The essential collection of beloved ghost stories, compiled by the editor who helped define the genre—including stories from award-winning, bestselling authors such as Joyce Carol Oates, Alice Hoffman, Seanan McGuire, and Paul Tremblay.
Everyone loves a good ghost story, especially Ellen Datlow—the most lauded editor in short works of supernatural suspense and dark fantasy. The Saga Anthology of Ghost Stories is her definitive collection of ghost stories.
These thirty stories, including all new works from New York Times bestselling authors Joyce Carol Oates, Alice Hoffman, Seanan McGuire, and Paul Tremblay, span from the traditional to the eclectic, from the mainstream to the literary, from pure fantasy to the bizarrely supernatural. Whether you’re reading alone under the covers with a flashlight, or around a campfire with a circle of friends, there’s something here to please—and spook—everyone.
Table of Contents “Introduction” Ellen Datlow “Ice Cold Lemondade 25¢ Haunted House Tour: 1 Per Person” Paul Tremblay “Linger Longer” Vincent J. Masterson “Whimper Beg” Lee Thomas “The July Girls” Alison Littlewood “About the O’Dells” Pat Cadigan “A Hinterlands Haunting” Richard Kadrey “The Number of Things You Remember” M. L. Siemienowirz ”Must Be This Tall To Ride” Seanan Mcguire “The Surviving Child” Joyce Carol Oates “The Medium’s End” Ford Madox Ford “A Shade of Dusk Indrapramit Das “Icarus Rising” Richard Bowes “The Puppet Motel Gemma Files “Air Valve Semilunar Astern” Nick Mamatas “The Unwrapping” Terry Dowloing “The Upper Berth” F. Marion Crawford “A Burning Sword for Her Cradle” Aliette De Bollard “Precipice” Dale Bailey “The Shooter” M. Rickert “The Tree of Self-Knowledge” Stephen Graham Jones “The Other Woman” Alice Hoffman “The Loneliness of Not Being Haunted” Bracken Macleod “Mee-Ow” Garth Nix “Jasper Dodd’s Handbook of Spirits and Manifestations” Nathan Ballingrud “His Haunting” Brian Evenson “The Jeweled Wren” Jeffrey Ford “The Air, The Ocean, The Earth, The Deep” Siobhan Carroll “The Ghost Sequences” A.C. Wise “Deep, Fast, Green” Carole Johnstone “Natalya, Queen of the Hungry Dogs” John Langan
Ellen Datlow has been editing science fiction, fantasy, and horror short fiction for forty years as fiction editor of OMNI Magazine and editor of Event Horizon and SCIFICTION. She currently acquires short stories and novellas for Tor.com. In addition, she has edited about one hundred science fiction, fantasy, and horror anthologies, including the annual The Best Horror of the Year series, The Doll Collection, Mad Hatters and March Hares, The Devil and the Deep: Horror Stories of the Sea, Echoes: The Saga Anthology of Ghost Stories, Edited By, and Final Cuts: New Tales of Hollywood Horror and Other Spectacles. She's won multiple World Fantasy Awards, Locus Awards, Hugo Awards, Bram Stoker Awards, International Horror Guild Awards, Shirley Jackson Awards, and the 2012 Il Posto Nero Black Spot Award for Excellence as Best Foreign Editor. Datlow was named recipient of the 2007 Karl Edward Wagner Award, given at the British Fantasy Convention for "outstanding contribution to the genre," was honored with the Life Achievement Award by the Horror Writers Association, in acknowledgment of superior achievement over an entire career, and honored with the World Fantasy Life Achievement Award at the 2014 World Fantasy Convention.
Echoes: The Saga Anthology of Ghost Stories by Ellen Datlow is a 2019 a Gallery / Saga Press publication.
Halloween is just around the corner and of course it’s this time of the year when I usually find myself in the mood for a good old- fashioned ghost story. Yet, a good ghost story is hard to find sometimes. So, when I found this anthology in my cloud library, I checked it out on the spot.
I was even more excited by the introduction, in which famed anthology editor, Ellen Datlow, commiserated with those of us who are often disappointed by ‘ghost story’ compilations, which later turn out to be a catchall for anything that might fall into the realm of horror or the paranormal, but aren't exactly what one would call an authentic ghost story.
So, I eagerly dived in, only to find that once again, a fair amount of these short stories, aren’t ghost stories, as I might define them. However, nearly all of them are weird tales or atmospheric mind-benders.
I am not familiar with all the participating authors, but regular readers of horror novels might be.
Paul Trembly gets the ball rolling, but other familiar names like Alice Hoffman and Joyce Carol Oates also contribute solid stories to this collection.
“Must be This Tall to Ride” by Seanan McGuire is one of the shortest stories included but is one of the best. Something about carnivals are always spooky!
The July Girls felt like more of a traditional ghost tale- which are my favorites, if I’m being honest. I also enjoyed “The Other Woman” by Alice Hoffman.
As with many anthologies, especially compilations as large as this one, there are a few stories that left me scratching my head in confusion, or seemed to end too abruptly. However, most are contemporary, imaginative, and several were truly eerie, providing the chills and thrills a good ghost story should.
If you are looking for a few supernatural flavored stories that you haven’t read or heard a thousand times before, this collection of original stories is one you’ll want to add to your Halloween reading list!!
xii - Introduction by Ellen Datlow 001 - “Ice Cold Lemonade 25ȼ Haunted House Tour: 1 Per Person” by Paul Tremblay 029 - “Linger Longer” by Vincent J. Masterson 053 - “Whimper Beg” by Lee Thomas 085 - “The July Girls” by Alison Littlewood 107 - “About the O’Dells” by Pat Cadigan 141 - “A Hinterlands Haunting” by Richard Kadrey 155 - “The Number of Things You Remember” by M. L. Siemienowicz 181 - “Must Be This Tall” by Seanan McGuire 191 - “The Surviving Child” by Joyce Carol Oates 247 - “The Medium’s End” by Ford Madox Ford 256 - “A Shade of Dusk” by Indrapramit Das 286 - “Icarus Rising” by Richard Bowes 300 - “The Puppet Motel” by Gemma Files 340 - “Air Valve Semilunar Astern” by Nick Mamatas 348 - “The Unwrapping” by Terry Dowling 376 - “The Upper Berth” by F. Marion Crawford 403 - “A Burning Sword for Her Cradle” by Aliette de Bodard 428 “Precipice” by Dale Bailey 457 - “The Shooter” by M. Rickert 468 - “The Tree of Self-Knowledge” by Stephen Graham Jones 500 - “The Other Woman” by Alice Hoffman 505 - “The Loneliness of Not Being Haunted” by Bracken MacLeod 525 - “Mee-Ow” by Garth Nix 542 - “Jasper Dodd’s Handbook of Spirits and Manifestations” by Nathan Ballingrud 576“His Haunting” Brian Evenson 588 - “The Jeweled Wren” by Jeffrey Ford 608 - “The Air, the Ocean, the Earth, the Deep” by Siobhan Carroll 627 - “The Ghost Sequences” A. C. Wise 653 - “Deep, Fast, Green” by Carole Johnstone 682 - “Natalia, Queen of the Hungry Dogs” by John Langan 783 - About the Contributors
Ellen Datlow is one of the most reliable anthology editors working today - with a great focus on variety and storytelling, her anthologies have something for every reader. As with every collection of stories, that does mean that not every story will work for every reader, but most will find a good number to enjoy here.
For me, this time, there were very few misses and a couple of big hits. With the misses, there weren't any stories I'd say I didn't enjoy reading - but the endings let them down. Almost all of my misses had a kind of a "Lost" arc; very mysterious and intriguing beginning, decent storytelling throughout that kept me hooked, then an ending that just couldn't bring the loose ends together and so just sort of...stopped.
The hits though, were pretty damn great - Natalya, Queen of the Hungry Dogs, by John Langan, is a very different take on a life long haunting, and a truly perfect story to close out the collection. About the O'Dells, by Pat Cadigan, was an unexpectedly delicious little morself of revenge, and didn't let things creep into being black and white, good and bad - instead keeping everything in shades of grey and doing so masterfully. And finally, The Puppet Motel by Gemma Files, had me so creeped out and on edge that I vowed (for the bajillionth time) to stop reading ghost stories when I can't sleep. It's my first from her and definitely won't be my last if I have my way.
Overall, another solid collection, and definitely one that most readers should be able to find some spooky satisfaction in.
I averaged the stars from all the stories and got 3.333, so I'll give this book 3 stars overall ("I liked the book"). And I did like it! I always like Datlow's anthologies. This one contained a few gems, but nothing that absolutely blew me away. The standouts for me were stories by Alison Littlewood, Gemma Files, Carole Johnstone, and John Langan.
This anthology contains 30 diverse ghost stories and makes a great October read. Below are quick ratings for each story:
“Ice Cold Lemonade 25ȼ Haunted House Tour: 1 Per Person,” by Paul Tremblay. 3 stars. “Linger Longer,” by Vincent J. Masterson. 3 stars. “Whimper Beg,” by Lee Thomas. 3 stars. “The July Girls,” by Alison Littlewood. 4 stars. A story about grief and loss, with a creepy, twisted ending that I quite liked. “About the O’Dells,” by Pat Cadigan. 4 stars. The narrator's voice made this story stand out. A gruesome topic (domestic violence) with ghostly revenge. “A Hinterlands Haunting,” by Richard Kadrey. 3 stars. “The Number of Things You Remember,” by M. L. Siemienowicz. 2 stars. “Must Be This Tall to Ride,” by Seanan McGuire. 2 stars. “The Surviving Child,” by Joyce Carol Oates. 3 stars. “The Medium’s End,” by Ford Madox Ford. 3 stars. “A Shade of Dusk,” by Indrapramit Das. 3 stars. “Icarus Rising,” by Richard Bowes. 4 stars. I liked this tale of a vengeful ghost--but not the type of vengeance we usually see in ghost stories. Neat ghost lore. “The Puppet Motel,” by Gemma Files. 4 stars. I almost always like Gemma Files. This story, of a place that's haunted or just "wrong," isn't a typical haunting, but it was spooky. “Air Valve Semilunar Astern,” by Nick Mamatas. 2 stars. “The Unwrapping,” by Terry Dowling. 4 stars. Cool story about a mummy. “The Upper Berth,” by F. Marion Crawford. 4 stars. A "traditional" ghost story set in a ship. Spooky! “A Burning Sword for Her Cradle,” by Aliette de Bodard. 2 stars. “Precipice,” by Dale Bailey. 3 stars. “The Shooter,” by M. Rickert. 3 stars, but nearly 4. Most of the story was too surreal for me, but the last few paragraphs really pack a punch. “The Tree of Self-Knowledge,” by Stephen Graham Jones. 4 stars. Another more "traditional" ghost story, about being haunted by what could have happened. “The Other Woman,” by Alice Hoffman. 3 stars. “The Loneliness of Not Being Haunted,” by Bracken MacLeod. 4 stars. Very pensive. “Mee-Ow,” by Garth Nix. 4 stars. Short and simple, but effective. “Jasper Dodd’s Handbook of Spirits and Manifestations,” by Nathan Ballingrud. 4 stars. Wow, what a sad story. “His Haunting,” by Brian Evenson. 4 stars. Another simple but creepy story. “The Jeweled Wren,” by Jeffrey Ford. 4 stars. I love the retired (or almost) couple as protagonists. “The Air, the Ocean, the Earth, the Deep,” by Siobhan Carroll. 3 stars. “The Ghost Sequences,” by A. C. Wise. 3 stars. At first, this was one of my favorite stories, but the ending was too abrupt for me. I also wanted more characterization. “Deep, Fast, Green,” by Carole Johnstone. 4 stars. About how tragedy is passed through generations--through people and places. “Natalia, Queen of the Hungry Dogs,” by John Langan. 4 stars. Once again, the John Langan story (novella?) at the end of a compilation is my favorite.
I received this review copy from the publisher on NetGalley. Thanks for the opportunity to read and review; I appreciate it!
I didn't read every story - I picked out the ones by authors I already know I like. I did try a few by unfamiliar authors but mostly ended up not finishing them. So, maybe a weighted rating!
“Ice Cold Lemonade 25ȼ Haunted House Tour: 1 Per Person” by Paul Tremblay “About the O’Dells” by Pat Cadigan (DNF, although I'm sure I liked some other stories by this author) “A Hinterlands Haunting” by Richard Kadrey “The Medium’s End” by Ford Madox Ford “A Shade of Dusk” by Indrapramit Das “The Puppet Motel” by Gemma Files “Air Valve Semilunar Astern” by Nick Mamatas “The Unwrapping” by Terry Dowling (Possibly now tied with "Downloading" for favorite Dowling story) “The Upper Berth” by F. Marion Crawford. I'd read this before so I only skimmed to remind myself. “A Burning Sword for Her Cradle” by Aliette de Bodard “The Shooter” by M. Rickert “The Tree of Self-Knowledge” by Stephen Graham Jones “The Other Woman” by Alice Hoffman “The Loneliness of Not Being Haunted” by Bracken MacLeod “Mee-Ow” by Garth Nix “Jasper Dodd’s Handbook of Spirits and Manifestations” by Nathan Ballingrud “His Haunting” Brian Evenson “The Jeweled Wren” by Jeffrey Ford “The Ghost Sequences” A. C. Wise
I love ghost stories! One of my favorite fall pastimes is to sit out on my porch after sunset and read ghostly tales on my ipad for awhile. The woods across the street and quietness of our neighborhood just lend a great atmosphere to a bit of horror. Even though it isn't quite fall yet, I pushed the season this year and started my porch reading early. Cup of coffee. Neighbor's cat. Awesome book of ghost stories. Perfect!
Ellen Datlow collected 30 stories for Echoes. This collection of stories is varied and outstanding! Some of the author's names I recognized (Joyce Carol Oates, Alice Hoffman) and others were new to me (John Langan, A.C. Wise). I'm not going to include a long list of all the writers who contributed to the anthology. But I will say that there was not a single story that I didn't enjoy. I savored this collection, only reading one or two stories a night. And I'm buying a copy for my keeper shelf. I will enjoy re-reading this anthology! My favorite? The Tree of Self-Knowledge by Stephen Graham Jones. But all the stores are good!
This is the first story collection edited by Datlow that I've read. I'm so glad I did because not only were the stories good....but I have significantly added to my TBR list! Datlow has edited so many story collections (and my library offers many of them on its digital site!) that I will be kept in awesome short fantasy, science fiction, and horror for a long time! Woot!!
Awesome collection! Full stars from me! :)
**I voluntarily read a review copy of this story anthology from Saga Press via NetGalley. All opinions expressed are entirely my own.**
When I read horror collections, I like to think about what kind of anxiety they're expressing. This is a 2019 book; three of the stories are historical reprints chosen by the editors, and the rest were commissioned for this volume. And the anxiety that's being expressed here is overwhelmingly about mental illness, and specifically the fear that it’s contagious.
We have violence of husband against wife, and violence of father against children. We have trauma from war, from mass shootings, from colonialism. We have a haunting that wouldn't be possible without the disconnectedness and the material uncertainty of the gig economy. Bullying by outsiders. Bullying by stepfamily. Repeated variations in which the only way the haunted person can escape from the ghost is by intentionally inflicting it on another person. And suicide, so much suicide.
I particularly like M. Rickart's "The Shooter," because it's not shedding anxieties that the author isn't fully aware of; it's purely, incandescently angry.
ECHOES is a top-of-the-line Anthology of Ghost Stories (all new except for three classic reprints) as curated by the inimitable anthologist and editor Ellen Datlow. She has superbly accomplished this collection. Every single story frightened me, made me ponder more deeply, inspired me to check out all these authors (30 in total)....and left me with nightmares and disturbed sleep. I love Ghost stories more than any other type, so I'm in hog heaven reading ECHOES.
As a parent I’ve grown to love anthologies, filled with short stories that are perfect for passing the time while waiting to pick up my kid from school or other activities. Invariably not all the stories are great - but there are usually some good ones, and even a few great ones, and it’s easy enough to blow through a bad story to get to a better one.
Unfortunately, with “Echoes” I often raced through a bad story only to reach another bad story, which usually resulted in me throwing the book down and finding something else to do. The best ghost stories have the supernatural elements tie in with the protagonist’s psyche, creating a horrifying resonance that most of the stories in “Echoes” lack. In addition none of the stories were actually scary. Even the stories written by authors I’ve enjoyed before felt oddly abrupt, as if the story didn’t *quite* come out complete. A good horror story should be memorable, but I don’t think I’ll remember any of these.
3.5 stars Not quite as good as I have come to expect from an anthology edited by Ellen Datlow. There are some awesome stories, a few of them genuinely disturbing, but more than a couple are dead boring.
The best anthology of contemporary ghost stories I have read, although some old favorites are included (The Upper Berth by F. Marion Crawford, and Medium by Ford Maddox Ford among them), I had to keep reminding myself that these stories are taking place in the 21st Century. There was such a genuine atmosphere of the late 1800s in so many of these tales, but then a character would produce an I-Phone and bring me back to the present. Some of these tales are deliciously chilling and they all, each and every one, cast a spell of dread upon this reader. If you like ghost stories, please get this, as I did, from a local library. I'm only sorry that I must return it now, instead of slotting it directly onto one of my many bookshelves.
Ellen Datlow does not disappoint with this latest anthology of ghost stories intended to get back to what true ghost tales are supposed to be like. I found only two or three to be subpar, with most being better than the average short story usually found in these types of collections and quite a few of tales really standing out as being excellent. One of the very few reprints in the book, F. Marion Crawford's "The Upper Berth" was by far the greatest example of what a classic haunted tale should read like. Other stand outs include: A.C. Wise's "The Ghost Sequences," a great example of modern-day style and technique producing a genuinely haunting, creepy story; Carole Johnstone's "Deep, Fast, Green", Vincent J. Masterson's "Linger Longer", Siobhan Carroll's "The Air, the Ocean, the Earth, the Deep", and two of my newest favorite authors did not disappoint, with Paul Tremblay's "Haunted House Tour: 1 Per Person" and the longest entry in the book, John Langan's "Natalya, Queen of the Hungry Dogs". Most of the remaining stories were still pretty solid, though there were a number that were guilty of having a great build up, but what felt like a rushed ending. All in all, this is by far one of the best anthologies like this to come out in ages.
I got this ARC copy at a convention the year it came out, and only now got around to reading it for spooky season. Like any anthology, there are good, middling, and awful stories. Overall, though, I was disappointed at the selections. Maybe I'm out of practice reading horror shorts, but they felt overly pretentious and litfic-y, as though the anthology is trying to avoid anything truly gruesome or scary. (I mean, Joyce Carol Oates, really?) The number of stories that center around the premise of "what if my WIFE was CRAZY?!?!" is truly sad. Plus, they were almost all too long and generally don't have great endings. How else are you supposed to judge a short story except by how it leaves you feeling?
I may not go through all the stories, but here are my brief reviews of the ones I care enough about to remember.
Haunted House Tour (etc.) by Paul Tremblay (3/5). This one had an interesting premise and the house parts were interesting, but I didn't buy into the framing device of the picture and there was an awful lot of litfic maundering about his life and family and being old.
Linger Longer by Vincent J Masterson (1/5). Making the CRAZY WIFE the POV character doesn't save the first in the litany of stories about WHAT IF MY WIFE WAS CRAY???
Whimper Beg by Lee Thomas (3/5). This one was odd. I liked what they seemed to be doing with it being about a ghost's revenge against homophobic political assholes. But making the main character the asshole confused the message for me. Maybe the horror is meant to be having to read this dude's perspective? And then the ending was just ! Bet you totally saw that coming!
The July Girls by Alison Littlewood (4/5). Solid, spooky story about sisters, with an actually solid ending! It didn't knock my socks off and it was a bit long, but it was the first story in the book I liked!
About the O'Dells by Pat Cadigan (4/5). Also very solid and very ghost story! I liked the setup of this one, it didn't go on forever, the gore/spooky stuff was well done, and the revenge ending was satisfying.
A Hinterlands Haunting by Richard Kadrey (3/5). Eh, I'd forgotten about this one, it's fine. Plays with expectations in a decent way, but doesn't stick in the brain.
The Number of Things You Remember by M.L. Siemienowicz (3/5). There were interesting things in this premise, but it didn't feel like a ghost story. It felt like an exercise in writing a sympathetic unreliable narrator, with a veneer of "maybe there's a ghost???" but mostly it just comes across as this dude can't tell what's real.
Must Be This Tall to Ride by Seanan McGuire (4/5). Yes, this story was in large part why I read the whole book. Seanan understood the assignment and delivered a short, to the point story about a carnival that requires a sacrifice to ensure the safety of the rides and a brave, neurodivergent girl who loopholes her way into saving her sister and herself. It wasn't amazing, but it was good and it was what I was expecting.
The Surviving Child by Joyce Carol Oates (1/5). God, this story. Way too long, litfic maundering about a shallow woman who marries an older man, whose previous wife was a Sylvia Plath-esque renowned poet who killed herself and attempted to kill both her kids but only managed one of them. The BIG REVEAL that is boring and doesn't matter. It also relies on the idea that the new wife is being "haunted" by the previous wife (or maybe women are just ALL CRAZY, did you think of THAT???) is just... ugh. Nothing in this story matters unless you give a shit about these boring, cringey people. I hate it.
The Medium's End by Ford Madox Ford (3/5). One of two older British stories in the "men sit in a drawing room and someone explains a queer thing that happened" vein. I actually enjoy this style, but this one is meh. I did like the concept of a medium who is a fraud but who accidentally taps into a real channeling power; but then, that's also in the movie Ghost and that at least has Demi Moore.
A Shade of Dusk by Indrapramit Das (5/5). My favorite story in the collection! I really like Das' writing, and it's an interesting choice to follow up the previous story with one set in postcolonial India. This one is from the POV of an old woman who is being haunted by her sister and brother-in-law, but because she has dementia she doesn't always remember that they are dead. Das writes women really sensitively and develops them fully as characters. It's slow, and a little long, spending a lot of time building the details of the setting and the backstory, but I think it ends up successful.
Icarus Rising by Richard Bowes (2/5). Weird art nonsense? I guess I followed the plot, but it's much more just about the NY art community, the ghost stuff hardly matters, and the ending is meh.
The Puppet Motel by Gemma Files (4/5). This one was interesting and spooky; a bit long, but I liked the idea of the spookiness behind the world that might just come snatch you away at any point. Plus it's a very modern story, being basically a haunted AirBnB.
Air Valve Semilunar Astern by Nick Mamatas (1/5). The only thing I remember about this is that it made no sense. Some kind of AI brain, ghost in the shell nonsense with stuff about anagrams?
The Unwrapping by Terry Dowling (3/5). I liked the setup of a modern mummy unwrapping, and the Tesla tie-in, but it was too long. It did have a decent ending, for a change!
The Upper Berth by F Marion Crawford (3/5). Another of the "British men sitting in a drawing room telling about a spooky thing" stories. This one was was pretty entertaining, I liked the build up of the spookiness in the cabin. Still too long, though, and the ending is basically just .
A Burning Sword for Her Cradle by Aliette de Bodard (4/5). I really liked the themes and writing in this one, and the way the ghosts are portrayed. The characters are all really sympathetic and I loved the way the conflict is built between the main character and her sister. The worldbuilding is a bit dense, though; I kind of wish it had either just been in the real world or had been a bit more expanded?
Precipice by Dale Bailey (4/5). I liked this one a lot! It's basically about that phenomenon "l'appel du vide", that instinct we have to throw ourselves from high places, but with ghosts added in for extra spooks. I was worried at first that it would just be a tawdry litfic story about a dude having a midlife crisis who fucks a young hot woman at a resort while on vacation with his wife, but there was a lot more to it! Still too long, of course.
The Tree of Self-Knowledge by Stephen Graham Jones (4/5). This is the first thing I've read by Jones, but I've only heard good things and I'd like to read more. He has a way of writing that really made me feel like I was inhabiting his main character, so even though it was just basically some dude I enjoyed it. The length didn't bother me, for once, and the ending was very strong.
The Other Woman by Alice Hoffman (4/5). An actually short short story! This one packed a lot of story into a small space, manages to avoid the CRAZY WIFE trope by making the ghost very real, and feels both spooky and contemplative which is a fine line to walk.
The Loneliness of Not Being Haunted by Bracken MacLeod (5/5). The emotions in this one are so well-laid, I really felt for June and her weird hobby. The people felt real, the ghost stuff was satisfyingly spooky, the ending was good (not just in plot, but a great last line). Even the title is good; it's never said but it tells you exactly what the story is about.
Mee-ow by Garth Nix (3/5). I hated the main character in this, which made it hard to care about his haunting. The premise is cool, it's satisfyingly spooky, but there's a ton of misogyny baked into Jules and into the plot with how the story treats Sam.
Jasper Dodd's Handbook of Spirits and Manifestations (3/5). It was way too long, but this story was very evocative and engaging. I generally want the ghosts to just be real, but this one played with reality in a way I actually enjoyed, while also letting the real horror be the lack of humanity in the characters. It's such a tragic set of circumstances, and I felt for poor Jasper.
His Haunting by Brian Evenson (4/5). I liked this one a lot! It wasn't too long (at least by the standards of this book), it had a nice framing of him wanting to tell his therapist this story, and the haunting is both internally consistent and unique.
The Jeweled Wren by Jeffrey Ford (3/5). A great setup with the older couple, lots of interesting details, and a spooky story. I didn't like the ending, though, and the title/motif of the wren windchime didn't feel like it meant anything.
The Air, the Ocean, the Earth, the Deep by Siobhan Carroll (5/5). The real horror is our broken immigration system! I really enjoyed this one. It incorporates multiple cultures' ghost mythologies to explore the intangible things we bring with us when we come to a new country. It's got a good build and rhythm, the ending is great, and I liked the characters, so I actually read it on our Halloween livestream this year.
The Ghost Sequences by A.C. Wise (2/5). This one had a lot of interesting ideas and was pretty spooky, but ended up just feeling like they were writing about *art culture* and the plot was pretty mixed up.
Deep, Fast, Green by Carole Johnstone (4/5). A really nice one about war, our familial relationships, and the legacy of both. Submarines are inherently spooky, and I enjoyed hearing Gramps' story and the way it affected the main character.
Natalya, Queen of the Hungry Dogs by John Langan (3/5). Lots of interesting ideas again, but way too long with too many various ideas (there are 18 sections and an epilogue, wth). Also a weird place to end the anthology.
This was a 2.5 for me but since there were just enough stories which I thoroughly enjoyed I rounded up rather than down. Unfortunately, there were just as many stories I skimmed through, in my opinion, they were simply too long and the stories were going no where. I enjoy anthologies since they often offer exposure to writers new to me.
Thank you to Saga Press for randomly selecting my name for this ARC.
I received a digital ARC of this book from Netgalley.
Ice Cold Lemonade $0.25 Haunted House Tour 1 Per Person by Paul Tremblay: Lots of people love Paul Tremblay. His novels are critically acclaimed, but I really disliked Head Full of Ghosts, so I have not read another one. And while this story builds a disturbing atmosphere really well, it's basically the story of "and then nothing happened." The narrator's mother drops off a box of his childhood belongings, where he finds a drawing he stole from the neighbor girl. The girl and her sister charged him $0.50 to take a tour of their haunted house. They succeed in scaring him, and he swipes the drawing and runs away. 3 stars
Linger Longer by Vincent J. Masterson: Lori is going on vacation with her boyfriend to meet a couple of his friends. Lori has some unnamed psychological problem, and she's constantly answering mental health checklists in her head. When they get to their cabin, they find a young woman in a blue dress in their room, but she leaves before they can find out anything about her. This story seems to be going for a sense of unreality, and playing with reflections and doubling. But it's pretty opaque to me, and I don't really care about any of the characters. 2 stars
Whimper Beg by Lee Thomas: At the funeral of his mentor, Scotty finds an inscribed book on his desk. Since the book is a coming of age story about a young gay Southern man, and Scotty, his mentor, and all of their friends are gross bigots, Scotty swipes the book. The book details the abuse the young man endured and his love for his dog. Very soon after, it comes out that Scotty's mentor was fucking rent boys on the side, and his reputation tanks. While trying to contain the damage, Scotty begins to hear a dog walking through his house and scratching at the door. This is pretty good, a story of ghostly comeuppance. 4 stars
The July Girls by Alison Littlewood: The narrator of this story is a teenage girl who's secretly glad her step-sister is dead. Sophia was a classic mean girl, continually tormenting and excluding the narrator, and when she dies in a motorcycle accident, the family decides a vacation is just what they need to help them move on. But there's a picture of Sophia and her step-sister that keeps turning up, no matter where the narrator hides it. This is pretty good. My biggest problem is that the story is told in first person past tense pov, which implies that the narrator survives the story, when that may not be the case. 4 stars
About the O'Dells by Pat Cadigan: When Gale was a child, she slept through the brutal murder of a neighbor by her husband on Gale's front lawn. Gideon O'Dell stabbed his wife to death and was sent to prison, but his wife's not through with him yet. I like this one a lot, except Gale, who was a child when the murder happened, is the only one to realize that Gideon O'Dell was released from prison and is working as a landscaper/handyman. It's very hard to believe that their other neighbors wouldn't recognize a brutal murderer who lived in their neighborhood for some time. But this is otherwise a pretty good domestic horror story. 4 stars
A Hinterlands Haunting by Richard Kadrey: Nick is a ghost walking through a city looking for his wife. It's not really clear if this world has faced some kind of major catastrophe, or if the hinterlands are just a city becoming a slum, but his old apartment building is a wreck and Nick has to run from packs of stray dogs. It eventually becomes clear that Nick isn't really a ghost, just a guy who killed his wife and keeps coming back to her ghost in the hopes that she will kill him. This is an interesting companion piece to the previous story, also about a man who killed his wife and must face her ghost. It's also the best story of the book so far. 5 stars
The Number of Things You Remember by M.L. Siemienowicz: I was prepared to not like this story when I realized it was written in second person. This can be done very well, but it can also fall very flat. Luckily, the writer has a handle on it, and the pov really highlights the problems the protagonist is having with their memory. The protagonist has to get on a train, and they really do not want to. This is completely understandable, because pretty recently, they were nearly dragged under a train by a woman attempting to kill herself. The woman succeeded, leaving the protagonist holding her severed arm. This is a great mindbender of a story that left me trying to separate out what is the protagonist's PTSD and what is supernatural. 5 stars
Must be This Tall to Ride by Seanan McGuire: I normally really like McGuire's work, but sometimes her short stories feel unfinished to me, like she rushed to the ending. This has that feel. Twin sisters, one of whom is neurodivergent, visit a carnival. One wants to ride a rollercoaster, and the other doesn't. While twin one is on the rollercoaster, the attendant gives her sister a classic horror story choice. 3 stars
The Surviving Child by Joyce Carol Oates: I want to call this Sylvia Plath fan-fic. Elisabeth marries Alexander, whose wife N.K. recently killed herself and their daughter by sitting in the garage with the car running. But for some reason she didn't kill her son Stefan, the surviving child of the title. N.K. was a famous poet known for her mental health issues (Sylvia Plath) and Alexander is the husband in charge of her literary estate who isn't handling her work the way many of her fans think he should (Ted Hughes). The problem is that Alex is completely unsympathetic for the entire story, and Elisabeth has seemingly married a much older man who she barely knows who doesn't seem to like her, or anyone, very much. 3 stars
The Medium's End by Ford Madox Ford: Since Ford died in 1939, this is probably the oldest story so far in this collection. Two guys in a club talk about an experience one of them had with a spiritualist. What really stands out about this one to me are the details that I don't think would be included if this was a written today as a period piece, instead of contemporaneously or nearly so. Like, the house where the seance happens has a wired up and decorated skeleton of an Indian man, and when the medium is tied up beforehand, the guy who does it ties him up in a particularly painful way that he used to use on suspected murderers. Anyway, I really liked this one, and it has an especially chilling closing line. 5 stars
A Shade of Dusk by Indrapramit Das: This is a quiet, melancholy story of an Indian woman who was never able to marry or have children, and, as an elderly woman, is haunted by both actual ghosts and her regrets. There are no overtly "scary story" horrors, just the mundane horror of the tiny life she was forced to live as an unmarried woman in a patriarchal society. The ghosts are practically incidental. 4 stars
Icarus Rising by Richard Bowes: The ghost of an artist returns to New York to... get famous? Punish the man he blames for his death? His motives are not especially clear, and he's kind of a dick. Why does he wait for years after his death to do anything? Why should I care about this character at all? I don't know. 2 stars
The Puppet Motel by Gemma Files: I love Gemma Files. I don't know if Toronto is really as creepy as she makes it seem, but she's definitely colored my impression of it. Loren is living paycheck to paycheck until she can go back to college in the fall. To make a little easy cash, she's acting as the caretaker for a pair of Air BnB's that a friend rents. One of the apartments is fine, but the other is just wrong somehow. When Loren has to move into the apartment herself, she begins to believe it's haunted, although probably not by a person. So creepy and unsettling. 5 stars
Air Valve Semilunar Astern by Nick Mamatas: I haven't read much of Nick Mamatas's work, mostly because I Am Providence was so egregiously smug. This is better than that novel, if only because it's much shorter. We get several paragraphs in the beginning talking about the history of Ouija boards and how they don't actually allow communication with the dead. Then we get what I think is an "artificial" ghost (I think it's a ghost of cloned stem cells) talking to a murder victim to help solve her murder. But the ghost says it committed the murder? Reads like someone filed the serial numbers off of Source Code and then shrunk it in the wash. 3 stars
The Unwrapping by Terry Dowling: Our narrator for this story is a professional dinner guest, called upon when someone is superstitious about having 13 guests and needs a 14th. The latest party she attends is a mummy unwrapping. (People used to really go to parties and watch a mummy be unwrapped. It was gross and colonialist.) Everyone at the party is apparently rich enough that they don't think this a bad thing to do. Oh, also the mummy belonged to Nicola Tesla. I didn't like any of these characters, and I hope the mummy eats them. 2 stars
The Upper Berth by F. Marion Crawford: F. Marion Crawford died in 1909, making this possibly the oldest story in the collection so far. Like the Ford story, it's a "guys at the club" ghost story, which is a genre I am not too familiar with. But this is very good. It's the story of Brisbane, a pretty no nonsense type of guy, finding that his state room on a steam ship is haunted. Seems that at least four people who have had the room before him jumped overboard. Even after learning this, Brisbane refuses to be moved, and is determined to get to the bottom of the haunting. The descriptions of the ghost are really great, visceral and scary. 5 stars
A Burning Sword for Her Cradle by Aliette de Bodard: My first instinct when I realized the premise of this story was that it would be hokey and obvious. But there's so much empathy and real pain here that I was totally won over. Bao Ngoc lives with her younger sister Bao Chau in a city far from their homeland. Immigrants in the city are constantly mobbed by angry ghosts, forever telling them to be grateful and fit in. Bao Ngoc refuses to give up her language, religion, and culture, even though defying the ghosts is painful and exhausting. But her younger sister has chosen to comply to the best of her ability, and now she's pregnant. And Bao Ngoc wants her niece to know her culture, even as Chau wants to save her daughter from pain. 5 stars
Precipice by Dale Bailey: Frank Stanton survived a heart attack. Following his doctor's orders to take it easy, he goes on a luxury vacation with his wife. But his 15th floor room gives him vertigo, and he finds himself constantly imagining jumping from the balcony. Is everything really as it seems at the hotel? It's hard to tell if their are any "real" ghosts in this story, or just a man facing his mortality. The most disturbing moment for me was when Frank's wife slices the skin from her knuckle while chopping broccoli. 3 stars
The Shooter by M. Rickert: Not really sure what to make of this story. Alex walks around getting things for a funeral, like a sympathy card and flowers. Alex is dead, the victim of a school shooter, but he doesn't always remember this. He has a series of surreal encounters, like being shown a box of "sorry your loved one was shot by a school shooter" cards. He eventually makes it to the funeral, which takes on a very fairy tale feel, before being interrupted by the reappearance of the shooter. 2 stars
The Tree of Self-Knowledge by Stephen Graham Jones: It's taken me awhile to warm up to him, but I'm really starting to enjoy Stephen Graham Jones. His stories are consistently intelligent, unique, and scary. In this one, a man has a brief encounter with the ghost of a girl who died in a car accident when he was in high school. Well, encounter isn't the right word. He sees her for a brief moment in a grocery store, hunting for something under a display. If he'd let it go at that, he would probably be fine, but he goes back to see if he can find what she was looking for. Then he starts to see her more often. Then he wonders, if she came back, does that mean someone else has to die? 5 stars
The Other Woman by Alice Hoffman: Too vague and too short and not scary. This is about a woman who can remove ghosts attempting to help a woman exorcise her home. I think it's haunted by the ghost of her husband's dead wife? And the title makes me think there was an affair before she died. Very short and doesn't do anything for me. 2 stars
The Loneliness of Not Being Haunted by Bracken MacLeod: June is an elderly woman desperate to believe in ghosts. Having lost her husband and daughter in a car accident years ago, she's spent the intervening years buying dead people's heirlooms, treasured possessions, and anything that was present when someone died, all in hopes of summoning a ghost. None of it works, until an employee at an antique shop tries to sell her a small box that contains a miscarried fetus. Suddenly, the ghosts are interested in June. This is more sad than scary. MacLeod does a good job creating a sense of loss and grief, almost too good of a job. 4 stars
Mee-ow by Garth Nix: Jules is a runner. On his morning run, he meets an old friend, and spends awhile worried that she's a ghost. She asks him to come by the share house they used to live in together as roommates, and Jules, who is apparently a cheating dickhead, agrees. He's haunted by the last time he saw her, when they had a hookup in an unused bedroom interrupted by someone saying "meow." He's hoping to hookup again, but she tells him that she's heard the same voice saying "meow" in many different times and places, and wants to know if Jules has had the same experience. He hasn't, but his cheating ways lead to a scary comeuppance. 4 stars
Jasper Dodd's Handbook of Spirits and Manifestations by Nathan Ballingrud: One of the more upsetting stories in this collection, this one is the story of a young boy beginning to understand the true extent of his father's abuse. Jasper Dodd keeps a notebook of the ghosts that live on his family's property. The ghost of his dead sister resides in the well, and although Jasper doesn't know why she should be there when she died in bed, he accepts it as a fact of life, like his father's beatings and perpetual drunkeness. When Jasper comes downstairs one night to find his uncle beating the shit out of his dad, Jasper stays to take care of his father, instead of leaving with his uncle. It's hard to like this story, because of how heartbreaking Jasper's life is and seeing him realize what happened to his sister and mother is such a gut punch. 4 stars
His Haunting by Brian Evenson: This one didn't make much of an impression, which is a shame as I usually like Brian Evenson. A man speaks to a therapist about a recurring haunting he's experienced. Several times in his life, a large shadow appeared at the door to his bedroom, but disappeared before he could reach it. The man tells the therapist that his father claimed to have a similar experience before he disappeared. One night, the man sleepily thinks the shadow is his husband and invites it to bed, before realizing his husband is already in bed with him. After telling his therapist about these experiences, the man leaves and never returns. The therapist finds that he's disappeared like his father did, years ago. Some creepy moments, but not enough to really pull me in. 2 stars
The Jeweled Wren by Jeffrey Ford: Jeffrey Ford is another of those authors who I don't really get what all the fuss is about. In this story, we have an older couple who think the house across the field is haunted, so they break in. They have a weird experience and promise to leave the place alone, but they can't. So they go back and have another weird experience. Then the ghosts follow them home. 2 stars
The Air, the Ocean, the Earth, the Deep by Siobhan Carroll: This story is about a case worker for refugees and asylum seekers who, along with the usual bureaucratic and human rights nightmare that is her job, believe she's being haunted by a hungry ghost. The ghost is a physical manifestation of trauma, and someone is going to have to find a way to get rid of it. This one felt a little slight, but still pretty good. 3 stars
The Ghost Sequences by A.C. Wise: This one is a story of an artist collective that ends up being haunted as they work in their different mediums on pieces about ghost stories. It's not bad, just doesn't really do anything for me. I am stuck on the major party foul of breaking out the story of when your mom killed your sister and then herself during a light hearted, let's tell spooky stories since the power went out session. Too real, dude. 3 stars
Deep, Fast, Green by Carole Johnstone: Pinky, her mom, and stepdad live with Gramps, her great uncle. Gramps is an old Scottish submariner who was one of only a handful of men to survive the sinking of his submarine in WWII. Now he, and everyone in the house, is haunted by that experience. At night it gets darker than it should, the corridors narrow, and the walls take on the sheen of steel. They're being haunted by the submarine, and Pinky hopes that if Gramps will tell her what happened, maybe the haunting will stop. This is a very unique story. I wouldn't have expected to like a story about a ghost submarine, but it's very good. The author really captures the claustrophobia, fear, and survivor's guilt that Gramps carries. 5 stars
Natalya, Queen of the Hungry Dogs by John Langan: A man travels to Vermont to visit his friend who's dying of cancer. Because this is a Langan story, his friend tells him of the terrible thing that happened in his past. In this instance, during a near death experience, he saw his dead sister who rules over a limbo of dead children that she transforms into bestial creatures. Since he's about to die, he needs help to get to the afterlife without falling into his sister's clutches. Langan is reliably great. 5 stars
This collection is good, spooky fun! The fact that no one story felt like another is incredibly impressive in and of itself. From feeling like eating s’mores while reading, to getting a shivery feeling, this book has it all. A few stories even came across as Scary Stories to Read in the Dark for adults (Must Be This Tall to Ride by Seanan McGuire comes to mind) , which was awesome.
This book contains so much that I’m going to just mention a few of the stories that stood out to me.
* A Hinterlands Haunting by Richard Kadrey was one of the shorter stories in this collection. It was also one of the most fun ones. Not in the least bit spooky, it was funny and absolutely unique. Maybe funny isn’t the right word to use when discussing things that go bump in the night, but I laughed.
*The Surviving Child by Joyce Carol Oates: Sad and introspective, this was undoubtedly one of the most well-written in the collection. I loved it.
*Must Be This Tall to Ride by Seanan McGuire definitely had a “scary stories around a campfire” vibe to it. Short and fun, this one stood out to me.
*His Haunting by Brian Evenson was the one that felt the most eerie to me. It was something in the way it was told, I think. While none of the stories actually scared me, this one came the closest.
This is a good collection, especially with Halloween in a couple of months. Pick it up and tell me what you think!
This was absolutely the most fun I have had reading in quite a while. Each and every story is so very well written and immensely detailed for such short of stories. There are a lot of different settings (haunted houses, trains, ships) as well as different cultures represented. There wasn't a single story in the bunch where I felt like I wasted my time reading it, and I can be quite critical when it comes to shorter stories, since I feel they have a lot more to prove. I like to feel as though the story has sufficiently satisfied me by being a complete story and not simplified as though it should have been a larger story, and I can safely say all of these stories fit my criteria for good well rounded short stories. I have to say that some of the endings weren't my personal cup of tea, but that’s simply a personal preference and someone else might really enjoy such an ending. If you really enjoy a good ghost story I can’t imagine someone being disappointed they picked this up. This is my first Anthology from Ellen Datlow I have read, but it certainly wont be the last.
My personal favorites out of the bunch would have to be: -The July Girls About the O’Dells Mee-ow The Jeweled Wren
*I did receive this in a Goodreads giveaway and am so very thankful to Goodreads, as well as the publisher and editor for making this possible. All thoughts and opinions are my own*
Seriously just a bunch of "woke" ghost stories ranging from the most ridiculous one of a gay ghost whose ghost dog is attacking some random straight man to a haunted sub rental apartment.
I was waiting for the haunted Starbucks or white elitists's imposter syndrome revealing itself as the demonic force it actually is.. Alas, no such story here...in fact, not a single scary story or even one of any social significance.
I left the book on a bench in Union Square Park here in NYC just in case any of the remaining "woke" people here in NYC might find it and find some solace that somewhere there is a few authors that still are fighting the losing cause of keeping "woke" alive in a culture that has had enough of white, elitist fantasy inflicting itself on art and media with their narcissistic, self absorbed nonsense.
In other words I do not recommend this book to anyone of significance.
Finally finished this massive book, 800 pages. I was not impressed. The very last story "Natalya, Queen of the Hungry Dogs" was a very good story but unfortunately it was the only great one in the entire book; and it contained 30 different stories. A couple were good but most were not to my liking. I found many dragged or started to capture my interest just before they finished. I really wanted to enjoy this anthology but I couldn't. Glad I did finish it though as the last story was really good.
I really thought this one was going to be the Datlow collection that would finally let me bump one to a five-star rating. In the end, though, the law of averages brought this one to a 4.35, or 4.4. Given the massive size of this anthology, that's still a very high ranking and none of the stories ranked below a 3-star. That's an incredible feat given how difficult a medium the short story is, let alone a successful ghost story.
Unlike Datlow, who states in her introduction that she doesn't believe in ghosts, I do. Maybe not the chain-rattling, lamp-throwing, moaning variety, but the melancholy, left-behind essence of a ghost? You bet. For me, the hallmark of a really successful ghost story is not if I thought it was creepy-scary (awesome as that is) but if, instead, it made me lonesome, a little sad, bereft. Ghosts are, after all, elements of grief left behind with the living. So, yes, I do indeed believe in ghosts.
My favorite story here was one that seemed so fitting for the year that is 2020, nearly prescient in its spooky horror, and that was The Air, the Ocean, the Earth, the Deep by Siobhan Carroll. In this tale, some sort of illegal immigrant counselor meets with ICE detainees from the African Congo. A new virus, thought to be emerging from Indiana, is sweeping the country at a rate hauntingly similar to our current Covid-19 situation. This story, with the cheerful optimistic play of little girls in the detention center is a counterpoint to the fear of the adults. You can see the weak, flickering fluorescent light on the cinder block walls, almost feel the coalescing phlegm in your own chest as you make the grim subway ride to work through New York's underground. You worry about your partner's restlessness and rising fever.
Yes, ghosts are real.
As always, individual stories and ratings follows:
Haunted House Tour: 1 Per Person Paul Tremblay 4.5
Linger Longer Vincent J. Masterson 4
Whimper Beg Lee Thomas 3
The July Girls Alison Littlewood 4
About the O'Dells Pat Cadigan 5
A Hinterlands Haunting Richard Kadrey 5
The Number of Things You Remember M. L. Siemienowicz 3.5
Must Be This Tall to Ride Seanan McGuire 5
The Surviving Child Joyce Carol Oates 5
The Medium's End Ford Maddox Ford 3
A Shade of Dusk Indrapramit Das 4
Icarus Rising Richard Bowles 4
The Puppet Motel Gemma Files 5
Air Valve Semilunar Astern Nick Mamatas 4.5
The Unwrapping Terry Dowling 5
The Upper Berth F. Marion Crawford 3.5
A Burning Sword for Her Cradle Aliette de Bodard 3
Precipice Dale Baile 5
The Shooter M. Rickert 4.5
The Tree of Self-Knowledge Stephen Graham Jones 5
The Other Woman Alice Hoffman 5
The Loneliness of Not Being Haunted Bracken MacLeod 5
Mee-Ow Garth Nix 3
Jasper Ford's Handbook of Spirits and Manifestations Nathan Ballingrud 4
His Haunting Brian Evenson 3
The Jeweled Wren Jeffrey Ford 5
The Air, the Ocean, the Earth, the Deep Siobhan Carroll 5
"I don’t believe in ghosts, but I love ghost stories and I suspect I’m not the only reader to make this confession," writes Ellen Datlow in her anthology, Echoes, thirty stories about ghosts, spirits, phantasms, and what have you. With that many stories it's a mixed bag, with a few great stories, several okay ones, and a few I didn't like or didn't get.
A couple of stories were effectively creepy but I couldn't quite figure out what happened at the end. These include Gemma Files' "The Puppet Motel," which takes a different tack--it's a haunting in a brand new building. The same could be said for "The Ghost Sequences," by A.C. Wise, which concerns four women artists who plan an exhibition about ghosts, but get too close to the subject.
We are used to thinking that ghosts can't hurt us, but some of them in this book sure do. "Whimper Beg," by Les Thomas, features a ghost who has taken the form of a German shepherd with very solid teeth. And my favorite story of the collection, which is also the last and longest, is John Langan's "Natalya, Queen Of The Hungry Dogs" (a great title). This story is about a dying man who has a sister who died as a child, but he's not eager to see her again, as she's created her own kingdom in the after life, turning other dead children into ravenous dogs.
Other favorites are "The Jeweled Wren," by Jeffrey Ford, about a couple curious about a mysterious house. I don't think it's a spoiler alert to say that they should have never gone in the house. "Mee-Ow," by Garth Nix, is a blood chilling tale about a strange room in a house shared by college students. "The Unwrapping," by Terry Dowling, is about a group of people who gather to unwrap a mummy. I only wish this story went on longer, as it ends with a cliffhanger. "Must Be This Tall To Ride," by Seanan McGuire, concerns a haunted rollercoaster. "Precipice," by Dale Bailey, is about a man on vacation who has a strange urge to get very close to the railing on the high floor of his hotel. And Steohen Graham Jones' "The Tree Of Self-Knowledge" is a dandy story about a man who sees a girl who died in a car wreck years earlier--at the supermarket.
Datlow also includes a few vintage stories, including one by Ford Madox Ford. My favorite of these is "The Upper Berth," by F. Marion Crawford, which is about a ship with porthole that won't stay closed.
Why do we love ghost stories? Datlow posits, "The ghost story is probably one of the oldest tales told around campfires. Why might this be? It could be because the most persistent concern for many people is whether there is life after death—and, if there is, what that life might be like." She adds, quite correctly, :They’re about something we humans can neither control nor avoid: death."
Overall, a really good collection. Ice Cold Lemonade 25c Haunted House Tour: 1 Per Person by Paul Tremblay - was ok. The story was mostly good, but I didn't like the ending much. Linger Longer by Vincent J. Masterson was interesting and good. Whimper Beg by Lee Thomas didn't go where I thought it was going to go. It was good. The July Girls by Alison Littlewood was interesting. I didn't think it would go like that. About the O'Dells by Pat Cadigan was wonderful and spooky. A Hinterlands Haunting by Richard Kadrey was ok? It had bad positioning. The Number of Things You Remember by M.L. Siemienowicz was ok? I didn't like it much. Must Be This Tall to Ride by Seanan McGuire was wonderful. The Surviving Child by Joyce Carol Oates was good. I didn't think it was going to go that way. The Medium's End by Ford Madox Ford was lovely. A Shade of Dusk by Indrapramit Das was good and kind of confusing. Icarus Rising by Richard Bowes was odd. It was not what I expected. The Puppet Motel by Gemma Files was wonderful, very good in a cosmic horror sense. I loved it, but I really like her stuff. Air Valve Semilunar Astern by Nick Mamatas was weird. I didn't have much of a clue what was going on, even after I finished. The Unwrapping by Terry Dowling was interesting. The Upper Berth by F. Marion Crawford is an oldy but goody. A Burning Sword For Her Cradle by Aliette de Bodard was very interesting. Precipice by Dale Bailey was good. I didn't quite get the ending. The Shooter by M. Rickert was pretty horrifying. The Tree of Self-Knowledge by Stephen Graham Jones was interesting and then very nasty. The Other Woman by Alice Hoffman was good. The Loneliness of Not Being Haunted by Bracken MacLeod was confusing at first, but good. Mee-Ow by Garth Nix was pretty good. Jasper Dodd's Handbook of Spirits and Manifestations by Nathan Ballingrud was painful and good. His Haunting by Brian Evenson was good. The Jeweled Wren by Jeffrey Ford was weird. I wasn't sure if I got it. The Air, the Ocean, the Earth, the Deep by Siobhan Carroll was interesting. The Ghost Sequences by A.C. Wise was lovely and weird. Deep, Fast, Green by Carole Johnstone was good. Natalya, Queen of the Hungry Dogs by John Langan was fantastic.
A nearly 800-page doorstop of a book that was a pleasure from start to finish. A rarity among short story anthologies, let alone one this size. Kudos to Ellen Datlow for her astute curation and for bringing 27 stories not published elsewhere into this volume (only 3 of the stories are reprints).
The above said, there were of course a few stories that didn't completely connect with me, that ended abruptly, that just weren't scary, etc. Which is to be expected in a collection housing 30 stories. Surprisingly, though, I didn't hate any of them. On the contrary, each story was interesting, and the quality of the writing was consistently good and sometimes downright spectacular. The individual voices of each author and the stories they told were, for the most part, highly original and a pleasure to read. Even the stories that didn't completely resonate with me were still good. They just didn't feel as polished and/or as engaging as many of the others. Or the endings just dropped the ball.
My favorite stories were:
• The July Girls (Alison Littlewood) • About the O'Dells (Pat Cadigan) • The Surviving Child (Joyce Carol Oates) • The Tree of Self Knowledge (Steven Graham Jones) • Jasper Dodd's Handbook of Spirits and Manifestations (Nathan Ballingrud) • The Jewelled Wren (Jeffrey Ford) -- though the ending was a bit meh • Natalya, Queen of the Hungry Dogs (John Langan)
All, in my opinion, great stories. And there were at least 15 others that were very, very good as well. For brevity (and for what it's worth) I just listed my top 7.
Thanks for this collection, Ellen Datlow. I'll be sure to read more of your anthologies.