Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Review: The Best Horror of the Year Volume Four

Title: The Best Horror of the Year: Volume Four
Edited by: Ellen Datlow
Pages: 400
ISBN: 9781597803991
Series: Best Horror of the Year: Volume #4
Publisher: Night Shade Books
Published: May 2012
Genre: Horror / Anthology
Source: eARC from publisher

Buy it from:
The Book Depository
Baen Ebooks ($6.00, DRM-Free)

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.

The Best Horror of the Year Volume Four edited by Ellen Datlow brings together an eclectic collection of some of the best horror short stories and novellas of 2011. The 18 stories and novelettes included in the anthology are diverse, ranging from the plain weird to the utterly disturbing. While two stories from big names in the horror genre, Stephen King and Peter Straub, start and conclude the collection it is the works of the lesser known authors that steal the show.

My favorite, and probably the most disturbing story in the anthology was Omphalos by Livia Llewellyn in which an incestuous family goes on a vacation which ends in tragedy. Some others that stood out were: The Moraine by Simon Bestwick where a married couple comes face to face with an ancient predator after getting lost while hiking in on a mountainside; The Show by Priya Sharma, a fake medium gets far more than she bargained for when she discovers she does indeed have the gift of second sight; Dermot by Simon Bestwick where the police force strike a terrible deal with a monster in order to protect the rest of the city and lastly, The Final Verse by Chet Williamson which explores the sinister roots of a beloved folksong.

I only highlighted the stories which I enjoyed the most, but there are lots of other stories which might appeal to other tastes. One thing is certain: after reading this collection you'll never look at the horror genre in quite the same way again.

The full table of contents can be found below:
  • 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

The Verdict:
The Best Horror of the Year Volume Four offers a great collection of stories which are bound to please any horror fan. The themes explored are varied and thought-provoking, especially those that show that humanity itself is often far worse than the monsters hiding in the shadows. While some stories are more effective than others you are guaranteed to find at least one which will send shivers down your spine. It might be best not to read this one alone in the dark. Recommended!

The Rating: 7/10 (Very Good)

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