A BOOK OF HORRORS
Edited by Stephen Jones

PUBLISHER: Jo Fletcher Books
RELEASE DATE: 29th September 2011
FORMAT: Hardback, 427 pages
GENRE: Horror

Many of us grew up on The Pan Book of Horror Stories and its later incarnations, Dark Voices and Dark Terrors (The Gollancz Book of Horror), which won the World Fantasy Award, the Horror Critics’ Guild Award and the British Fantasy Award, but for a decade or more there has been no non-themed anthology of original horror fiction published in the mainstream. Now that horror has returned to the bookshelves, it is time for a regular anthology of brand-new fiction by the best and brightest in the field, both the Big Names and the most talented newcomers. A Book of Horrors is the foremost in the field: a collection of the very best chiller fiction, from some of the world’s greatest writers. (Goodreads)

REVIEWER: Becs

A BOOK OF HORRORS is a collection of fourteen short stories to put horror back onto our shelves.

Well, the time has come to reclaim the horror genre for those who understand and appreciate the worth and impact of a scary story.

I’m very new to chiller fiction and find watching horror difficult as I scare very easily, so it was with great hesitation when I picked up A BOOK OF HORRORS.

THE LITTLE GREEN GOD OF AGONY by Stephen King

After watching IT as a young teen I have never forgotten the heart racing experience that Stephen King created and as such I have never looked at clowns in the same light. Needless to say I was extremely scared to start A Book of Horrors with the opening story by Stephen King. As a short story of approximately 30 pages, The Little Green God of Agony was all set in a hospital room where an extremely rich man was suffering an extraordinary amount of pain and had tried every method to ease his suffering, as a last resort he brought in an exorcist to see if he could make the difference. Stephen King does what he does best and creates a frightful atmosphere and leaves the ending open, which has your mind thinking about all the possibilities long after putting the book down. (Rating 3.5/5) (Scare Factor 4/5)

CHARCLOTH, FIRESTEEL AND FLINT by Caitlin R. Kiernan

Charcloth, Firesteel and Flint lacked excitement and depth although has a little action in the bedroom. Billy, a seemly innocent young man picks up a hitch-hiker called Aiden. Unknown to Billy, Aiden is the daughter of Hephaestus and a mortal woman, she has a love for fire and destruction and is always around when things go up in smoke. As Aiden and Billy are the only characters to carry the story through, and with most of their time is spent in a motel room, I felt that this story lacked substance and failed to frighten me.(Rating 1.5/5) (Scare Factor 1/5)

GHOSTS WITH TEETH by Peter Crowther

I was scared before I even started Ghosts with Teeth as the title terrified me, so I left this story for last. More a poltergeist than a ghost and why use teeth, when knives have much more of an impact? Gruesome, bloody, yet strangely not scary, the plot was difficult to follow and I think this is the reason this story didn’t scare me. I was a little disappointed but maybe it was because I expected too much. (Rating 2/5) (Scare Factor 2.5/5)

THE COFFIN-MAKER’S DAUGHTER by Angela Slatter

I really liked The Coffin-Maker’s Daughter, what a mixed up, twisted girl, Hepsibah, the coffin-maker’s daughter is. With her dead father as her only company, she seeks to find companionship and love with Lucette. Lucette is the daughter of a recently deceased man who Hepsibah is preparing to bury. A few quirky twists, and yes I would be worried if Hepsibah set her sights on me. (Rating 4/5) (Scare Factor 3.5/5)

ROOTS AND ALL by Brian Hodge

Roots and All was a creepy story set in the woods, based on an urban myth of the woodwalker. When their Grandmother dies, two cousins Dylan and Gina go to pack up her home and find a surprise in the attic. Following the clues left by their grandmother they piece together the mystery to dish out revenge on behalf of Dylan’s younger sister, Shae. I liked this story, it was tense and gruesome, with the bad guys getting their comeuppance. (Rating 4/5) (Scare Factor 4/5)

TELL ME I’LL SEE YOU AGAIN by Dennis Etchison

This was a sad story about David, a boy who had severe separation anxiety, caused by his mother’s death. Sherron, a girl who supported him and tried to help him through it, and was by his side all the way through school. David’s anxiety was so bad that he would collapse and seem dead, just like a possum. David was convinced he actually died and that Sherron had bought him back to life. Tell Me I’ll See You Again didn’t really capture my attention and I was disappointed with the ending. (Rating 2/5) (Scare Factor 1/5)

THE MUSIC OF BENGT KARLSSON, MUDERER by John Ajvide Lindqvist

Do you ever judge a book by its title? I do, quite often, and so this story was the one I was least looking forward to. It turned out to be the scariest! A father and his 11 year old son Robin move into a secluded house at the edge of a forest after his wife Annelie died. To get Robin off his computer games his father bribed him to learn to play the piano. The house in which they moved into was originally the home of Bengt Karlsson. Robin was drawn to play an unknown tune that seemed to have the ability to open a door to the dead. Robin was unable to stop himself from playing and I think this caused the story to be creepier. A fast paced, terrifying read with a great twist, I loved The Music of Bengt Karlsson, Murderer, even though my heart was racing long after I finished reading. (Rating 4.5/5) (Scare Factor 5/5)

GETTING IT WRONG by Ramsey Campbell

I enjoyed Getting it Wrong. A friendless, loner, Eric is a film buff and works at a cinema, when late at night he receives an odd phone call from a work colleague Mary. Mary is on a radio gameshow, Eric thinking it’s a hoax purposely fails to help poor Mary answer the questions correctly, but the consequences are much greater than he imagined. (Rating 3.5/5) (Scare Factor 3.5/5)

ALICE THROUGH THE PLASTIC SHEET by Robert Shearman

I didn’t get the point of this one, I felt confused rather than scared and the story didn’t hold my attention. Alice Through the Plastic Sheet is about nosey, meddlesome neighbours who somehow turn into some kind of living plastic after looking through their new neighbour’s window. (Rating 1/5) (Scare Factor 1/5)

THE MAN IN THE DITCH by Lisa Tuttle

I was looking forward to The Man in the Ditch, as Lisa Tuttle is a name I recognised from a recent review by Melanie of The Silver Bough. So I wasn’t surprised when I enjoyed it. Only 20 pages long, but probably some of the best 20 pages in the entire collection. Linzi and her boyfriend J.D. bought a plot of land and built their first home together, only Linzi had seen a corpse on the land, who no one else could see and felt that the land was haunted. This corpse/ghost was clever and set Linzi up. A tense, quick read that left me feeling heartbroken for the main character. (Rating 4.5/5) (Scare Factor 4.5/5)

A CHILD’S PROBLEM by Reggie Oliver

Reggie Oliver decided to start his story with a bit of history about, Richard Dadd. Dadd was imprisoned for killing his father with a razor blade and spent the remainder of his days in Broadmoor. Broadmoor is quite close to where I live and made me worried and uneasy before I even started A Child’s Problem. I was probably more alarmed by the brief history of Dadd than I was during the rest of the tale. A Child’s Problem is a historic story, where a young spoilt boy, Master George, is sent to live with his childless, widowed uncle, Sir Augustus, in a massive, stately home. The story is slow paced and methodical, with the brash Master George seeking attention from the cold, detached uncle by finding answers to Sir Augustus’ conundrums. Sir Augustus may end up regretting Master George solving this little mystery though. (Rating 3/5) (Scare Factor 2.5/5)

SAD, DARK THING by Michael Marshall Smith

Miller had too much time on his hands and lacked direction, driving aimlessly around his home area in the mountains of Santa Cruz. One day he drives passed an old, dilapidated house and wants something to do, when an unclean old man shows him a shed with a sad, dark thing inside. Miller wants the thing and takes it home. The sad, dark thing bought Miller some peace. Sad, Dark Thing is an easy read but not very entertaining. (Rating 2/5) (Scare Factor 1/5)

NEAR ZENNOR by Elizabeth Hand

Jeffery, a man that had lost his beloved wife, Anthea, was packing up their things and came across some old letters. Jeffery finds out that Anthea had kept a secret form him, confused and hurt over this revelation goes to a place near Zennor to find out what actually happened all those years ago. Somethings are a secret for a reason and he may discover more than he bargained for. Slow paced, Near Zennor lacked any real scare, however, ended well. (Rating 3/5) (Scare Factor 2/5)

LAST WORDS by Richard Christian Matheson

Short and disturbing, Last Words is the shortest story in the collection. At first I thought it was a description of ways to die in movies until I realized it was a story of a man finding different and unique ways of killing people. A twisted story that I really enjoyed it. (Rating 4/5) (Scare Factor 4/5)

VERDICT:

I am not usually a fan of short stories, unless the story is part of a series I lack the emotional attachment I crave from reading. As I’m not very experienced in the horror genre, A BOOK OF HORRORS provided enough heart racing moments to entertain and to petrify without the heartbreaking feeling of losing a character you have an emotional attachment to.

I enjoyed being able to flick from one story to another depending on how much time I had available, with stories ranging from 4 pages to 66 pages in length and 14 to choose from. I also enjoyed the brief history of the author at the end of each one. I did find a few authors that I’m keen to read more from.

OVERALL RATING: 
OVERALL SCARE FACTOR: 

STEPHEN JONES ONLINE
Website | Goodreads

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Becs

A midnight book worm who loves dystopian and young adult fantasy and paranormal romances. As long as the leading man is dead sexy, she's happy. [Becs no longer reviews for the site.]

6 Comments


Carolyn October 23, 2012 at 4:33 pm

This looks as though it should have been full of really scary stories, shame it didn’t quite pull it off. I must say that with films as well as books it’s hard to scare me any more. Maybe with so much horror about I’ve become desensitised…

Reply

Becs October 24, 2012 at 4:38 pm

I think because I worked myself up to read A BOOK OF HORRORS the scares had less of an impact, I do scare quite easily and was terrified of reading this but as with most things if you expect the worse the actual result is always better. If I had normal expectations I think I would have relaxed and enjoyed THE BOOK OF HORRORS more, letting the tense apprehension build and scare me.

Reply

Bibliotropic October 24, 2012 at 1:23 pm

I find that short story collections are the best way for me to enjoy horror stories. Rarely do full novels manage to keep my attention long enough; probably because it’s hard to keep the tension running high for a novel-length tale while it’s fairly easy to do so for a short story.

I remember reading King’s “The Little Green God of Agony” in another collection and really loving it. Seems like this book has quite a few good stories that I’d be interested in reading. I think I’m going to have to find a copy of this book so I can enjoy it for myself. Great review, and it’s definitely piqued my interest!

Reply

Becs October 24, 2012 at 4:47 pm

Bibliotropic some of the stories were really enjoyable, I’m glad my review piqued your interest. Short stories are definitely the way to go with horror as I’m not sure I could have taken much more as my heart was racing before I started. I hope you enjoy. There are some great authors in A BOOK OF HORRORS. x

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Gemma October 25, 2012 at 11:44 am

Seems very much of a mixed bag. You don’t expect them all to be good, but it seems that some of these just weren’t scary.

Short stories do allow you to get a feel for an author. I’ve found some of my favourite authors by reading something in an anthology.

Interesting Review and I might pick this up in the future if i feel like something different.

Reply

Becs October 26, 2012 at 4:12 pm

Thanks Gemma, it’s a good book to have on your shelf and a great way to discover new authors. For a scaredy cat like me it was enough horror for my tastes x

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