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Year's Best Hardcore Horror #1

Year's Best Hardcore Horror Volume 1

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Excerpt from the Introduction:

Editors Randy Chandler and Cheryl Mullenax put the call out to horror writers and editors of extreme stories, the hardcore stuff that breaks boundaries and trashes taboos, the transgressive tales you can't "unread" (as Chuck Palahniuk says). We staked out our territory and nailed this to the wall to guide us:

Not your mama's best-of horror annual.
This stuff comes from the edge of the abyss,
stories you read at your own risk
because you feel the abyss looking right back into you
through the tainted lens of each twisted tale.
Some of the stories you'll find here are loaded with very graphic descriptions of violence, sex and depravities, while others may contain only one shocking moment of brutality. In others, the hardcore aspect may be less graphic and subtler than you might expect. Some of these quieter tales offer the reader some time to recover from the more disturbing ones preceding.

Most of the stories collected here are from small and specialty press anthologies, with a few from periodicals, like the prestigious Splatterpunk Zine in the UK and Thuglit here in the US. Bizarro is also represented with a couple of tales from the unlikely anthology Blood For You: A Literary Tribute To GG Allin from Weirdpunk Books. (If you're not familiar with the late GG Allin, you can find snippets from some of his outrageous and obscene punk shows online, which will increase your appreciation of those two tales.)

So for now, forget about that neighbor you suspect is a serial killer, don't worry about the drunk driver that could take you out on your next trip to the store, push those troubling news stories to the back of your mind and immerse yourself in the imaginary horrors at hand.

But don't be surprised if you sense something dark staring back at you from between the lines. That is to be expected when you enter these forbidding realms. With any luck, you may find something useful to help you survive the approaching Apocalypse.


Introduction: The Year That Was

"Worth the Having" by Michael Paul Gonzalez
"Awakening" by Jeff Strand
"Readings Off The Charts" by Adam Cesare
"Reborn" by The Behrg
"What's Worst" by David James Keaton
"Dead End" by Kristopher Triana
"What You Wish For" by Lilith Morgan
"King Shits" by Charles Austin Muir
"Cleanup On Aisle 3" by Adam Howe
"Bath Salt Fetus" by George Palacious
"Bored With Brutality" by MP Johnson
"Exposed" by Monica J. O'Rourke
"Eleanor" by Jason Parent
"The Scavengers" by Tony Knighton
"The Most Important Miracle" by Scott Emerson
"Hungry For Control" by Clare de Lune
"Clarissa" by Robert Essig & Jack Bantry
"Where The Sun Don't Shine" by Pete Kahle
"Blackbird Lullaby" by George Cotronis

302 pages, Kindle Edition

First published May 29, 2016

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Randy Chandler

43 books68 followers

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5 stars
69 (25%)
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93 (34%)
3 stars
71 (26%)
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24 (8%)
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13 (4%)
Displaying 1 - 30 of 60 reviews
Profile Image for Char .
1,615 reviews1,467 followers
August 5, 2016
4.5 stars!

Normally, I'm more of an atmospheric horror gal than a gore lover, however, I do believe there's room for both in the horror genre of today. I picked up this volume when it first came out, but it was the offer of the free audio, (in exchange for my honest review), that made it possible for me to read it now rather than some time in 2017. This was my first book narrated by Joe Hempel and I think he did a fine job, especially considering the often shocking subject matter.

There were a few "new to me" authors here and my favorite among them was The Behrg and his story, Reborn. THIS, this is the reason people don't leave babies on the steps of churches anymore. Reborn is my favorite type of short horror story-no messing around, BAM!! It hits you right in the face! The Behrg has been on my radar for awhile and now I have to finally acknowledge him. (You were right, Kimberly!)

The Most Important Miracle by Scott Emerson. Now, seriously, who the hell is this guy? From what kind of sick brain did this story emerge? More importantly, are there more stories in there?

There were a couple of tales from authors I am already familiar with that I really liked-Adam Howe's Cleanup On Aisle 3 was one of them. It's a BADASS turning of the tables type story that had me cringing and laughing at the same time.

Jeff Strand's contribution Awakening had me laughing so hard I almost fell out of my chair. Rarely are suicide pacts THIS funny!

Lastly, Jason Parent's Eleanor knocked my socks off. Boot-i-ful?? Yep, you bet! Sick, twisted and beautiful.

Overall, this was an above average collection that lost nothing in the translation to audio. Most of these tales are brutal, gory and shocking though, so prepare yourself before you go wading in. It gets deep and rather slimy the further you go.

Highly recommended to fans of hardcore horror!

*Thanks to Joe Hempel and Audiobook BOOM! for the free copy in exchange for my honest review.*
Profile Image for Janie.
1,039 reviews
June 8, 2016
I am not a fast reader, and for once I am glad, because I enjoyed the hell out of this book. I was able to savor it and take in each story at my own pace. I am no stranger to hardcore horror. I've read extreme narratives alongside the more subtle novels that allow your mind to do the dirty work. I enjoy both styles, especially if the extreme novels are well written and imaginative.

This collection of 19 short horror stories fit the bill for me. I was not once disappointed. I recognized many of the authors, though several were new to me. I have all 19 names on my list of books to look for.

While all of the stories have their share of graphic violence, sex or gruesome creatures, they all share a piece of the same heart. The characters are all believable, and whether they are evil or innocent, you can feel their pain. They are human and their feelings are real. There are also monsters lurking among the pages. One of them wants to make trades with you. The rewards you receive are amazing, but the price is excruciating. Other monsters have beaks and teeth, and some will inject you with venom. Some of them are serial killers. A couple of them may even be your father and mother.

These stories are as much about human struggle and conflict as they are about nightmares and the supernatural. Each story will make you feel something. It may be sadness, regret, disgust, terror or pain. Prepare for some foreign and creative landscapes. If you are ready to face the darkness without trepidation, this book is for you.

The only negative comment I have is that the book could have benefited from some tighter editing, which takes my rating of 5 stars to a 4.5.

I received a free e-copy of this book from one of the authors in exchange for an honest review. Many thanks.
Profile Image for Kimberly.
1,677 reviews2 followers
June 13, 2016
4.5 stars!

I was amazed at the quality and versatility of the stories in the YEAR'S BEST HARDCORE HORROR Volume 1. Editors Randy Chandler, and Cheryl Mullenax compiled 19 tales with varying degrees of gore, mutilation, torture, violence, and sexual torment--bringing them together into one book for the fans of extreme, hardcore horror.

After I had read and rated each story, I was surprised to note that I had given a 5-star rating to seven of them, and a 4.5-star to an additional four! As in any collection, if I can say that I enjoyed at least half of the selections to some degree, I consider it a good purchase. In this book, I can honestly say that there were only two or three that I, personally, didn't care for. All of the rest, I felt, brought something new and "fresh" to the genre.

While I'm not going to delve into every individual tale--I'll leave that for other readers to discover for themselves--I will highlight some of my personal favorites.

--"Reborn", by The Behrg. This one still makes me shudder every time I even THINK of it!

--"Eleanor", by Jason Parent. I had read this one previously in the Dead Roses Anthology, and it was no less haunting and emotionally disturbing this time around! The ending will stay with you, indefinitely.

--"Exposed", by Monica J. O'Rouke. This one is not for the squeamish . . .

--"Awakening", by Jeff Strand. The dark, morbid humor he injects into his tales always make them a favorite of mine.

--"Worth the Having", by Michael Paul Gonzalez. A new fiendish approach to the origins of Halloween.

--"Cleanup on Aisle 3", by Adam Howe. An original concept that had me glued to every page of the story!

--"Where the Sun Don't Shine", by Pete Kahle. Nothing could have prepared me for this one . . .

Some other authors whose contributions made me want to look up more by them include Charles Austin Muir, Tony Knighton, George Cotronis, and Kristopher Triana.

All together, I felt that this was most certainly an above-average collection that fans of extreme horror will want to make sure they have a copy of.

Highly recommended!

*I received an e-copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.*
Profile Image for Bill.
1,525 reviews107 followers
June 23, 2016
I received a copy of this anthology from an author friend of mine and I am super glad he thought of me. Thanks to “you know who you are!” And yes, he did have a story in here, and yes, it was awesome, and no, I’m not telling you who it was. Ha! It really doesn’t matter anyway, because all of the stories in here were at a minimum pretty good to quite excellent. (Of course, your mileage may vary.)

Whenever I start an anthology I am always hit with a sense of anticipation and fear. Anticipation that I may run across a great new author and fear that I won’t find any or the stories will suck and I will have to plod thru it. Maybe less so, with this one as the line-up of authors I was familiar with was stellar.

Well, good news. I wasn’t disappointed with any of the stories and what’s even better is that I really enjoyed all of the stories from the unknown (to me) authors. A well done collection of stories and authors. Solid 4+ Stars. Highly Recommended.
Profile Image for Andi Rawson.
Author 1 book13 followers
June 12, 2016
4.5 stars

A horror collection from some of the leading horror authors in the genre? Yes, please. I have to say that you had me at "Adam Howe," and when I saw some of my other favorite authors in the lineup, I thought that Christmas came early this year.

That said, it's an anthology. I didn't love every story in here, but the stories I loved, I loved hard. My absolute favorites were (in this order): "Reborn" by The Behrg, "Cleanup on Aisle 3" by Adam Howe, "Awakening" by Jeff Strand, "Eleanor" by Jason Parent, "Readings Off The Charts" by Adam Cesare, and "What's Worst" by David James Keaton. I liked a lot of other ones but those are the ones that stuck with me. These are also short stories so I'm not going to tell you what they are about so you are just going to have to read them yourself. You're just going to have to read your own dead baby jokes.

As an obsessive (I hate the word "avid") horror reader, I wouldn't exactly classify many of these as hardcore (at least I don't think so...), so if that's the only thing stopping you: suck it up buttercup, you're reading horror, not Twilight. And really, what good is horror if it's not horrific? You aren't reading The Year's Best Pansy Stories Volume #1.

I received an e-ARC of this from Adam Howe in exchange for an honest review and here it is.
Profile Image for Malum.
2,201 reviews131 followers
June 20, 2018
Anthologies are really hard to make great. With different authors, all with different styles and ability, it is nearly impossible to make the entire thing a solid, great work. This book is no exception to that rule.

This book also suffers from its gimmick, because many of the writers in this collection sacrifice plot for shock factor. What's worse, there were few stories here that were actually shocking (to be fair, though, I have a VERY high tolerance to gore and "shock value" in fiction).

Perhaps most damning is the fact that none of these stories were the "stand out" story in the collection. After I had read over half of it, I went back to the contents and read the names of the stories again and I couldn't remember anything about many of the ones that I just read.

I will say this, though: the best stories were the "silly" ones that mixed gore with humor (the two GG Allin inspired stories, for example). The idea of "hardcore horror" is already kind of ridiculous, so when an author gave you that "wink" that showed that they were in on the joke, it was pretty fun.
Profile Image for Michael Hicks.
Author 35 books430 followers
July 7, 2017
This one's a decent enough anthology, but not one that rocked my socks off. There's some good stories in here, but the volume, taken as a whole, left me a bit cold. The ones that I enjoyed, I really f'ing enjoyed, though!

Jeff Strand delivers a great and darkly humorous serial killer story, but it's The Behrg's "Reborn" that stood out the most for me. Violent and wonderfully gruesome, this story tells you why churches no longer accept babies left at their doorstops. Other stand-outs include Adam Cesare, Pete Khale, Adam Howe, and Jason Parent. Khale is the only author in this group I hadn't read a prior work by, whereas I've read at least one or two titles, if not more, from Cesare, Howe, and Parent. I fully expected them to deliver, and naturally they did.

Narrated by Joe Hempel, each story come through smoothly. Hempel's a great reader and he injects plenty of fun, keeping the gruesome antics entertaining and vivid throughout.
Profile Image for Kate.
481 reviews17 followers
April 19, 2018

I listened to the audio of this book and thought that Joe Hempel was a fantastic narrator. I did find a few editing mistakes and not all the stories were for me, for that I knocked off half a star. On the whole this was a very good collection.

The stories in order were:

"Worth the having" by Michael Paul Gonzalez - A somewhat stomach churning look at what happens when you get everything you wish for and the price you have to pay. This one had me cringing at the details in some parts, a great start to the collection.
"Awakening" by Jeff Strand - Hilarious story where a psychopath realises he's a serial killer. I love strand's style and this one didn't disappoint.
"Readings off the charts" by Adam Cesare - Paranormal investigators rope in an unsuspecting amateur as they try and collect data. This was a bit predictable and I realised what the ending would be about half way through. This didn't spoil my enjoyment of it.
"Reborn" by The Behrg - A story of why churches no longer take in abandoned babies. This one was pretty brutal and had the added bonus of making you question the narrator.
"What's worst" by David James Keaton - Jason sees a dead baby on the road and decides to take it for a drive in his car. Very trippy read that has you seriously questioning the moral compass of the narrator. It didn't do much for me except make me angry. This story will seriously test some readers boundaries.
"Dead end" by Kristopher Triana - A serial killer notes something very familiar with the hitchhiker he picks up. A nice twist in the end with this story.
"What you wish for" by Lillith Morgan - Two people live out their fantasies, consequence free. Only one of them hasn't bargained on being attracted to a fledgling killer. Some romance and sex mixed in with the gore for this story, I enjoyed the writing but thought it could have been edited better to condense the story a bit more.
"King Shits" by Charles Austin Muir - A trucker dishes out brutal justice to bullies. Very violent and highly enjoyable.
"Cleanup On Aisle 3" by Adam Howe - What should have been a quick robbery turns into a cat and mouse game as the storekeeper turns the tables. Great story with a satisfying ending, it was also a lot more emotional than I was expecting.
"Bath Salt Fetus" by George Palacious - Maria is pregnant and wants to get rid of her baby, to do this she tries a new drug which has interesting side effects. Wrong, just very, very wrong.
"Bored With Brutality" by MP Johnson - Rocker GG Allen decides to live a normal life. This was one of the weaker stories for me and didn't really hold my interest.
"Exposed" by Monica J. O'Rourke - A mother is desperate to find her child and decides to take the law into her own hands. How far will she go to find out the truth. Some eye watering detail in this story which ends with a great twist.
"Eleanor" by Jason Parent - Father Stuart takes in disfigured baby Eleanor after she is abandoned on the steps of the church. As she becomes a teenager their relationship becomes more intense and confusing to them both. A slow burn story with a heartbreaking ending.
"The Scavengers" by Tony Knighton - Brutal story of 2 ivory poachers who will do anything to get a bigger share of the deal. Things do not go to plan. Great story, I love karma.
"The Most Important Miracle" by Scott Emerson - All hail the God of Breakfast. A diner cook turns psychotic and decides to cook a breakfast to remember. Short and not at all sweet but very enjoyable.
"Hungry For Control" by Clare de Lune - A woman who was in a mutually abusive relationship before the zombie plague, sees a chance to get some revenge. I really enjoyed the story even though I thought the MC wasn't very likeable and was just as sexually abusive as her ex.
"Clarissa" by Robert Essig & Jack Bantry - Pregnant Clarissa plots to escape the basement where she's been kept for years under the guard of her rapist. All is not as it seems as her chance arrives. Depressing and disturbing especially when you think of some of the real life equivalents.
"Where The Sun Don't Shine" by Pete Kahle - Gordy wakes up after being on a trip for 4 days but can't remember anything about the trip and is exhibiting strange behaviour. This starts of with Gordy waking up covered in blood, mud and vomit and then alternates between the actual trip and the continuing aftermath. Creature feature that was great fun to read.
"Blackbird Lullaby" by George Cotronis - Romance blossoms in a support group for people whose demons are literally killing them. A nice end to the collection although perhaps a little too short to get much out of it.
Profile Image for Petra.
814 reviews76 followers
October 31, 2016
My original Year's Best Hardcore Horror Volume 1 audiobook review and many others can be found at Audiobook Reviewer.
I thought this collection of 19 horror stories would be suitable listening for Halloween week and it did indeed end up to be very captivating and entertaining. I don’t actually listen to/read a lot of horror and don’t very often pick short stories, so this was quite a change for me. Perhaps because of that, I was only familiar with one of the authors, The Behrg. But since finishing this I had to check out the work of some of the others because I was impressed by their stories.
The marketing blurb for this is actually true for once. These are truly hardcore, extreme stories that disregard taboos and boundaries. I’m not very squeamish and tend to enjoy dark and graphic stories but some of these actually had me screaming “yuck” and “gross” repeatedly. However, they weren’t as scary and creepy as I was expecting them to be but instead with a much stronger focus on sex than I had anticipated. So be warned, while I would wholeheartedly recommend this collection, it definitely isn’t for everyone.
Nonetheless, some of the stories are quite subtle and leave you time for a breather. There is a good range of different themes covered. From serial killers to supernatural occurrences, from strong females and weak priests to zombies, there is a lot of variety. Out of the 19 stories, I can honestly say there were only maybe two that I didn’t particularly care for. One of the GG Allin stories? Maybe it’s because I’m a mother, but I was glad to get to the end of that one!
The really strong point for me was that all the stories made you feel something, and I don’t just mean the obvious terror or disgust. Monica J. O'Rourke’s “Exposed” about a woman hunting down child abductors packed a powerful emotional punch. Considering these were short stories, the characters were surprisingly well developed. It wasn’t short of humor either. Jeff Strand’s “Awakening” had me laughing out loud, and “The Most Important Miracle” by Scott Emerson was pretty funny, too.

The entire anthology is narrated by Joe Hempel and he does a great job. His normal narrating voice was smooth and pleasant to listen to with great pacing, and when he voiced the different characters he used the right amount of acting, different accents, and tones to make this into a vivid, consistent and engaging performance. The production was faultless.

Story: 4 stars. Narration: 5 stars.
Audiobook provided for review by the audiobookreviewer.com
Profile Image for Daniela.
81 reviews
July 5, 2016
Seriously, it starts off slightly weird then it escalates until it truly is hardcore; not necessarily because of the gore, but mostly because of the characters and the situations and emotions described. There is not a single bad story here; you will enjoy some more than others, obviously, but you won't dislike any story. You just cannot, they're way too good and the writing is unexpectedly good. This was an amazing surprise and I enjoyed every page of this anthology. I'll be checking on some of the authors for sure.
The highlights, for me, were: Awakening, What's Worst, Dead End, Eleanor, The Most Important Miracle, and Hungry For Control. But they were all good, these were just amazing. Go read this weird book, have a glass of wine and praise the almighty God of Breakfast!!!!
Profile Image for David Dubrow.
Author 15 books9 followers
June 24, 2016
Taking the title of Comet Press’s anthology Year’s Best Hardcore Horror Volume 1 at face value rather than a product of the editors’ preferences is a disquieting proposition, but we’ll go with it. There’s a great deal to be learned about the horror genre as it stands today from this collection, some of it good, some of it dismaying.

The three stories written by women all involve female protagonists making male characters helpless and doing unspeakable things to them. Lilith Morgan’s What You Wish For adds a supernatural element to advance this motif, when a young man meets an apparently innocent young woman on the New York subway, and sexual hijinks with knives and blood ensue. Exposed by Monica J O’Rourke tells the story of a woman torturing a kidnapper of young girls. Clare de Lune’s Hungry for Control takes us to the zombie apocalypse, where a bisexual woman finds (and ties up) the abusive cop she had been sleeping with before zombies destroyed civilization. That these three stories share the same theme is not accidental, but it must be left to the reader to draw any conclusions.

Masculinity, femininity, and sexual politics are addressed by some of the other authors in the collection. In Kristopher Triana’s Dead End, a serial killer of women is called a misogynist, as though such a label is at least as bad as killing women and leaving their bodies in the desert. Jorge Palacios’s Bath Salt Fetus judges Puerto Rico as “a hellhole seething with Catholic guilt, a judgmental attitude, and unfiltered sexism.” In it, a young woman’s self-aborted baby turns into the late punk rocker GG Allin: someone tough, strong, and who takes no shit (in fact, he eats some). The same GG Allin transmogrifies into a suburban husband and father in MP Johnson’s Bored With Brutality, but it’s an uneasy transformation, made more so when Allin’s true nature must emerge to deal with an external threat. There are, it seems, no more recently dead degenerates to resurrect as male power figures. In furtherance of this masculinity deficit, the hapless, foolish protagonist Gordy in Pete Kahle’s Where the Sun Don’t Shine is described as, “the typical American white male,” a disparaging description meant to tell you everything you need to know, and not just about Gordy.

Issues of faith also get a workout. The Behrg’s Reborn involves an ineffectual Catholic priest unable to deal with true evil entering his church. Jason Parent’s Eleanor also involves an ineffectual Catholic priest, along with said priest’s unusual and grotesque ward. Both of these priests do like the ladies, however, a welcome departure from today’s brave, shocking, and hackneyed portrayals of Catholic clergy as homosexual pedophiles. To round out the trinity, so to speak, Scott Emerson’s The Most Important Miracle posits a bizarre form of worship and a disturbing, if delicious god to be sacrificed.

The stand-outs in the collection include Michael Paul Gonzalez’s Worth the Having, where disturbing, generational bargains are struck; and Adam Howe’s Cleanup on Aisle 3, a hilarious (and sickening) story of a convenience store stickup. Adam Cesare’s Readings off the Charts is a fun piece that keeps you guessing, though it’s a bit less hardcore compared to the other stories. Blackbird Lullaby by George Cotronis shows us the unfortunate members of a club you don’t want to be part of, and Tony Knighton’s The Scavengers deals with mercenaries, natives, and a terrible tribal revenge.

In just about every short story collection you’ll encounter there are going to be stories you like, some you don’t, and others you skip through. Pleasantly, in Year’s Best Hardcore Horror Volume 1, the highs elevate the anthology far more than the lows drag it down. There’s imagery in here to turn even the most seasoned stomach (heh). Horror, as a genre, isn’t what it used to be, and whether you embrace the change or not, I’m sure you’ll find at least a few stories in this anthology worthy of your attention.
Profile Image for Nathan Robinson.
Author 46 books68 followers
November 14, 2016
Okay, there a few stories in this that made me think WTF. So I knew what I was getting into with a title that includes Hardcore and Horror. There are definitely some “out there” stories in this, but the mix is good. It’s not all dead babies and pints of fecal matter. So I’ve dived in and picked the highlights.

“Worth The Having” by Michael Paul Gonzalez is a fantastic opener to this collection. It’s old school, be careful what you wish for, spooky horror, with a little bit of blood to lubricate the way.
Jeff Strand lightens the mood with “Awakening”, with perhaps one of the funniest tales, as a psychotic killer suddenly realizes he may, in fact, be a psychotic killer.
“Readings Off The Charts” by Adam Cesare, is one of the less extreme stories, but it has a nice, Hitchcockian build up, as a guy will do what he can to get inside the pants of an Extreme Ghostbuster.
“Reborn” by The Behrg. Be wary of what you find on your doorstep, as a group of Catholics discover one dark and stormy yet. Sometimes, children aren’t the sweetest things.
“What’s Worst” by David James Keaton. Well written but completely fucked up. This guy need helps. I don’t even want to talk about it.
“Dead End” by Kristopher Triana, The Twilight Zone for the bizarro generation as a murderer finds himself on a familiar road as he disposes of his latest victim. Interesting take on a familiar premise.
“What You Wish For” by Lilith Morgan, takes a couple who meet by chance on the train, and lets loose their wildest sexual fantasies upon one another. Which begs the question; is this what women are into nowadays? A fantastic and intense ride which tortures the reader until the ending.
“King Shits” by Charles Austin Muir, A trucker deals justice to bullies. Bloody, bloody justice.
“Cleanup On Aisle 3” by Adam Howe, in an out of the way convenience store, a battle of wits and bullets shapes up between a shop keeper and his latest robber. Tarantino would approve of the fantastic over the top-ness of this balls to the wall shoot-em-up.
“Bath Salt Fetus” by Jorge Palacios. I never got into GG Alin. This makes me not want to. Extreme, funny and sick. I felt like I wanted a have a very hot bath afterwards. Do not read if you’re with child, know anyone who is with child, or was once a child yourself.
“Bored With Brutality” by MP Johnson, Bizarro tale in which GG Alin (again) gives up on the extreme life and decides to settle down in Normalville, suburbia. What could go wrong?
“Exposed” by Monica J. O’Rourke, who’s the villain? Those who commit the crime, or those that seek dire vengeance? This story asks this question of how far are you willing to go to right a wrong, with a surprising twist.
“Eleanor” by Jason Parent, Religious guilt-a-plenty as a priest discovers a young female on his doorstep, who he decides to adopt and raise as his own. But what happens when she grows up and their attachment becomes stronger than ever?
“The Scavengers” by Tony Knighton, a brilliant little adventurous tale about poachers in the African bush who deal with back-stabbing and worse as their plans turn sour. Ivory noir as the darkness brings teeth, reminding the reader to never fuck with the natives.
“The Most Important Miracle” by Scott Emerson. Things suddenly turn psychotic in a diner for one fry cook as he descends into deliberate madness, or is it much worse, is it real?
“Hungry For Control” by Clare de Lune, explores sexual revenge and bad feelings continue for a young woman who seeks vengeance on the man who used her sexually before the apocalypse. But now she won’t even let the end of the world get in the way of serving her comeuppance.
“Clarissa” by Robert Essig & Jack Bantry, brings us a fucked up Fritzl-a-like case of a young girl entrapped in a basement, who dutifully plans her escape from her captor, but the plot soon thickens thicker than blood.
“Where The Sun Don’t Shine” by Pete Kahle is a wonderful monster mash told in two alternating parts as a camping trip goes very wrong for four friends. The viewpoints told from before the tragedy and the resulting aftermath, makes this two stories in one.

“Blackbird Lullaby” by George Cotronis. An unlikely gothic romance sprouts up from a grisly support group, the tale is delightfully macabre as it treats gore and severe injuries as nothing more than a casual annoyance as the couple are devoured piece by piece by their demons.

Profile Image for Kim BookJunkie ~ Editor & Proofreader.
1,890 reviews56 followers
August 11, 2016
STORIES: 3 stars
OVERALL: 4 stars

The majority of the stories in this anthology were exceptionally well written. Most contained eloquence and graphic detail that led to a sense of believability despite how unrealistic the paranormal entity and it's bizarre behaviors were. For totally fantastical tales of things that can and will never happen in real life to be written so well that they were somewhat believable says a lot about the talented authors who contributed to this collection. I was entertained most of the time, often finding myself squirming and saying, "ewe" and, "gross" while listening to this audiobook (which I received free from the narrator in exchange for an honest review). If only the endings of the stories were as great...

I don't care much for anthologies and this compilation is the perfect example of why that is true. The majority of the stories contained in this audiobook were captivating and entertaining.....until they reached their end. I became totally immersed in almost every story in this audiobook only to be shocked (and very frustrated) when the story ended in a totally anti-climactic way. More often than not, I would be on the edge of my seat, loving the story one moment then unexpectedly crestfallen upon realizing that the story had ended. I kept listening to one story after another, experiencing the same disappointment over and over.

I felt that the editors could've done a better job as far as where they placed each of the stories. One time I had to doublecheck to see if a new story had begun; apparently the editors didn't think it would be problematic to place two different stories about GG Allen back to back??? The editors also chose to place two different stories referring to hiding glass in food back to back. Perhaps they didn't realize they'd done this or maybe they did do it intentionally; regardless of why they placed these stories after one another, it was annoying and confusing.

Mr. Hempel is a +++++5 star performer! Despite having to read multiple stories comprised of various characters and scenarios, he rose to the challenge and thoroughly succeeded! Regardless of the story he was reading, Hempel was consistently able to adjust his tone, volume, etc., always finding just the right level to suit each situation. He spoke with a smooth, even keeled tone of voice when needed and wasn't afraid to get creative when appropriate. I loved how he occasionally used a more theatrical voice or and accent, improving the level of entertainment while also helping us listeners differentiate between characters. Whatever voice he used, it always sounded believable and flowed seamlessly regardless of whether he was reading mellow narrative or squealing like a psychotic female character! Hempel is truly an outstanding narrator! If you're new to recording audiobooks, he's who I'd recommend emulating!
Profile Image for Shane.
Author 10 books71 followers
August 8, 2016
Every single thing about this book is embarrassing.

The amateurish stories, the attempts at being "edge" that come across trite and awkward, and especially the fact that stories that lack any depth other than sexual violence against women make them "cutting edge." This is one of the most poorly put together volumes I have ever read, and compared to all the other more "conventional" 'best of' collections for horror, the stories in this feel like cliched retreads of tired horror themes from a crowd that doesn't seem to know what quality looks like.

Stack this on top of an introduction that is offensive, with racial dogwhistle language, and filled with attempts at metaphor and callbacks to G.G. Allen. Yeah, now that's what I call iconoclastic, it couldn't be just that alienated suburban dropouts wanted to indulge their sexist urges and masturbatory fantasies, seeing sex and violence as one in the same.

There are a lot of people that seem to think that responses like mine are because I am too conservative, too old, and have a "faint heart." This is insane given the fact that actual horror stories can be filled with the most brutal things imaginable, and this volume is actually relatively light on the detailed violence. Instead it is heavy on embarrassing attempts to stand out as anything other than fan fiction level attempts at acting out violence.

Clarissa is especially like this, and one that lacks in purpose so completely that the only inspiration would have to be to watch a young women brutalize and to indulge incestual obsessions.

It should also be noted that many of the glowing reviews on Goodreads and Amazon were purchased by the publisher in the form of free books, so that is even more shameful.
Profile Image for William M..
569 reviews57 followers
March 30, 2019
While I was expecting and hoping for more "hardcore" entries, this was a solid and overall satisfying anthology. When I review horror short stories, I look at originality, character development, story, atmosphere, how scary it was, and whether the word count merited the impact. In general, a five page story that can achieve the same effect as a thirty page story is a superior tale. The true highlights in this volume were "Worth The Having" by Michael Paul Gonzalez, "Reborn" by The Behrg, "Eleanor" by Jason Parent, and "The Scavengers" by Tony Knighton, with strong honorable mentions written by Jeff Strand, Kristopher Triana, Adam Howe, Monica J. O'Rourke, Pete Kahle, and George Cotronis. Volume one is easily strong enough for me to pick up the next in the series, but I do hope that editors Randy Chandler and Cheryl Mullenax push the envelope a little further in this "hardcore" anthology.
Profile Image for Justin.
362 reviews46 followers
May 3, 2017
A solid collection of stories. i enjoyed every one but they're where a couple that I loved enough to add the authors to my tbr. I wouldn't really call most of these hardcore horror though, a few where comedic (Jeff strands being the best one) a few where certainly hardcore as far as shock value but they just weren't what I would consider horror, just violence that isn't written in a scary or ominous way at all and mostly told from the point of the killer, or some brutal tourture/rapes There is the dead baby joke story that was not really a story at all, just a guy telling dead baby jokes. I am familiar with gg Allen (though not a fan) so I knew enough to get those stories (I liked the joke about the baby looked mostly Like a normal baby just with a smaller penis) but unless your a fan of his music you probably won't really enjoy those stories, I couldn't help but wonder if maybe a fan anthology series was started and they couldn't get enough stories so they threw them in this collection. Sorry but they just didn't really fit. The best stories where,
"Worth the Having" by Michael Paul Gonzalez what you wish for by Lilith Morgan, eleanor by Jason parent (this was my second story by him and I will be buying one of his novels soon) and where the sun don't shine by Pete kahle.

It was wonderfully narrated.
Profile Image for Daniel.
92 reviews41 followers
October 7, 2018
If you pick up a collection boldly entitled „Year‘s Best Hardcore Horror“ I guess it is a reasonable expectation, that the stories contained within go one step further than the usual stuff found in other anthologies of the genre.

I am not necessarily talking about further in terms of over the top violence and gore ala Edward Lee and his likes but also in terms of psychological boundaries being pushed or conventions broken. Unfortunately two thirds of the stories in this anthology do nothing to set them apart from the general horror fare that can be found in other selections as well and most of the ones that do indeed go down a more „hardcore“ path tend to have little to no justification for doing so and just tend to rely on the shock value instead of embedding the hardcore elements into a decent story. A noteworthy exception however is Michael Paul Gonzalez‘ wonderfully dark opener that manages to balance things very well without having the hardcore stuff come across as self-serving. I wish Chandler and Mullenax had turned up more stuff of this caliber.

All of this however does not necessarily make this a bad anthology. Actually it is pretty solid but not great, although it has a few pretty good stories in it. However some of them are a pretty far cry from being anything remotely hardcore.

To make a long story short: Criticism for not really doing what it says on the tin aside this is an enjoyable first entry in a series that I will definitely continue to follow for the foreseeable future, hoping that Chandler and Mullenax can up their game with the next one.

But for now, let‘s take a closer look at the stories in particular:

**** Worth The Having by Michael Paul Gonzalez
Gonzalez goes straight for the jugular with this but it is never self-serving and he clearly puts story first. Some of the scenes are painful as hell just by reading them and Gonzalez really managed to make a horror veteran like myself feel uncomfortable here and there. I was not too fond of the ending, but apart from that it is great opener.

***** The Awakening by Jeff Strand
Short, violent and hilarious. Jeff Strand nails it. Again.

** Readings Off The Charts by Adam Cesare
I consider Adam Cesare to be a pretty good writer and the first pages of this story show exactly why. With a few sentences he manages to introduce three diverse characters as well as an interesting dynamic between them. Unfortunately Cesare makes nothing out of this build-up and ends the story abruptly with a neither particularly surprising nor shocking ending. Sorry Adam, you can do better than this.

** Reborn by The Behrg
Pretty generic monster-baby-horror that goes nowhere and annoys the reader with its annex that adds nothing to the story at all.

*** What‘s Worst by David James Keaton
Weird and partially intriguing, especially towards the end. Unfortunately it tries a bit too hard to be edgy with the whole dead baby theme and the symbolism towards the end comes across slightly forced. Nevertheless Keaton shows that he is a talented author and one to keep on the radar.

**** Dead End by Kristopher Triana
Now this was a good one. Great characterization and a very well executed twist towards the end that you probably will not see coming.

*** What You Wish For by Lilith Morgan
This had so much potential in its initial idea but Morgan drags the story out way too long and disappoints with the banale ending. The fact that the two protagonists basically just accept the weird stuff happening to them without raising ANY question is a) not particularly believable and b) makes the premise feel more like a cheap plot device than an actual scenario. Wasted potential here for sure.

*** King Shits by Charles Austin Muir
I really don‘t know what to male of this. It has its moment but somehow it does not really add up to anything in the end.

** Clean-Up On Aisle 3 by Adam Howe
The premise of an armed robbery going horribly wrong as the shop owner fights back with overwhelming force is an interesting scenario but Howe does not really make anything particularly relevant out of it. Add to that some major logic holes (if the lights are off in the store, the windows are blocked by shutters and the owner runs around with night vision goggles in order to see, how the hell is the protagonist able to describe the scenery in vivid detail and constantly see the man hunting him? Stuff just like that kills the whole story for me as it ruins believability and seems just tremendously lazy from a writer‘s perspective.

* Bath Salt Fetus by Jorge Palacios
Plain stupid and has nothing to offer but an embarrassingly pretentious attempt of generating as much shock value as possible. You can stick a bizzarro sticker on it and claim it to be a bad taste joke but I am not offended but the violence or taboos attacked here, I am offended by the self-serving attitude behind it.

** Bored With Brutality by MP Johnson
Okay, what is it with GG Allin obsession in this collection? First we had the drug-wasted baby in the last story being a reincarnation of GG Allin, now he is even the main protagonist? Come on guys! Anyway, the story has some minor hilarious moments but the vocabulary is rather repetitive and the whole concept seemed rather forced to me.

*** Exposed by Monica J. O‘Rourke
Rourke was heading for a great twist there towards the end but then unfortunately weakened it by toning it down and not running further with it, leaving me somewhat confused and disappointed. Oh, and I could have lived with less torture porn in the first half as it does little to help the story and the character arc at the length it was portrayed.

**** Eleanor by Jason Parent
Very well written with a great eye for a person’s inner turmoils and the human condition in general. The real horror here lies in the human drama and the abysm between the two protagonists portrayed wonderfully by Parent who skillfully manages to bring this sad and disturbing, yet fragile tale to its horrific conclusion in the story‘s finale. Very nice effort!

** The Scavengers by Tony Knighton
Interesting setting (we follow a bunch of mercenaries trying to rob poachers of their ivory somewhere close to Angola) but generic storyline with cliché characters and a cheap analogy. By the way another story that begs the question what is supposed to be hardcore about this?

**** The Most Important Miracle by Scott Emerson
Short but sweet. Bizarre and mean. All hail the God of Breakfast! 😁

** Hungry For Control by Clare de Lune
Pair Zombies and BDSM (probably the two most boring literary trends at the moment) and you end up with this. It is neither edgy nor interesting but pretty much annoying in its attempt to be different.

Profile Image for Peter.
15 reviews2 followers
July 30, 2016
Gross, Disgusting, Sick --- but Cool !

This review is from: Year's Best Hardcore Horror, Volume 1 (Audible Audio Edition)

As anthologies go for hardcore horror, this is one of the better ones. Because of the intense subject matter, it's best if digested in small, bite-size (body) parts! Are all the stories killers? No, but the ratio of "OMG!" reactions to "meh" or "yawn" is very high. If you don't like taboo-breaking defilement of bodies (not dead, near-dead, or dead) and graphic, in-your-face descriptions of oozing or spewing bodily fluids in all forms, you best avoid this book. The narration is fine and never detracts from the stories. I look forward to Volume 2.
This audiobook was given to me for free by AudiobookBoom in exchange for an honest review. Bile [sic] the way, the gift did not effluence [sic] my opinions here in any way.
Profile Image for Scott.
10 reviews3 followers
December 1, 2018
I don't write spoilers, but this book is well worth the read but not for weak stomachs. :)
Profile Image for Teipu.
154 reviews8 followers
September 2, 2021
I get it. Pregnant women and babies are very vulnerable. I just wished horror authors would stop relying on them for shock value so much. In 19 stories, we have four dead babies (though one is a demon baby and rightly dead I guess) and two dead (formerly) pregnant women. And one tortured kid.

Other than that I really enjoyed reading most of the stories, if enjoyed is the right word because most of them were obviously rather disgusting. The anthology had a good selection of gut churning horror, some bizarro stories and short palate cleansers. I have to admit though that nothing was overly creepy, this horror mostly relied on shock and gore.

My stand outs were (in order of their appearance):
Awakening by Jeff Strand
King Shits by Charles Austin Muir (though the ending was confusing)
Clean Up On Aisle 3 by Adam Howe
Exposed by Monika J. O'Rourke
The Most Important Miracle by Scott Emerson
Blackbird Lullaby by George Cotronis

Women in Horror are unrepresented so here's the stats:
19 stories, 3 by female authors, 3 female main characters
Profile Image for Boris.
103 reviews
January 15, 2021
I consider myself a fan of the horror genre, and one that knows quite a lot about it, but this was my first encounter with the literary part of the hardcore subgenre. I must admit that it is not my cup of tea. Some stories were too gory and sickening for my taste. To me, most of them resemble fanfiction novels, with a few interesting ones to be sure. Of course, every genre has its fans, and I respect that hardcore has its audience, but I can't say that I've enjoyed it.
Profile Image for Dide.
1,216 reviews38 followers
May 16, 2021
3.5 star ratings
This is a mixture of horrific stories. Some are truly grotesque, morally horrific and of course others horrifically gruesome.
And as usual with anthologies, one finds favorites mixed with some ridiculous. Bottom line, it is lengthy and in more ways entertaining.
Profile Image for Annie.
355 reviews14 followers
July 11, 2020
While some of these stories did entertain me, I found myself indifferent or tired with most.
A lot of these added sex in the mix with gore/horror, and of course rape, sexism, ableist were part of the deal... so be warned. Anyway, I wouldn´t recommend this anthology. I think a good anthology should be more diverse because I could just sort them in two groups: those that happened in the dessert and those in the woods (with the sole exception of the one that was settled in Puerto Rico)... also most of these writers are men (a thing you could tell even if you didn´t know their names).

So the lesson I´m leaving with is that I should just read horror stories written by authors I know I like, and probably just give up with "best of the year" horror anthologies.

Now onto my impressions of each story:

"Worth the Having" by Michael Paul Gonzalez
So I might have underestimated the "hardcore" part of the title. But boy, this story immediately made sure to live up to the word. I didn´t like it but that does not mean it didn´t accomplish to give me goosebumps and made me gag.

"Awakening" by Jeff Strand
So this one tried to be "funny" but it just lost me.

"Readings Off The Charts" by Adam Cesare
So this cynic dude only goes along with the ghost hunting because he likes Trish... you guess it, I dislike him immediately. But I admit, I laughed at the ending.

"Reborn" by The Behrg
This one I liked. Very gory.

"What's Worst" by David James Keaton
Worst jokes ever... I was very amused.

"Dead End" by Kristopher Triana
Kind of liked the ending, but not fan of the psycho POV.

"What You Wish For" by Lilith Morgan
This is basically PWP.

"King Shits" by Charles Austin Muir
Well... not sure what I think about it.

"Cleanup On Aisle 3" by Adam Howe
... This one is my favourite so far.

"Bath Salt Fetus" by George Palacious
Very weird, but not really original.

"Bored With Brutality" by MP Johnson
This much senseless violence is just stale.

"Exposed" by Monica J. O'Rourke
Another that deserves the adjective ´hardcore´ and lets add the gore, because I don´t think the first story had as much as this one.

"Eleanor" by Jason Parent
what the hell? awful.

"The Scavengers" by Tony Knighton
Poetic justice?

"The Most Important Miracle" by Scott Emerson
Now this one is weird.

"Hungry For Control" by Clare de Lune
I though this was off to a good star but very quickly turned into a hetero power imbalance drama.

"Clarissa" by Robert Essig & Jack Bantry
Ugh no. didn´t bother to read it

"Where The Sun Don't Shine" by Pete Kahle
So this dude was like "I know a place" and guided his friends into a grub hell hole. ---SPOILER---At this point I´m not even surprised that the female worm raped the dude.

"Blackbird Lullaby" by George Cotronis
Eh, boring.
Profile Image for Michael.
Author 54 books60 followers
July 13, 2016
When it comes to hardcore horror or splatterpunk there are two distinct types. The first goes straight for the gross out without any thought to plot, and the second layers the gore into the story sort of like a literary cake. A lot of anthologies like this either lean too far to one side and favor the gore while sacrificing the plot which tends to alienate readers. Hardcore isn't just another anthology it's boastful and wants to be different. It wants people to feel comfortable in the fact that it's the best of the best. There may be anthologies like it, but this one far different. It's a valiant effort and for the most part it just falls a little short in places. A lot of anthologies sometimes do. It's not because of the writers and more the editors trying to fit in different styles that cater to a wider audience of readers.

To be fair there is a lot to like about The Year's Best Hardcore horror. There are some really talented writers here that really are the best. Not just the best of the year, but of all time. They bring something interesting to the table and as shocking or as different as they may be they really elevate the boasts of the anthology. Monica J O'Rourke is one such writer. that takes the feeling of loss, and helplessness and puts one hell of a spin on it. It's a shocking story not because of the gore but the twist at the end. This is what I look for in my splatterpunk. I want the gore, I want the violence, but I also want a great story and Exposed truly delivers. You also have guys like Robert Essig And Jack Bantry, Scott Emerson, Jeff Strand, David James Keaton, and Lilith Morgan that truly keep this anthology from falling apart. It's not that any of the stories were bad, they just weren't my style.

If you're a fan of horror and looking for something extreme this is a decent collection to check out. There are quite a few gems here that make it a good solid read and shows that splatterpunk is still going strong. It makes a bold claim but only sort of delivers. It happens in books like these. When Volume 2 rolls out I'll definitely check it out because it's great exposure for writers waiting to be discovered and for those that are just on the brink of breaking out. The Year's Best Hardcore Horror comes close being perfect but it just falls a little flat in places.
Profile Image for Andre.
121 reviews6 followers
August 15, 2016
"This audiobook was provided by the author, narrator, or publisher at no cost in exchange for an unbiased review courtesy of Audiobook Blast."

This is great collection of hardcore horror stories. There's something to satisfy pretty much anyone who loves horror. Here were my personal favourites:
"Where The Sun Don't Shine" by Pete Kahle was a really good creature feature.
"Awakening" by Jeff Strand. I love pretty much everything Jeff Strand writes.
"Dead End" by Kristopher Triana. A nice unexpected twist on the serial killer theme.
"What You Wish For" by Lilith Morgan. This was so weird yet I couldn't stop listening.
"Eleanor" by Jason Parent was one of my top three, a very good tale.
"Clarissa" by Robert Essig & Jack Bantry was scary as hell and was quite believable. There are only two I really didn't care for, but it was mostly because they weren't to my taste and not because they were bad.
I was slightly anxious at first because I half expected to be immersed in mindless gore and torture for shock value, but these short stories turned out to be well written and quite entertaining. And it made me want to read more from the authors which stories I liked, so good job guys.
I highly recommend you give this one a listen, the narration was top.
Profile Image for ♥ Marlene♥ .
1,687 reviews130 followers
January 19, 2020
Damn. This happens when I do not review the books i've read immediately.Now I do not even remember if I liked it. (A little more than a week ago.My memory is getting so bad)

Okay Let me look at my kindle and scroll through the chapters.

I liked Worth The Having by Michael Paul Gonzales. Scary and disgusting and in this case that was a good combo. :)

Awakening by Jeff Strand Is just not for me. I want to be sacred or at least a little bit anxious but this was a dark humour story and I am known for my gallow humour but nah. Sorry just not my cup of tea.

Readings of the Charts byAdam Cesare was a story with a little twist. I liked it.

Reborn by By The Berg was great.

What you Wish For by Lilith Morgan is one story that not even I will forget quickly. Crazy story. Enjoyed.

Then we have another outstanding story
Clean Up on Aisle 3 by Adam Howe You think karma is a bitch but in this story karma is hell on wheels Loved it
There were more good stories.
Enjoyed Volume 1
Profile Image for Hannah Stoutenburg.
170 reviews10 followers
Shelved as 'put-aside'
November 19, 2018
Putting a list here as a reminder for myself. Hate when there's anthologies with a few stories I like but I can never remember which ones or if the physical book is worth adding to the collection for their sake.

Not a fan of the narrator. He has one inflection.

1. Worth the Having/Havoc (audiobook, can't tell): Bored, skipped.
2. Awakening: I think that was a comedy? It was almost insultingly bad. Would have skipped but it was polite enough to only be about 9 minutes long so that's nice.
3. Readings' off the Chart: Guy's voice is droning a bit so let's try a different chapter, shall we?
4. Reborn (reviewer Char liked it so if it still doesn't work for me, I give up on the audiobook): BORED. Hopefully an effect of the narrator. Let's shelve this one.

"I used to believe in God. Then I believed in the devil. Now I laugh at both and only believe in evil."

Wow, dude. Edgy af.
Profile Image for Amy Jesionowski.
150 reviews10 followers
September 6, 2016
The title of this anthology should have been Year's Best Gore for Gore's Sake Volume 1. I love horror and dark fiction. But, with the exception of three of the stories (which were actually decent and had a story and rationale behind the violence, and they are why I gave this book 2 stars instead of 1, as on their own they would have been a solid 3.5 stars), it seemed the only motivation was to out-gross the other authors. I mean, really, I can handle the violence and gore when it serves as a vehicle to further the story, but I felt like the authors were just stringing together the grossest most disgusting words they could think of to try to get a reaction out of the audience (which, at least for this reader, they did not).
Profile Image for Carrie.
236 reviews4 followers
September 11, 2016
Sadly, I did not care for this book. The stories were not scary or even creepy, really. I love scary. The scarier, the better, but these were just weird. To be honest, I kind of checked out at the dead baby story. The one thing I thought was good was the humor in the stories. I think it was too much of a weird mix though. It either should have gone down a dark comedy path or left the humor out.

Joe Hempel is wonderful and did well with the material he had.

This audiobook was provided by the author, narrator, or publisher at no cost in exchange for an unbiased review courtesy of AudiobookBoom.
Profile Image for Kristen Edgar.
131 reviews9 followers
September 7, 2016
“This audiobook was given by the author, narrator, or publisher at no cost in exchange for an unbiased review via Audiobook Boom.”

I loved this collection. "What You Wish For" by Lilith Morgan was my favorite.
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