This is a review of The Mammoth Book of Best New Horror #11, which I finished just recently.
The book is collection of horror stories from various authors. I keep my descriptions of the stories vague on purpose, as I don’t want accidentally spoil them from people who haven’t yet read them. While there are some real gems in this collection, some stories I didn’t find that strong. But that’s expected with horror, which is rather difficult genre to write well. Good thing is that the stories are rather sort, so one doesn’t feel like lots of time was wasted if a particular story failed to capture them.
My particular favourites were Harlequin valentine by Neil Gaiman and Pork pie hat by Peter Straub. First one is almost whimsical story, not blood curling scary (rather not scary at all), but has interesting feeling in it and good conclusion. Pork pie hat is quite long story, that kept turning better and better as I read it. I could almost smell and hear the scenes being described. The emperor’s old bones by Gemma Files is right at the top with the two previously mentioned stories. This one was gruesome, scary and all kinds of nasty (in more than one level)
Naming the dead by Paul J. McAuley has a setting I found enjoyable and would actually like to read more about. The story itself somewhat failed to reach the full potential and I felt disappointed on the ending. It’s not bad ending by any means, but it could have been so much better I think. Here lies the difficulty in writing short (or long for that matter) horror stories. Writer has to keep reader on the edge of their seat, provide a story that hasn’t been told too many times, that is both fresh and old at the same time. Naming the dead manages to do this almost all the way until the end. Welcome by Michael Marshall Smith on the other hand failed for me and I didn’t like the story or setting at all.
Sometimes reader is left with a feeling that they don’t quite know if a story was good or not. Just like Eddy by Kim Newman was one of those stories for me. I did enjoy reading it, I found the premise clever and writing nicely flowing and eloquent. But after finishing the story I was left with a feeling that this was more of a clever story telling than a good horror story. All in all, I did enjoy it though, not least because two different layers in the story (similar how Unhasped by David J. Schow has two not so apparent layers in it).
The book was pleasant (as pleasant as a book of horror stories can be) to read and I enjoyed most of it. The beginning has summary of major horror works of 1999, that is long and tedious to read if you aren’t into trivia like this. End of the book has necrology (a list of deceased people connected with horror) that I also skipped over.