Thursday, November 7, 2013

Review: The Year's Best Dark Fantasy & Horror, 2013 Edition

The Year's Best Dark Fantasy & Horror, 2013 Edition
The Year's Best Dark Fantasy & Horror, 2013 Edition by Paula Guran

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

The Year's Best Dark Fantasy & Horror, 2013 Edition

Disclaimer: I won a free copy of this book on GoodReads as a part of the First Reads giveaway program. I’d like to extend my thanks to GoodReads, the editor, and the publisher.

“No Ghosts in London” by Helen Marshall. Eh. While it had some cool concepts of ghost traditions, I wasn’t wowed. The sometimes shift to second person was strange here. It was short though, so I didn’t feel bogged down. 2 stars.

“Fake Plastic Trees” by Caitlin R. Kiernan. A post apocalyptic diary-type short where a girl remembers a particular incident. The ideas behind the “EVENT” and the moved-on world 12 years later were very cool. I’d be interested in a novel set in this world. 4 stars.

“The Man Who Forgot Ray Bradbury” by Neil Gaiman. Intriguing little story. I jumped ahead to read this one because it was Gaiman, and because it was short. That part of the plan backfired a bit, as I had to slow way down to comprehend what was happening. If you pick it up and read the story, that will make sense (even if some of what you read does not). Beautifully written homage to Bradbury. 4 stars.

“The Natural History of Autumn” by Jeffrey Ford. Ahh, I liked this one. Full of intrigue and surprises. I really enjoyed the India setting too. Great characters and imagery. 4.5 stars.

“Great-Grandmother in the Cellar” by Peter S. Beagle. Another great one. Spooky and weird, and just twisted enough to appeal to my darker side. Don’t mess with Great-Grandmother! 4.5 stars.

“Renfrew’s Course” by John Langan. Eh. Didn’t really care for this one. There were a few moments of intrigue, but they were buried. Some drug tripping going on, but it was hard to tell which character was which. 1.5 stars.

“End of White” by Ekaterina Sedia. I wanted to like this, as I’ve been curious about the author. But alas, didn’t care for it. It was too abstract to get a hold of. 2 stars.

“Who is Arvid Pekon?” By Karin Tidbeck. That was just weird. It started out interesting, but got even more strange by the end. 2.5 stars.

“Iphigenia in Aulis” by Mike Carey. This was awesome. Best story so far. It has a nice slow reveal, so I won’t spoil it here. But I was glued to every page. 5 stars.

“Slaughterhouse Blues” by Tim Lebbon. This started out with promise, a tale switching between modern time and an event 40 years previous. It got to be pretty out-there by the time the stories converged. 2.5 stars.

“England Under the White Witch” by Theodora Goss. I really enjoyed this one. Great alt-history what-if story. 4 stars.

“The Sea of Trees” by Rachel Swirsky. Right away, I didn’t think I would like this. The language was a bit off, and it had a dreamy/not-making-sense kind of feel. But I kept on, and decided that I did like it. I cared about the characters, and was intrigued with the direction Swirsky was going with it. 3.5 stars.
“The Education of a Witch” by Ellen Klages. Loved it. Of course, I often pull for the villains, so when a little girl came along that did the same, I had to smile. 4.5 stars.

“Welcome to the Reptile House” by Stephen Graham Jones. Decent creepy story, but not all that memorable. 3 stars.

“Glamour of Madness” by Peter Bell. Eh. Didn’t really get it. 2 stars.

“Bigfoot on Campus” by Jim Butcher. This was the one story I’ve read previously, but I read it again while it was here. It was that good. I love all of the Harry Dresden stories, and this was a fine example. 5 stars.

“Everything Must Go” by Brooke Wonders. A sale ad for a house interspersed with the backstory of how it became vacant. It started out a cool concept, but got a bit tiring by the end. 3 stars.

“Nightside Eye” by Terry Dowling. Cool little story about changing perspective to see what’s hidden. The ending wasn’t fantastic, but the story had good buildup to it. 4 stars.

“Escena de un Asesinato” by Robert Hood. Creep-fest. One of those cool stories that deals with art that’s inspired (or created) by the supernatural. 4.5 stars.

“Good Hunting” by Ken Liu. A good story I would have like to seen expanded. Liu has some good ideas he could really run with. 3.5 stars.

“Go Home Again” by Simon Strantzas. Eh. Not so much. 1.5 stars.

“The Bird Country” by K.M. Ferebee. Eh. Not so much either. 1.5 stars.

“Sinking Among Lilies” by Cory Skerry. Eh. Only marginally better. 2 stars.

“Down in the Valley” by Joseph Bruchac. This was a cool one. American Indian folklore meets the modern age kind of stuff. 3.5 stars.

“Armless Maidens of the American West” by Genevieve Valentine. I skipped ahead again to sneak in a short one before bed. This was, well, odd. Good, but odd. Another ghost story with some second person narrative, but this time it worked better than in the Marshall story. It might have been better if expanded. 3 stars.

“Blue Lace Agate” by Sarah Monette. Yes. This is the type of story I read an anthology for. I’ll be looking for more stories about Jamie and Mick. 4.5 stars.

“The Eyes of Water” by Alison Littlewood. Another good one. Creepy and well paced. 4 stars.

“The Tall Grass” by Joe R. Lansdale. This one was short, and felt a little like the idea is overdone (I read Stephen King), but it was well executed and engaging. 4 stars.

“Game” by Maria Dahvana Headley. This started out good, but dragged a lot. By the end it wasn’t so bad, though. I can’t help but cheer for the tiger that’s hunted, truth be told. 2.5 stars.

“Pearls” by Priya Sharma. An interesting take on Greek mythology. It was short, but effective. 3 stars.

“Forget You” by Marc Laidlaw. Another short one, really short. But damn, the imagery was very cool. 3.5 stars.

“When Death Wakes Me to Myself” by John Shirley. Another with a cool concept that went on for too long. By the end, I didn’t care. 2 stars.

“Dahlias” by Melanie Tem. Sometimes shorter is better. These last few short ones were well done, and this one would probably not have worked as well had it been longer. It was the perfect length for the story being told. 3.5 stars.

“Bedtime Stories for Yasmin” by Robert Shearman. I liked this. Kind of a fable, showing how reading at an early age is a good thing. Or should be. “She was frightened of what the story might have let in.” 4.5 stars.

“Hand of Glory” by Laird Barron. This is the final tale in the book, and the longest. Oh, gangsters! Capone-era gangsters at that. So it’s an Untouchables with paranormal? Kinda. Anyway, it’s pretty good. 3.5 stars.

So now, here’s the tl;dr version of my review:

Solid anthology with lots of good dark fantasy tales mixed in with a few clunkers. The nice thing about these kind of books is that when you find a story you don’t like, it won’t be long before it ends and a new one starts.

Favorites are the stories by Butcher and Carey. Runners up would be those by Beagle, Ford, Hood, Shearman, Monette, and Klages.

A few weren’t great, but they were short enough that I didn’t feel the need to gouge out my eyeballs or anything.

Recommended. 3.5 stars overall.

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