"These are strange aeons. These texts, dead and/or not burrow, and we cannot predict everything they will infect or eat their path through. But certainly your brain, and they will eat the books you read from today on, too. That is how the Weird recruits.This is a worm farm. These stories are worms."
--- China Miéville, "Afterweird"
Massive shrieks of delight!! As far as a humongous collection of weird tales, it just don't get better than this, folks. Seriously. Even considering the 1152 double-columned pages, its heft (not at all comfortable for reading in bed) and the couple of months it took me to get through this weighty tome, it was all worth it. While every anthology has a few stories that a reader's not going to like, overall this one is a 5/5 star collection, worth every moment it took to read and certainly worth every penny I spent on it. That was last year, when you could actually still buy one new -- now if you want the hardcover edition, it's in the hands of secondhand sellers. Luckily there are now both paperback editions and one for the e-reader. It's monumental, it's epic and well, it's the ultimate weird collection!!
|My copy ... so you can get an idea of its sheer heft|
China Miéville writes in the book's "afterweird" that
"In this book is a Weird Canon. It is not exactly yours -- how could it be? We don't fray the world quite the same, and different things watch each of us...Weird travels with us, each reader a Typhoid Mary in every library."He's so right. My cup of tea in terms of the weird may not be someone else's, but in this book, there's a wide enough of a variety that will show you, when all is said and done, just which waters of the weird you'd like to continue to navigate. For me, there are only a handful that weren't really up my alley -- mainly (but not limited to) the ones with more of a "weird science" edge. Below is the table of contents, with my absolute favorites double asterisked (**); the other stories I liked but a little less are asterisked (*). There are a number of stories that any long-term reader of weird fiction (or supernatural fiction in general) will have probably already read; considering the stories all date from the turn of the 20th century onward, that shouldn't be surprising. While not all may be the bone-chilling kind of weird, the stories are deliciously creepy and reading them will maybe make you a little more conscious of the late-night noises in your house or give you the urge to go to the front door to check the locks now and then. I couldn't help getting the feeling that someone or something was watching me...
So now, without further ado, here is the table of contents in its entirety --
Alfred Kubin, “The Other Side” * -- an incredibly surreal tale set in the dream city of Pearl -- sadly, this was an excerpt from the story so we only get a part of this story about a town where everyone seems to be suffering from some kind of strange sleeping sickness. While it's highly atmospheric, some of the ending oomph gets lost in the process, but the surreality of it all makes for a good read.
F. Marion Crawford, “The Screaming Skull” (previously read) * -- A man lives to regret the day he tells a friend about a most heinous murder. This one is pure atmosphere and very well done.
Algernon Blackwood, “The Willows” (previously read)* -- two men decide to take a canoe down the Danube and stop at an island filled with willows. They're warned off by another river farer, but fail to take heed, much to their detriment. I like this one a LOT!
Saki, “Sredni Vashtar” * -- a very creepy story about a boy who starts worshiping his ferret -- and while it may sound rather silly, it gets freaky very quickly.
M.R. James, “Casting the Runes” ** -- a personal favorite, but then again, I pretty much love anything written by M.R. James. An alchemist named Karswell has had his paper turned down by a society of fellows; he spends a great deal of effort trying to figure out who exactly vetoed his presentation. That would be Mr. Dunning, who thinks Karswell has a screw or two loose. After some very bizarre things start happening to Dunning, he discovers that some time back, a guy who gave Karswell's book a bad review had met an untimely death. Now it's Dunning's turn -- and he needs to figure out how to protect himself.
Lord Dunsany, “How Nuth Would Have Practiced his Art Upon the Gnoles” * In which we discover that even seasoned jewel thieves are careful when dealing with the Gnoles.
Gustav Meyrink, “The Man in the Bottle”** -- one of the creepiest revenge tales I've ever read, a masquerade is the setting for a strange entertainment, in which a man is placed into a giant bottle. Weird is not a deep enough describer of this story. I loved it.
Georg Heym, “The Dissection” * -- super bizarre story about a man's thoughts while he's being dissected.
Hanns Heinz Ewers, “The Spider”** -- Three men stay at a room in a boarding house, and each one ends up hanging himself. The narrator of the story decides it's time once and for all to figure out why.
Rabindranath Tagore, “The Hungry Stones” * -- A deserted palace, once magnificent but now a place where thieves won't even go after dark becomes the home of a tax collector, and soon he begins to understand why everyone avoids the place. A wonderful story, this one's all about language and atmosphere.
Luigi Ugolini, “The Vegetable Man” * -- A botanist in the Amazon discovers a new species of plant, picks it, and takes some leaves & flowers from it. The natives tell him to stay away from it, but it's too late...
A. Merritt, “The People of the Pit”** --This story starts with a couple of adventurers on their way to seeking gold in some legendary mountains up toward the Yukon. While they're camped, they watch a brilliant light show in the direction of where they're headed, and a man comes crawling into their camp, literally on his last legs. The story he tells is the stuff of nightmares. This is my first Merritt story -- definitely not my last.
Ryunosuke Akutagawa, "The Hell Screen" ** -- In which a Japanese lord commissions an artist with a beautiful daughter to paint a scene from hell on a screen -- and the artist finds the ultimate inspiration for his work. This story defines the word freaky!
Francis Stevens, “Unseen—Unfeared”** -- A man with an impending sense of evil happens upon an exhibit of strange photography and discovers "horror too great for bearing." Amazing.
Franz Kafka, “In the Penal Colony” (previously read) ** -- An officer's strange devotion to an even stranger apparatus, now being put out of use, is at the heart of this story in a penal colony where "Guilt is always beyond a doubt." I love this story, absolutely love it. It's beyond weird.
Stefan Grabinski, “The White Wyrak” * -- Chimney sweepers start disappearing in this tale, and will make you think twice about how to handle leftover soot in your fireplace. More on the monster side, but still good in the telling.
H.F. Arnold, “The Night Wire” (previously read) ** -- The horror builds slowly in this little gem about an operator in a newsroom receiving strange news about a creeping mist in a town his companion's never heard of. Perhaps the technology is outmoded, but it doesn't dampen the creep factor.
H.P. Lovecraft, “The Dunwich Horror” (previously read) ** -- What can I say about this wonderful piece by HPL? If you haven't read anything by Lovecraft, the story of the Whateley family in Dunwich, MA, who try to bring in "a kind of force that doesn't belong in our part of space" is a great starting point.
Margaret Irwin, “The Book”** -- An old book "speaks" to its owner, who feels he must carry out the tome's orders, to a point. Deliciously creepy, the horror building slowly in this one.
Jean Ray, “The Mainz Psalter”** -- A schoolmaster sets up an expedition sailing from Glasgow -- after a while at sea, it becomes apparent to the crew that something is dreadfully amiss.
Jean Ray, “The Shadowy Street”** -- Another favorite story, told from a French translation and a German one about strange events in a town where a man discovers a street no one else can see.
Clark Ashton Smith, “Genius Loci” ** -- Clark Ashton Smith could write cereal box copy and I'd still read it with as much enthusiasm as I do all of his stories. Here, a man entertains an artist friend for a few days, to discover that his friend is completely fascinated with a particular meadow.
Hagiwara Sakutoro, “The Town of Cats”** -- a wandering man with a poor sense of direction wanders into a strange town, and his tale is met with the reaction that it is the "demented illusion of a poet." But is it?
Hugh Walpole, “The Tarn” * -- A bad house guest starts getting on his host's nerves, and the host acts on his feelings, with some pretty serious consequences.
Bruno Schulz, “Sanatorium at the Sign of the Hourglass” ** -- One of the ultimate best stories in this volume, totally surreal, in which a man goes to visit his father at a sanatorium and ends up in a place of converging possibilities. I have to buy the book of all of Schulz's stories now.
Robert Barbour Johnson, “Far Below” ** -- While the average Joe may worry about what's happening on the streets of New York, even greater dangers live below. Luckily, there are people down there taking care of things -- but there is a catch. Super story.
Fritz Leiber, “Smoke Ghost”(previously read) * -- A man discovers exactly what the "ghost of our time" would like, and tries his best to avoid it. This story is a great commentary on American metropolitan concerns during the early 1940s.
Leonora Carrington, “White Rabbits” -- not one of my favorites, and a really gross tale about a woman with carnivorous rabbits. The discovery made in the penultimate paragraph almost made me hurl.
Donald Wollheim, “Mimic” -- another one that I wasn't really fond of, one that involves a lot of insects. This is the basis of the movie of the same name; luckily, the story is very short.
Ray Bradbury, “The Crowd” ** -- Another wonderful story honing in on 20th century angst in a weird way. A man is hurt in an accident, and a crowd closes in. But something is really wrong here and it leads him to start noticing weird coincidences afterwards.
William Sansom, “The Long Sheet” ** -- In terms of "weird," this one may just take the prize. A group of prisoners are given an odd condition for earning their freedom. This story is an excellent study of human nature and it's so strange I had to read it twice.
Jorge Luis Borges, "The Aleph" (previously read) ** -- a wonderful story in which a poet shows a friend of his cousin's the "inconceivable universe" in the cellar of his home. This story is just sheer genius.
Olympe Bhely-Quenum, “A Child in the Bush of Ghosts” ** -- A child's uncle takes him deep into a forest in Africa, and tells him to wait and not to move. Instead, the child wanders into a place he should not be. Very cool.
Shirley Jackson, “The Summer People”** -- Since it's Shirley Jackson, you already know it's going to be great. A couple who normally stay at their summer home until Labor Day decide to stay on past the holiday -- and it's probably not a good decision on their part. The scare creeps up on you very slowly and the end, well, it's Shirley Jackson.
Margaret St. Clair, “The Man Who Sold Rope to the Gnoles” -- another one I must confess that I wasn't so fond of, deriving from Dunsany's Gnoles story above.
Robert Bloch, “The Hungry House” ** -- A man and his wife take on life in a truly haunted home in this story -- the backstory of how it got that way raises the bar for creepiness. Really good story.
Amos Tutuola, “The Complete Gentleman” * -- Another story set in Africa -- this time, a woman follows a "perfect gentleman" into a market and beyond, then disappears. Her father hires "Father of gods who could do anything in this world" to find her, making for a strange but very cool tale.
Jerome Bixby, “It’s a Good Life” ** (this one was turned into 1) an original Twilight Zone episode and 2) a part of the later Twilight Zone movie. In this story, a little boy named Anthony can read thoughts -- if he likes you, he might try to help you, and if not, well, things could be downright horrible. Ask his family and the other residents of the town of Peaksville, population 46. Smile. One of my favorites.
Augusto Monterroso, "Mister Taylor" * -- A sudden craze for shrunken heads is at the root of this story -- with some freaky consequences for everyone in a particular area of the Amazon. Another good one that will chill.
Julio Cortazar, “Axolotl”-- An aquarium in Paris is the setting for this strange little tale, about a guy becoming obsessed with an axolotl, sort of reminiscent of Zhuangzi's butterfly dream substituted with reptiles.
William Sansom, “A Woman Seldom Found” -- It seems that a man visiting Rome finds his perfect encounter in the shape of a veiled woman who invites him for a walk -- or does he?
Charles Beaumont, “The Howling Man” ** -- I'm a sucker for any story set in an old Abbey, and this one did not disappoint. A tourist from New England decides to see Europe by bicycle and ends up in a "bosky wood" in Germany. After an accident he is taken in by the good brothers at the Abbey of St. Wulfran's, where he starts hearing screams that no one else seems to hear. I loved this one.
Mervyn Peake, “Same Time, Same Place” * -- Seeking respite from his boring parents, a young man needs an escape and sets off to Picadilly Circus, where he meets a woman and it's love at first sight. She wants to meet tomorrow, same time, same place. From there, it just gets more bizarre. Another fine entry in this book.
Dino Buzzati, “The Colomber” * -- A ship captain is thrilled that his son wants to grow up to be just like him and spend his life on the sea, until one day the boy sees a strange fish. His father his horrified, and quickly discourages him from ever going to sea again. But after dad dies, the boy decides to take to the ships. This one has an ending I never saw coming. Good.
Michel Bernanos, “The Other Side of the Mountain”** -- A strange sea voyage leaves two crew members shipwrecked and stranded on an even stranger shore. The only hope for survival is to get to the other side of the mountain -- maybe. Very well written, with a horrific ending that will send a shiver down your spine.
Merce Rodoreda, “The Salamander”-- An affair with a married man leads to a woman's bizarre transformation in this story, which admittedly, just wasn't up there in my list of favorites.
Claude Seignolle, “The Ghoulbird”* -- if you're out in the marsh of Gobble-Ox, and you hear the call of the Ghoulbird, run. Lock your doors, put your hands over your ears and try not listen. This is another one where the creepies slowly seep into your veins.
Gahan Wilson, “The Sea Was Wet As Wet Could Be”-- Here's another one I wasn't too fond of, where a group of friends decide to have some fun on the beach -- and then things get really crazy. A play on Carroll's "The Walrus and the Carpenter," it does have some very weird moments.
Daphne Du Maurier, “Don’t Look Now” ** -- Simply stunning, one of my favorite pieces in the entire book, but then again I'm a huge DuMaurier fan and have been for years. Here, a couple getting over the death of their daughter decide to vacation in Italy, where they meet two sisters. The vacation takes some decidedly strange turns afterwards. Excellent.
Robert Aickman, “The Hospice”** -- A lost driver on his way home stops in a forest, and looking for shelter, runs across a sign for "The Hospice." There's a recipe for the weird right there, but it gets even stranger as his time goes on.
Dennis Etchison, “It Only Comes Out at Night” * -- Driving through the desert of the American southwest and getting tired, a man decides to stop at a rest area late at night. It might just be the worst idea he's ever had. Good.
James Tiptree Jr., “The Psychologist Who Wouldn’t Do Terrible Things to Rats” -- I'm not a huge Tiptree fan to begin with, but this story just seemed sort of out of place here to me. I read about half, and skipped the rest.
Eric Basso, “The Beak Doctor” * -- Perfectly atmospheric, it is the story of a masked man who makes his way through a town shrouded in fog while people fall prey to a strange sleeping sickness. This story stands out because the writing creates such a claustrophobic setting that you have to take a breather before it's all finished.
Jamaica Kincaid, “Mother”-- I'm sure a lot of people liked this story, but it just wasn't one I really got into. Another story of transformation that just didn't do it for me.
George R.R. Martin, “Sandkings”** -- One of the freakiest, creepiest stories in this book, a collector of strange creatures takes home a species called Sandkings, who provide his friends with entertainment at first, then become much more than the collector bargained for. This one just really creeped me out, causing me to be afraid to pick up the book dor a day or two.
Bob Leman, “Window” ** -- When a building and everything in it, including a researcher, disappears, something is left in its place -- a house with a lovely family right out of a Victorian painting, visible through a window on the past. Another really good one.
Ramsey Campbell, “The Brood” * -- A man who enjoys watching "the local characters" notices one of them missing -- a woman who takes in strays. On edge, he decides to go and take a look when he hears something from inside her abandoned house. Very bad idea.
Michael Shea, “The Autopsy” ** -- A dying doctor is called in to perform autopsies on people who were killed in a mine explosion. His findings reveal something bizarre, but that's nothing compared to what happens when one of the bodies starts talking to him. The end of this one may be one of the strangest endings I've ever read.
William Gibson/John Shirley, “The Belonging Kind” ** -- When a loner who doesn't belong anywhere falls for a girl he sees at a bar, he follows her -- and his life is literally transformed forever. Yes! This is a really weird one.
M. John Harrison, “Egnaro”** -- This story touches on the madness of a man's obsession about a country no one's ever heard of. It's one of the best in the collection, extremely well written and just downright strange.
Joanna Russ, “The Little Dirty Girl” -- I was really into this tale about a little girl who keeps showing up -- but then it just sort of fizzled out for me.
M. John Harrison, “The New Rays”-- again, not one of the best, but still intriguing. A strange clinic affords a patient the chance at being better -- but the cure might just be worse than being sick. Very strange.
Premendra Mitra, “The Discovery of Telenapota”-- A story about leaving the "familiar" world and crossing into another. So-so, not really one of the best.
F. Paul Wilson, “Soft” * -- Some sort of virus has spread and those who've survived are left with horrible aftereffects. At least they're alive -- for now. But one man wonders about what the future might bring in this eerie and distressing tale.
Octavia Butler, “Bloodchild” -- Another one not to my taste -- more scifi than I enjoy in my weird fiction. This story reveals a strange relationship between humans and a race of strange beings that use the humans for a strange purpose.
Clive Barker, “In the Hills, the Cities” ** -- Oh lordy, I really loved this story. of two people traveling through Yugoslavia exactly at the wrong time, when two towns engage in a bizarre competition. I swear, this is one I'll never forget.
Leena Krohn, “Tainaron”-- another scifi-oriented tale, structured as a series of letters from a woman who has come to live in a city of insects. This one, although praised by critics, just didn't find an appreciative audience in me.
Garry Kilworth, “Hogfoot Right and Bird-hands”-- An old woman who recently lost her pet decides she wants another. She has parts of her body removed to create companions. Not a good idea. Not bad, but definitely among the best in the book.
Lucius Shepard, “Shades” ** -- A Vietnam vet returns to Vietnam to take part in a strange experiment and ends up dealing with a ghost from his past. Excellent story, and a really good commentary on the war.
Harlan Ellison, “The Function of Dream Sleep” ** -- Awakening from a grotesque dream, a man who's suffered a lot of loss in the recent past visits a group whose members share his problem. Wildly weird and unsettling.
Ben Okri, “Worlds That Flourish” * -- Trying to escape from a city under a dictatorship where people are disappearing, a man drives out into the forests, where he is advised not to head in the direction he is going. But the nature of this story decrees, of course, that he doesn't listen. Very good tale, kind of eerie as well as strange.
Elizabeth Hand, “The Boy in the Tree” * -- A young woman in an institution is programmed to penetrate dreams through empathic powers, but these same abilities lead her into another woman's particular obsession. Very good, but I would expect nothing less from this author, who is one of my favorites.
Joyce Carol Oates, “Family” -- a family survives an apocalypse in all kinds of strange ways, but I wasn't very impressed by this story.
Poppy Z Brite, “His Mouth Will Taste of Wormwood”** -- a most excellent story by one of my favorite writers, where two young men, bored with their lives, go well beyond the mundane into the world of graverobbing, with unforeseen consequences. One of my favorite stories ever, and one of the best atmospheric tales out there.
Michal Ajvaz, “The End of the Garden”-- surreal isn't the word for this tale that begins with a fight between a woman and a Komodo dragon. It just gets more bizarre from there.
Karen Joy Fowler, “The Dark” **-- What do a wild boy found in a coyote burrow in Yosemite and a tunnel rat in Vietnam have in common? A researcher of the plague thinks he knows in this appropriately-titled story that creeped me through to the marrow.
Kathe Koja, “Angels in Love” * -- Strange, but enjoyable story about a woman who can't help but overhear her neighbor having sex through the wall and decides she wants whatever her neighbor's having. While kind of silly, still some good shock value here.
Haruki Murakami, “The Ice Man" ** -- In my opinion, this is one of the best stories in the entire collection. A woman meets and falls in love with an Ice Man -- a man made of ice. They are very much in love, and everything is cool (no pun intended) until she decides they should take a vacation. This is Murakami at his very weird best.
Lisa Tuttle, “Replacements," * -- Another pet story in which women find strange creatures much more comforting than their men. It is okay, with building creepiness and a lot of weirdness.
Marc Laidlaw, “The Diane Arbus Suicide Portfolio” -- When a suicide occurs, a police inspector arrives to take photographs -- and it changes him, but not nearly as much as a midnight visit with an anonymous caller who claims to have photographed the suicide itself. Weird, but not quite up to speed with the others in this book.
Steven Utley, “The Country Doctor” ** -- Returning to the hometown of generations of his family,a man runs into some archaeologists doing their work prior to the graves being moved. Together they come across something incredibly strange that may explain particular family traits. This one is just a great story all around.
William Browning Spenser, “The Ocean and All Its Devices” ** -- Weirder than a number of stories in this book, an odd family returns to an oceanside motel every year. This year's visit is full of surprises for everyone. I loved, absolutely loved this story.
Jeffrey Ford, “The Delicate” -- Disguised and at a spa, an entity goes around sucking the lives out of people. Now, having read other reviews of this story, I feel bad that I wasn't impressed, but well, there it is.
Martin Simpson, “Last Rites and Resurrections” * -- an ode to grief and loss, a man begins to hear the voices of dead animals. Poignant, and at times funny, I liked this one.
Stephen King, “The Man in the Black Suit” -- Why the editors chose to include this story, which is not one of King's best short works, is beyond me. A boy goes fishing and becomes bait for the devil.
Angela Carter, “The Snow Pavilion” ** -- Stuck in the snow and sneaking shelter, the narrator of this story goes into a grand house and enters a nightmare. Talk about atmospheric! Loved this one.
Craig Padawer, “The Meat Garden” * -- at war with vegans whose ammo causes strange effects -- now there's a very weird concept. This one's good...
Stepan Chapman, “The Stiff and the Stile” -- an odd riff on an old nursery tale, which I remember as "The Old Woman and Her Pig" or something like that, now it's a corpse that won't go over the stile. Weird, but seems sort of out of place here.
Tanith Lee, “Yellow and Red” * -- A modern and rather haunting ghost story in which a man goes to take care of business and close up the old family home which he starts hating not long after he arrives. It reminds me a lot of an updated M.R. James story. Really good.
Kelly Link, “The Specialist’s Hat” * -- Twin girls and their workaholic dad are spending the summer together in an old house called Eight Chimneys. When dad decides to go out, the babysitter, who says she used to live in the house arrives, and the three play some very odd games. Another tale with slowly building horror that just creeps up your spine.
Caitlin R. Kiernan, “A Redress for Andromeda” ** -- It's Halloween and a young woman is invited to a party at a remote house where, before the night is over, she realizes she's there for a specific reason. I LOVED this story, and Kiernan is one of my all-time favorite writers.
Michael Chabon, “The God of Dark Laughter” * -- A DA investigates a bizarre murder of man dressed in a clown suit, and the case leads him to quit his job after stumbling upon a battle between two strange cults. The blurb prior to the story mentions "references to Lovecraft" (check) and "a nod to the work of Edgar Allan Poe" (check again). Good story.
China Mieville, “Details” ** (previously read) -- I really love this story, where a boy's mother makes him visit a woman in a yellow house, and he discovers that "the devil is in the details." The first time I read this I was deliciously on edge; time and a reread has changed nothing.
Michael Cisco, “The Genius of Assassins” * -- Murderers reveal their stories in this floaty, surreal tale, which is truly full-blown weird.
Neil Gaiman, “Feeders and Eaters” ** -- Waiting in an all-night cafe, a guy meets up with an old friend who tells him an amazing story about when he was living in the attic of a home and a woman he met there. Amazingly good.
Jeff VanderMeer, “The Cage” ** -- Okay -- I have to say here and now that this is the first story by Jeff VanderMeer I've ever read. Now that I've read it, I will be reading more. When a man at a sale picks up a cage and brings it to his shop, strange things start happening all around him. It's a travesty that I'm only giving small descriptions here, because this story is one of the weirdest ever. Excellent.
Jeffrey Ford, “The Beautiful Gelreesh” *-- "The world is a ball of shit adrift in a sea of sin and the sooner one passed to heaven the better," is a life lesson the creature of the title came to live by. He spends his life "curing" people of their depression. Creepy.
Thomas Ligotti, “The Town Manager” ** -- Another one I absolutely loved, "The Town Manager" may be weird, but it's also an excellent satirical piece as well. A town goes through a series of changes, depending on who the town manager might be -- and every time, no one knows what's coming. Simply superb.
Brian Evenson, “The Brotherhood of Mutilation” ** -- Another really bizarre but excellent story which the crime-fiction reader in me loved. It's noirish in tone, really, as a poor guy who just wants to be left alone after a strange incident causes him to lose a hand is sought out for his heroism after cauterizing his own wound -- then dragged into a strange murder case as a detective.
Mark Samuels, “The White Hands” ** -- A professor at Oxford loses his job due to his strange teaching style, and spends his now leisure time studying a now-dead author of ghost stories named Lilith Blake. He is, in fact, an expert on the woman. An author, who plans to write about Blake in a piece about supernatural writers meets up with the professor, undoubtedly a meeting that will change his life and the world as he knows it forever. Very nicely done, very creepy.
Daniel Abraham, “Flat Diana” * -- The story obviously builds from the Flat Stanley craze; here a man makes a "Flat Diana" of his daughter and starts sending it around to relatives to take their photos with. A good dad, the man just wants his little girl to know that there are people all over who love and care about her. But evidently, along with the "Flat Diana," he sends along something unexpected. Good story.
Margo Lanagan, “Singing My Sister Down” * -- A family comes out to watch the death of a daughter in this beyond strange tale. Delightfully eerie and morbid.
T.M. Wright, “The People on the Island” ** -- You'll be shaking your head while you read this one, where a couple is alone on the island except for a few "friends." Isolation can really get to people. Loved it.
Laird Barron, “The Forest” ** -- I love Laird Barron, and I really like this story that I first read in Occultation. A cinematographer is invited to what will become both a reunion and a goodbye in the New England woods, hosted by a filmmaker into "untangling the enigmas of evolutionary origins and ultimate destination." The cinematographer definitely finds out the ultimate destination for one of his friends, in this eerie tale.
Liz Williams, “The Hide” * -- Two sisters Claire and Jude, along with Claire's boyfriend Richard, discover a bird hide on an old causeway along an estuary, and while they're watching the wildlife, they glimpse two birds, the likes of which none of them have ever seen before. The experience will change them all. Very good story.
Reza Negarestani, “The Dust Enforcer” * -- Very weird, with drawings -- this piece reads like an encyclopedia entry about the demon of epidemics. I really need to get the book it came from, Cyclonopedia. Cool.
Micaela Morrissette, “The Familiars” * -- You might wish to read this story especially if your child has an imaginary friend. In this little tale, a boy whose best friend is his mom comes up with an imaginary playmate. All is well for a while, until it's time for school to start. Creepifying and very strange, but also good.
Steve Duffy, “In the Lion’s Den” (previously read) * -- I read this in Datlow's Best Horror of the Year Volume 2, a dark tale about what really goes on among the animals in the zoo that no one really notices until someone goes into the lion's den. Eerie.
Stephen Graham Jones, “Little Lambs” ** -- In the middle of nowhere in a Wyoming desert, an isolated crew of men are on duty guarding an odd structure that seems to be the "metal guts of a prison built in West Virginia in 1918." The building had collapsed killing everyone in it some 8 plus years earlier, but there were strange tales of an ex-lumberjack who may have had something to do with the collapse. The building is also moving. Here, the sheer isolation of it all after 96 months of watching is the real star in this tale -- I really, really liked this one.
K.J. Bishop, “Saving the Gleeful Horse” -- A giant trader of flotsam who works under a bridge comes across a little striped horse that the trader names the Gleeful Horse, which is in reality "a treasure animal." While I enjoyed the story, I just didn't think it had as weird of a feel as most of the other tales in this volume.
WHEW! I'm giving myself pats on the back not only for finishing this book, but for finishing this post!