fantasy, this collection has it. While some of the stories are just okay, more than enough of them were terrific. Possibly the most horrific story is "Blue Amber," by David J. Schow, which starts when police are called to investigate a human skin attached to a barbed-wire fence. They find themselves confronted by body-snatching insectoid beings. It reads like an episode of The Outer Limits, and it's not a coincidence, as Schow has written a book about that show. "In the movies, monsters who upset the status quo were always defeated by something ordinary and obvious, usually discovered by accident--seawater, dog whistles, paprika, Slim Whitman music. In movies, the salvational curative was always set up in the first act as a throwaway, sure to encore later with deeper meaning." Another of my favorites is "Phosphorous" by Veronica Schanoes, about a nineteenth-century girl working in match factory. It's based on history--these girls frequently came down with cancer of the jaw. The girl in this story is helped by Irish grandmother, who has some magic that may reverse the sickness. For you werewolf fans, I highly recommend "To Die for Moonlight," by Sarah Monette, in which a librarian finds himself in a household with a family of the "cursed." Monette knows how to write an opening sentence: "I cut her head off before I buried her." Who can resist continuing to read a story that starts like that? A story that will be popular with old film buffs is "The Creature Recants," which is a very clever piece that imagines that the star of The Creature from the Black Lagoon was an actual fish-man caught in the Amazon, not a guy in a rubber suit: "To think, he'd once been the king of his little world--the vast, dark lagoon, overhung with the boughs of enormous trees, and the mighty Amazon itself, where anacondas slithered through the algae-clotted water, caiman slid into the flood without a splash, their tails lashing, and catfish the size of Chevrolets trolled the mossy bottom...And here he was in Southern California instead, spending his days in waist-deep water and sleeping his nights in an oversized bathtub in a crummy apartment." The creature will end up falling in love with his co-star, Julie Adams, and taking career advice from Boris Karloff. It's my favorite in the book. For mystery lovers there's "The Gruesome Affair of the Electric Blue Lightning (From the Files of Auguste Dupin)." Yes, this is a pastiche of Edgar Allan Poe's Dupin character. I've read many of these using Sherlock Holmes, but this story by Joe R. Lansdale is the first of this type that I've come across. As with "The Murders in the Rue Morgue," it deals with a simian, and a real-life scientist who lived in the Castle Frankenstein. I've got two candidates for the creepiest story of the collection. One is "Event Horizon," by Sunny Moraine, which deals with some kids and a house that eats things. The other is "Dark Gardens," by Greg Kurzawa, a very chilling story about a man who moves into a dead magician's house and finds strange things, including an underwater cavern underneath the house. I'm not sure what was going on here--a lot of it involved mannequins, but I found myself spooked by it. There are many other good stories, and just a few clunkers that I won't bother mentioning. For fans of this type of story, it's a great source of thrills and chills.

  18. 5 out of 5

    A Reader's Heaven

    (I received a free copy of this book from Net Galley in exchange for an honest review.) No matter your expectations, the dark is full of the unknown: grim futures, distorted pasts, invasions of the uncanny, paranormal fancies, weird dreams, unnerving nightmares, baffling enigmas, revelatory excursions, desperate adventures, spectral journeys, mundane terrors, and supernatural visions. You may stumble into obsession — or find redemption. Often disturbing, occasionally delightful, let The Year’s Be (I received a free copy of this book from Net Galley in exchange for an honest review.) No matter your expectations, the dark is full of the unknown: grim futures, distorted pasts, invasions of the uncanny, paranormal fancies, weird dreams, unnerving nightmares, baffling enigmas, revelatory excursions, desperate adventures, spectral journeys, mundane terrors, and supernatural visions. You may stumble into obsession — or find redemption. Often disturbing, occasionally delightful, let The Year’s Best Dark Fantasy and Horror be your annual guide through the mysteries and wonders of dark fiction. As with a lot of anthologies, the stories in this collection are hit and miss. A few standouts, however, and one author that I will need to check out more of... My favourite stories were: “A Lunar Labyrinth,” Neil Gaiman “Shadows for Silence in the Forests of Hell,” Brandon Sanderson “The Gruesome Affair of the Electric Blue Lightning,” Joe R. Lansdale “Air, Water and the Grove,” Kaaron Warren “A Little of the Night,” Tanith Lee And the author who I want to go and check out after reading this story is Sarah Singleton Paul ARH

  19. 4 out of 5

    Kel Munger

    The dark fantasy and horror collection includes some big names—Laird Barron, the Stephen King of the Pacific Northwest; Neil Gaiman; Elizabeth Bear; George R. R. Martin). But there are plenty of authors included that fall into the “who?” category. Barron’s story is a tale of psycho spree-killing in Alaska—which is enough of a depressing place without people being gutted right and left—that seems to have a supernatural evil involved. Gaiman goes for the Twilight Zone-style morality play in “A Luna The dark fantasy and horror collection includes some big names—Laird Barron, the Stephen King of the Pacific Northwest; Neil Gaiman; Elizabeth Bear; George R. R. Martin). But there are plenty of authors included that fall into the “who?” category. Barron’s story is a tale of psycho spree-killing in Alaska—which is enough of a depressing place without people being gutted right and left—that seems to have a supernatural evil involved. Gaiman goes for the Twilight Zone-style morality play in “A Lunar Labyrinth,” while Ken Liu’s “The Plague” (originally published in the journal Nature) suggests that morality is relative—though the case could be made for this story being science fiction. Well, the boundaries get a little blurry when the stories are this good. ... (Full review on Lit/Rant: http://litrant.tumblr.com/post/105605...)

  20. 5 out of 5

    Susan

    Do you like stories that will keep you awake all night? These will! Especially if you read them when it's dark. The stories are creepy and scary. It's the little things that you least expect to scare you. This is a great anthology with an excellent variety of short stories. You will definitely get your money's worth. Disclaimer: I received a digital galley of this book free from the publisher from NetGalley. I was not obliged to write a favourable review, or even any review at all. The opinions e Do you like stories that will keep you awake all night? These will! Especially if you read them when it's dark. The stories are creepy and scary. It's the little things that you least expect to scare you. This is a great anthology with an excellent variety of short stories. You will definitely get your money's worth. Disclaimer: I received a digital galley of this book free from the publisher from NetGalley. I was not obliged to write a favourable review, or even any review at all. The opinions expressed are strictly my own.

  21. 4 out of 5

    R.l.

    Warning: Do not read these in the dark. Especially, do not read these at bedtime. Seriously, a creepy collection of some of the year's best dark fantasy and horror. What I really liked about it was the variety in the stories. Sometimes the things that scare us are not those big, spooky monsters, but those freaky things are just a little off. This collection has some of both. Time richly spent. *FTC Disclosure: I received this book from the publisher in exchange for my honest opinion, and the opin Warning: Do not read these in the dark. Especially, do not read these at bedtime. Seriously, a creepy collection of some of the year's best dark fantasy and horror. What I really liked about it was the variety in the stories. Sometimes the things that scare us are not those big, spooky monsters, but those freaky things are just a little off. This collection has some of both. Time richly spent. *FTC Disclosure: I received this book from the publisher in exchange for my honest opinion, and the opinions in this review are my own.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Zara

    Free edition courtesy of publishers by way of Net Galley, for honest review. Those looking to read this who have not previously read this anthology before should bear in mind that it focuses on "dark", which does not necessarily mean horror. Having said that, I'll admit that I spent the first few stories wondering whether I was missing something, as I was expecting horror and was not creeped out by the stories. This doesn't mean that there was no horror, I was genuinely creeped out by a few stor Free edition courtesy of publishers by way of Net Galley, for honest review. Those looking to read this who have not previously read this anthology before should bear in mind that it focuses on "dark", which does not necessarily mean horror. Having said that, I'll admit that I spent the first few stories wondering whether I was missing something, as I was expecting horror and was not creeped out by the stories. This doesn't mean that there was no horror, I was genuinely creeped out by a few stories (namely)... Tbc

  23. 5 out of 5

    Brian Palmer

    This is a fairly thick anthology, so I definitely found some stories in here that I liked, but I'm not enough of a dark/horror fan to love everything; the mixture didn't quite fit my tastes. (In particular, the first set of stories of the anthology were very big on a creepy atmosphere, but the rapid succession meant it was hard for me to build momentum). Worth checking out -- some very good, well-known authors are represented -- but if you're like me, you'll want to be a little aggressive about s This is a fairly thick anthology, so I definitely found some stories in here that I liked, but I'm not enough of a dark/horror fan to love everything; the mixture didn't quite fit my tastes. (In particular, the first set of stories of the anthology were very big on a creepy atmosphere, but the rapid succession meant it was hard for me to build momentum). Worth checking out -- some very good, well-known authors are represented -- but if you're like me, you'll want to be a little aggressive about skipping over stories.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Mystry

    A wonderful mix of curious and intriguing stories! I definitely recommend this book to lovers of fiction, particularly dark fiction. My Favorites: Blue Amber (though it could have done without the foul language) The Soul in the Bell Jar Phosphorus Shadows For Silence in the Forests of Hell Ones I started, but couldn't get through (mostly due to nasty sexual references): The Good Husband Termination Dust The Prayer of Ninety Cats

  25. 4 out of 5

    Ren

    As always with short story collections, it's a bit of a mixed bag in terms of what clicked and what didn't. The stories that really grabbed me, and left me wanting more were: -The Soul in the Bell Jar ~ KJ Kabza -Postcards From Abroad ~ Peter Atkins -Phosphorous ~ Veronica Schanoes -Shadows for Silence in the Forests of Hell ~ Brandon Sanderson -The Ghost Makers ~ Elizabeth Bear

  26. 4 out of 5

    thebaronessofbooks

    Really enjoyed this book and most of the stories in it, I really recommend it to people who like horror and fantasy. I think my favorite story was The Legend of Troop 13, which is about a group of girl scouts who go missing and end up feral wild women twenty years later, I wished that one would have been turned into a full novel.

  27. 5 out of 5

    David Marshall

    Some of the stories in this diverse anthology are outstanding and the whole represents excellent value for money for everyone who enjoys dark fiction. http://opionator.wordpress.com/2014/0... Some of the stories in this diverse anthology are outstanding and the whole represents excellent value for money for everyone who enjoys dark fiction. http://opionator.wordpress.com/2014/0...

  28. 5 out of 5

    Paula

    I really enjoyed this anthology. Very solid with some of the best authors in the genre. Very impressive collection with a wide variety of stories, ranging from alien invasion to Victorian steampunk alternative history Ms. Guran is a great editor.

  29. 5 out of 5

    A~

    Great set of stories, there was one I could not finish but I think it was more I was tired than anything wrong with it. The one set in London with the matchstick women was chilling. Not the zombies, that was mild, but the life the people were living before the zombie.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Kim

    I didn't read the whole volume, because the stories I did read just did not do it for me. Neil Gaiman had a story in there that I could at least finish, but my overall experience was thinking, "If this is the best, god knows what got rejected."

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