Graham's Reviews > Dark Terrors 5: The Gollancz Book of Horror

Dark Terrors 5 by Stephen Jones
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's review
Aug 24, 2009

really liked it
bookshelves: anthology, horror
Read in April, 2004 , read count: 1

Another of Stephen Jones' mammoth collections of contemporary short horror stories. This has to be one of the biggest I've ever seen, and you get your money's worth with dozens of stories.

Things kick off to a fine start with AT HOME IN THE PUBS OF OLD LONDON, an atypical effort from Christopher Fowler with spellbinding atmosphere. The follow up, Caitlin R. Kiernan's VALENTIA, is an effectively eerie story of archaeology off the coast of Ireland, making great use of mythology.

The next trio are less inspired. BARKING SANDS by Richard Christian Matheson doesn't have time to get going and is almost over before it starts, while EVERYTHING, IN ALL THE WRONG ORDER by Chaz Brenchley, is a grim and unpleasant story of sadism against children. James Van Pelt's SAVANNAH IS SIX is a touching ghost story at odds with the rest of this volume's contents.

Brian Hodge's unusually-monikered NOW THE DAY WAS FLED AS THE WORM HAD WISHED is a great modern ghost story in the M. R. James tradition - I really dug the weird stone giants. David J. Schow's WHY RUDY CAN'T READ was, I thought, a load of rubbish and more sadism for the sake of it. Ramsey Campbell returns to form with NO STORY IN IT, another bleak and depressing realist outing for the top horror author. Graham Masterton's WITCH-COMPASS is an old-fashioned pulp story with added grue.

Nicholas Royle and Michael Marshall Smith both try their hand with the old-fashioned ghost story with THE PROPOSAL and THE HANDOVER respectively, although neither story is among their best. Still, they're better than C. Bruce Hunter's too-ambiguous CHANGES and Tanith Lee's THE ABORTIONIST'S HORSE (A NIGHTMARE), which was just too distasteful for me to enjoy. Even that one pales into comparison to PEARL, Roberta Lannes' horror tumour story.

Far better is BEAUREGARD, a piece by Eric Brown, in which the author successfully channels the spirit of Lovecraft himself in a supremely atmospheric piece of writing.

NECROMIMICOS, a story about a woman stalking graveyards at night by Nancy Kilpatrick, seems to be a goth's wet dream rather than a real story, but Joel Lane scores with THE BOOTLEG HEART, a psychological suspense yarn with a genuinely chilling denouement. I didn't care much for Cherry Wilder's SATURDAY, which was written in an abstract style I found difficult to read.

The next story is one of the best in the anthology. Gregory Frost comes up trumps with THE GIRLFRIENDS OF DORIAN GRAY, a monstrous updating of the Wilde story. Then we have Mary A. Turzillo's BOTTLE BABIES, an exceptionally weird fantasy/horror hybrid that succeeds despite the dark subject matter. Kim Newman updates the epistolary format to modern times in GOING TO SERIES with mixed results while Lisa Tuttle's HAUNTS is a successful romantic ghost story.

Dennis Etchison's MY PRESENT WIFE is something of a subdued and lacklustre effort from this usually sound author, but Melanie Tem's ALICIA is quite exceptional and probably her best work. THE HAUNTED BOOKSHOP sees Brian Stableford mixing fact and fiction with the presence of author and TV host Lionel Fanthorpe but Mick Garris's STARFUCKER, a jaded look at Hollywood, makes for a rough ride.

DESTROYER OF WORLDS, by Gwyneth Jones, has a misleading title and is actually about child abduction, while Peter Straub's THE GEEZERS is a solid thriller from the experienced author.

The last three tales collected here make up a mixed trio, with two outstanding efforts and Gahan Wilson's irrelevant FINAL DEPARTURE in the middle. The first is William Trotter's HONEYSUCKLE, a long and subtle story covering plenty of ground throughout the highly unusual storyline. The last story is the best: David Case's PELICAN CAY, a novella length zombie outing full of action, excitement and bloodshed, just like a film written down on paper. It's scary stuff that doesn't disappoint.

All in all this is a great collection, if a little overwhelming!

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Comments (showing 1-2)

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Jeannie Sloan Great review,as always....Just ordered from Amazon.

Jeannie Sloan Thanks for the heads up on the two sadistic stories. I will be sure to skip them. Not my kind of story.Looking forward to the rest of the book. Just got it in so it's in my 'to read' pile.

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