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The Dark Descent (The Dark Descent #1-3)

4.25  ·  Rating details ·  1,900 Ratings  ·  63 Reviews
This highly acclaimed anthology traces the evolution of horror, from Nathaniel Hawthorn and Edgar Allan Poe to Stephen King. Adopted by colleges across the country to be used in literature courses, The Dark Descent showcases some of the finest horror fiction ever written.


Pt. 1 - The Color of Evil

The Reach / Stephen King
Evening Primrose / John Collier
The Ash-Tree
Paperback, 1011 pages
Published January 15th 1997 by Tor Books (first published 1987)
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Paul Bryant
Mar 26, 2009 rated it liked it
Shelves: spooky-ookums
Contains one of PB's All Time Greats :

"The Summer People" by Shirley Jackson (1950)

Old Shirl has got matter-of-fact horror down, she owns matter-of-fact horror, and it's a thing of wonder. Perfectly bland boring people do these ordinary things and it all plods on and plods on and you're looking at your watch and scratching your left ventricle until you realise this routine stuff is now involving immense cruelty and death. Come round to tea any day, Shirley Jackson.
Oct 19, 2007 rated it it was amazing
I am SO looking forward to this tome. I found it in a outlet store for $6 and grabbed it as fast as I could. Stories from some of my favorites (Harlan Ellison's "Whimper of Whipped Dogs" plus a couple from Shirley Jackson, Stephen King, HP Lovecraft and one from Philip K. Dick) as well as from people who I need to read/read more of (Nathaniel Hawthorne, Clive Barker, I think Robert Bloch is also in here). If this is as good as it claims to be, I will be using it when I teach my Horror Short Fict ...more
Michael Fierce
Aug 12, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: ALL fans of Horror

One of the best anthologies I have ever read!

Has some of my favorite short stories of all time all in one volume!

The Whimper of Whipped Dogs by Harlan Ellison, The Call of Cthulhu by H.P. Lovecraft, Sticks by Karl Edward Wagner, and Dread by Clive Barker (though I hated the stupid downer of a movie that completely missed the feel and point of the original short story).

Includes many other classic short stories, many of which I like or almost like as much as the ones I mentioned - but I can't qui
Jul 26, 2014 rated it it was amazing
An excellent collection of shorts/novellas from a wide range of authors. You will find some of the usual suspects-King, Poe, Lovecraft but for me the strength of the collection was the inclusion of so many authors I have heard of but never read. Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu, Thomas M. Disch, Theodore Sturgeon, Charlotte Perkins Gilman, Robert Hitchens, Henry James, Oliver Onions, Joyce Carol Oates and authors you wouldn't normally associate with horror fiction Fritz Leiber, William Faulkner, Gene Wol ...more
Ralph Pulner
Jul 17, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Essential. I would gladly pay for a college course if this book were it's subject. I don't think it would interest a casual horror fan but if you're a writer and want to get a broader understanding of horror then it's a must read. This book taught me that thematically, horror can show up in any genre. It need not be bloody. It can be psychological, hinted at, not explained, subtle or spoken in what is not said. I spent a good three months on this, reading one or two stories a night. There were s ...more
I technically should put this book on my “Abandoned” or “Hiatus” shelf, because I didn’t finish it. But I feel I’ve read everything I’m going to from this book (at least, for the time being), so we’ll call it “Read.”

I started out by reading from the beginning (as is the tradition with books, I hear). I went through the introduction and found that the guy who threw this anthology together had a massive boner for Stephen King. I’ve read Pet Sematary and Salem’s Lot, and from those books I’ve decid
May 23, 2007 rated it it was amazing
If you have any interest in horror fiction, The Dark Descent is essential. In fact, if you're new to horror, don't bother with anything else. This compilation will not only introduce some of the best works in short fiction of the last hundred years, but it will do so with a clarity of vision that actually allows you to survey how far we have come and what remains to be explored. Each work in this anthology represents an incredible peak in style and expression that has never been topped regardles ...more
DeAnna Knippling
Good, but exhausting.

The book is split into three sections, covering moral horror, horror that draws its effects out of some kind of psychological element, and horror in which, hmmm, the horror comes from that laws of reality simply not being fixed firmly in place (the fantastical). Otherwise the sections are not organized or are organized by some method that I didn't comprehend.

The first section got tiresome after a while (people receiving their due over and over), the middle section was fun,
May 15, 2009 rated it really liked it
If I may quote Forrest Gump for a moment, I'd like to say that The Dark Descent is like a box of chocolates. Not so much because you "never know what you're gonna get" - because these stories are almost uniformly well written - but because the best way to consume it is a few pieces (stories) at a time, so they don't get overwhelming and start tasting all the same (or make you sick).

The editor, David Hartwell, has divided the story collection into what he calls three "streams": 1) moral allegoric
Wendy Dranfield
Jul 30, 2017 rated it it was ok
I was really looking forward to reading this as I love dark short stories and I love the cover on my first edition copy (different to Goodreads), but I was disappointed. I only enjoyed the Joyce Carol Oates story and had to give up on quite a few of the others. I think they were all too old fashioned for my taste.
Jan 07, 2013 rated it really liked it
I found this to be an excellent anthology chronicling Hartwell's take on the evolution of the horror tale. However, rather than laying out the tales in chronological fashion, Hartwell instead breaks the anthology into three separate sections delineating the three main types of horror tale as they have developed since the 19th century. There are several well known benchmark classics as well as hard to find gems that outline his conception of the horror genre.

A warning to the casual reader, thoug
Matt Belcroft
This is a sampling of various horror writers over a span of 200 years. Some of the stories (read 'writers') were very interesting and I would have liked them to be longer. Others seemed to drag on and on. I will admit that I just don't have the patience for Lovecraft whose stories seem to go on and on, but maybe that was the style of writing that was popular in those days. I enjoyed the more modern writers both because of the easier-to-read prose style and perhaps I could understand their perspe ...more
Jan 12, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
First collection of horror stories I ever owned and read cover to cover.
Kurt Vosper
Dec 04, 2016 rated it liked it
I don't know what to say about this book. Other than a few stories...this was a labour and not a pleasure. That said, the few stories in it were worth reading. Uggh!
May 05, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Recommended to Jj by: Indianapolis Public Library
I hate horror movies, so I sometimes knee-jerkily shy away from horror writing, but when I saw the authors whose stories were included in this book I took it anyway. This book has all kinds of famous stories in it (The Fall of the House of Usher) and it also has authors I never would have thought wrote "horror" (Edith Nesbit?!). If you think of horror as blood-and-guts, dumb-blonde-girls-getting-slashed-by-creepy-masked-men, these stories won't fit into your idea of horror. These are psychologic ...more
John Bruni
Mar 31, 2013 rated it really liked it
I actually read most of these stories before, which is why I was able to breeze through a 1000+ page book so quickly. It's an excellent selection from the history of the genre. Maybe it's a bit too much, but it's definitely a quality anthology. Of the tales I hadn't read before, I think my favorite is Flannery O'Connor's "Good Country People."
Riju Ganguly
Jun 24, 2011 rated it it was amazing
This top-notch collection of stories cover a very large ground in the landscape of horror. There are (too) well-known stories from the old masters and a few pleasantly unpleasant shocks in terms of omissions, there are classics as-well-as bizarre choices from the present big-guys. Overall, a massive collection that has something for all. Recommended.
Sep 17, 2011 rated it it was amazing
One of the best summaries of Horror about, in my opinion. Not all stories are necessarily the author's best nor best known, yet as a primer to give a reader something to work at, this is about as good as it gets.
Jan 16, 2008 rated it it was amazing
The ultimate collection of horror stories ever printed.
Daniel Sadicario
Mar 19, 2015 rated it it was amazing
All the stories/authors are great, but this, to me, shows off the fact that Shirley Jackson is the true god of horror.
Nov 18, 2013 rated it really liked it
I have read and re-read this anthology many times. A wonderful, wonderful group of stories. A must-read for anyone who loves horror.
Tiffany Lynn Kramer
Mar 29, 2018 rated it liked it
I finished this book hours ago yet I'm still trying to process how to review and recommend it. Seeing as there are over 50 short stories from classic and modern authors there should be something here for most fans of the horror genre. However I found it hard to classify several of these entries as horror. Most struck me as more dark contemporary or magical realism and often for that reason I didn't care for them.
For me the real gems that made it worth lugging this door stopper around where Th
Steve Bevilacqua
Oct 12, 2017 rated it it was amazing
The Dark Descent is an astounding, and vast, collection of horror short fiction. It showcases an incredibly wide range of authors, stretching from the classics like Poe and Edith Wharton, through modernists like William Faulkner, up to more recent writers like Robert Bloch and Stephen King. The Dark Descent show us far more than horror. This book is a testament to the enduring, amazing power of the short story.
John Walsh
May 16, 2017 rated it it was amazing
The one indispensable horror anthology for anyone assembling a horror library. Hartwell embraces many varieties of horror, from H.P. Lovecraft to Thomas Disch. If you want to go beyond the best selling novels and see what the history of (mostly American) horror is about, you need to read this generous selection. A fine sampling of authors a beginning reader in the field should know.
Trevor Durham
Jul 28, 2017 rated it really liked it
Regretably, the quality of stories varies wildly through this massive collection. Hartwell is a GENIUS editor, bringing together a MASSIVE and VARIED set of horrific tales that introduced me to some phenomenal authors. I am very glad to have gone through this.
Jul 28, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: fiction, horror
Some of these stories are amazing, some less so. the ghost stories in the last fifth of the book were less interesting.
Feb 21, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: anyone who appreciates horror
What's most interesting to me are the entries in this collection by author's who are not well known for writing horror (William Faulkner! Charles Dickens!). I haven't even finished reading the whole book yet and I feel strongly that it deserves a five star rating. This book is absolutely essential to anyone interested in the genre of horror. If there were going to be a college course on horror, I would highly recommend this book as the text.

If I have a complaint, it would be that the work printe
James Castle
Jan 27, 2017 rated it liked it
The Dark Descent contains a number of masterpieces, but they are overwhelmed by a mass of banal and tiresome stories. In addition, most of the good selections present here are the old chestnuts of the genre - there aren't too many good pieces of fiction that will be new to a connoisseur of horror literature.

5s -
"The New Mother" by Lucy Clifford
"Bright Segment" by Theodore Sturgeon.
"The Fall of the House of Usher" by Edgar Allan Poe
"Schalken the Painter" by J. Sheridan Le Fanu
"A Rose for Emily
One of the most complete anthologies of horror put together. I have another anthology that is my go-to book (Tales of Terror and the Supernatural with many of the same stories. I would undoubtedly give this 5 stars if I actually really liked the horror genre ... but I don't, even though I read this cover to cover ... oh, less about me, more about the stories!
"Sticks" by Karl Wagner has to be the most eerie story; it evokes a physical distress for me (this is why I'm not such a fan of horror). It
A (large) collection of horror stories, illustrating the “evolution of horror” since the early 19th century. Hartwell identifies several categories of horror stories, such as horror as moral allegory or illustrating the ambiguity of reality. He includes several authors that I was initially surprised to find here, like Edith Wharton and Flannery O’Connor, but they all made sense. Like any collection like this, I thought it was hit and kind of miss, but no duds. There were so many that were good, ...more
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For the love of H...: The Dark Descent 30 62 Nov 08, 2014 07:30AM  
Weird fiction: The Dark Descent - Buddy Read! 3 6 Aug 03, 2014 12:55PM  
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David Geddes Hartwell was an American editor of science fiction and fantasy. He worked for Signet (1971-1973), Berkley Putnam (1973-1978), Pocket (where he founded the Timescape imprint, 1978-1983, and created the Pocket Books Star Trek publishing line), and Tor (where he spearheaded Tor's Canadian publishing initiative, and was also influential in bringing many Australian writers to the US market ...more
More about David G. Hartwell

Other Books in the Series

The Dark Descent (3 books)
  • The Color of Evil
  • The Medusa in the Shield
  • A Fabulous, Formless Darkness

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