by Ellen Datlow and Nick Mamatas
PUBLISHER: Tor Books
RELEASE DATE: 14 September 2010
FORMAT: Paperback, 352 pages
Darkly thrilling, these twenty new ghost stories have all the chills and power of traditional ghost stories, but each tale is a unique retelling of an urban legend from the world over. Multiple award-winning editor Ellen Datlow and award-nominated author and editor Nick Mamatas recruited Jeffrey Ford, Ramsey Campbell, Joe R. Lansdale, Caitlin Kiernan, Catherynne M. Valente, Kit Reed, Ekaterina Sedia, and thirteen other fine writers to create stories unlike any they’ve written before.
Tales to make readers shiver with fear, jump at noises in the night, keep the lights on. These twenty nightmares, brought together by two renowned editors of the dark fantastic, are delightful visions sure to send shivers down the spines of horror readers. (Goodreads)
HAUNTED LEGENDS is a collection of ghost stories written by some of the best known horror authors. There are twenty stories in total, from around the world and all with the aim of scaring the pants off the reader. Did they succeed? Unfortunately not. While short stories aren’t my favourite I was truly prepared to be scared (its not really hard for me). The only thing I was afraid of with this book was that I was going to fall asleep. Perhaps my short story prejudice hampered my enjoyment of this anthology so I still urge you to give it a try if story stories are your thing.
Some of the stories are very short and rather than reading twenty, one sentence, reviews I have decided to review three of the stories that stood out for me, either for being good or in one case for being not so good.
AKBAR by Kit Reed is set in the Rajasthani Desert in India with a couple, Sara and Terry who are celebrating their tenth anniversary by visiting Akbar’s ghost city. According to legend, Akbar founded the city following a pilgrimage into the desert to look for Sufi, the saint. Sufi was known for his ability to perform miracles and Akbar desperately needed a miracle, in the form of a son to carry on his line. Akbar ends up building a city on the site of his camp, only to abandon it when they run out of water. Sara and Terry enter the ancient site for a bit of sightseeing and as they enter a temple Sara starts to hear a voice, a voice that seems to have come from centuries before to warn her or goad her, we are just not sure which. Meanwhile Terry is oblivious to what is happening to her and reads the legend aloud from his tour guide. They exit the temple hot and thirsty as they ran out of water. Sara, makes a drastic decision and the reader is left to guess what transpires.
I liked the fact that this story started as a legend and the author turned it into a ghost story. The setting really suited itself to this type of story and I could really imagine myself trudging through an ancient temple while my husband acted the tour guide, reading out the legend, not paying attention that I was about to get possessed. I think however, that more could be made of the ending and it was left a bit too vague for my liking. All in all the combination of the temple, the legend and Sara going a tad crazy lent itself to the overall mood.
I thought I would also share THAT GIRL by Kaaron Warren as I reviewed one of her other books for the All Hallows Eve event and thought it would be interesting to see what kind of ghost story she would tell. Warren chose an urban legend and set it in Fiji, in a mental hospital. What could be scarier? The main character is Sangeeta is a beauty therapist who is working temporarily in the hospital. She learns of the story of one of the residents who as a girl was taken to the local cemetery by a taxi driver and brutally raped. An old lady now she constantly mutters ‘I’m that girl’ and the nurses believe that she went mad following the attack. Sangeeta discovers that old woman leaves her body to haunt taxi drivers, appearing as a young woman, making them driver her to the cemetery and then disappears.
I found it quite surprising to read in the afterward that after a year of searching for a suitable ghost story that this was the best that Warren could find. While the tale of the poor girl who was raped was very sad, a ghost haunting taxi drivers did not make for a very scary tale. A lush setting in Fiji, a mental hospital and a tragic tale all seem like the perfect ingredients for a nice scary story but unfortunately, it fails in its attempt to elicit even a little bit of angst let alone fear.
M.K. Hobson picked the most chilling of settings of a fairground dating back to the 1800’s for OAKS PARK. A fairground is another excellent setting for a ghost story and Hobson chose a story that was close to where she grew up. The story is about a young girl who haunts the amusement park while carrying a cone of cotton candy. The story starts with a daughter asking her mother to take her to Oaks Park and this send the mother to reflect upon her last visit to Oaks Park. She recounts the story of a young girl who in the 1970’s gets murdered and ends up haunting the park, stealing cotton candy and riding the Octopus. The mother is desperately unhappy with her life and takes her daughter to the park as a means of escape and ends up doing something unforgivable. For me to tell what happened would ruin the mystery so you will need to read it to find out for yourself.
OAKS PARK was unusual as it was written in the second person. It was very difficult at first to get my head around reading ‘you’ in every sentence. In fact, I ended up reading the story twice just so I made sure I understood what had happened as I found I got quite distracted by the narrative. Of the twenty stories I think this one was perhaps the scariest, or perhaps the most evocative of all the stories. I also, liked the fact Hobson chose a ghost story that was known to her personally and one that was close to home.
Needless to say, this is just a few in several ghost stories and there is almost something for everyone in HAUNTED LEGENDS. I did however, struggle to finish this book and I just didn’t find the stories that engaging as whole. I did think the premise of the book was interesting and enjoyed to find out in the afterword what ghost story or legend the author was re-creating. I think I preferred these than the story themselves in most cases.
An anthology of popular ghost stories was a great idea but unfortunately, the end of product was not very scary or in fact, very captivating. There were so many stories and as a result they were very short and I felt that it was difficult for the authors to build true suspense and horror. This anthology suffered either from weak stories or weak writers or maybe a combination of both. I was left disappointed and found it a real struggle to finish even though the stories were quite short.
BUY THE BOOK