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The Best Horror of the Year #1

The Best Horror of the Year: Volume One

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An Air Force Loadmaster is menaced by strange sounds within his cargo; a man is asked to track down a childhood friend... who died years earlier; doomed pioneers forge a path westward as a young mother discovers her true nature; an alcoholic strikes a dangerous bargain with a gregarious stranger; urban explorers delve into a ruined book depository, finding more than they anticipated; residents of a rural Wisconsin town defend against a legendary monster; a woman wracked by survivor's guilt is haunted by the ghosts of a tragic crash; a detective strives to solve the mystery of a dismembered girl; an orphan returns to a wicked witch's candy house; a group of smugglers find themselves buried to the necks in sand; an unanticipated guest brings doom to a high-class party; a teacher attempts to lead his students to safety as the world comes to an end around them...

What frightens us, what unnerves us? What causes that delicious shiver of fear to travel the lengths of our spines? It seems the answer changes every year. Every year the bar is raised; the screw is tightened. Ellen Datlow knows what scares us; the twenty-one stories and poems included in this anthology were chosen from magazines, webzines, anthologies, literary journals, and single author collections to represent the best horror of the year.

Legendary editor Ellen Datlow (Poe: New Tales Inspired by Edgar Allan Poe), winner of multiple Hugo, Bram Stoker, and World Fantasy awards, joins Night Shade Books in presenting The Best Horror of the Year, Volume One.

Table of Contents:
“Summation 2008” Ellen Datlow
“Cargo” E. Michael Lewis
“If Angels Fight” Richard Bowes
“The Clay Party” Steve Duffy
“Penguins of the Apocalypse” William Browning Spencer
“Esmeralda” Glen Hirshberg
“The Hodag” Trent Hergenrader
“Very Low-Flying Aircraft” Nicholas Royle
“When the Gentlemen Go” Margaret Ronald
“The Lagerstatte” Laird Barron
“Harry and the Monkey” Euan Harvey
“Dress Circle” Miranda Siemienowicz
“The Rising River” Daniel Kaysen
“Sweeney among the Straight Razors” JoSelle Vanderhooft
“Loup-garou” R. B. Russell
“Girl in Pieces” Graham Edwards
“It Washed Up” Joe R. Lansdale
“The Thirteenth Hell” Mike Allen
“The Goosle” Margo Lanagan
“Beach Head” Daniel LeMoal
“The Man from the Peak” Adam Golaski
“The Narrows” Simon Bestwick

321 pages, Paperback

First published January 1, 2009

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About the author

Ellen Datlow

250 books1,672 followers
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.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 81 reviews
Profile Image for Jonathan.
740 reviews92 followers
April 19, 2021
I really enjoyed this collection. This was my first introduction to Ellen Datlow's editing and I must say I am impressed. This compilation was incredibly solid, dark, and quite a few were unsettlingly grotesque and arousing.

There was only one title that fell completely flat for me and very few that were merely 'ok' to my palate.

Excited to read the others in the series, glad I own them if they are this well curated. I also appreciated the start of the book, it includes a list of the various novels/stories that won horror awards around the world. This serves as an excellent primer for someone such as myself who is only recently rediscovering fiction and catching up on what I've missed.
Profile Image for Nancy Oakes.
1,938 reviews748 followers
March 5, 2013
To be perfectly blunt, if this was a selection of the best horror of the year 2008, either I must have missed something or horror writing was at an ebb that year. Out of 21 stories, there were three that were relatively creepy, and out of those, I'd already read one. To be sure, I know that anthologies are pretty iffy, but in the world of hit or miss, this book takes the prize for most misses. I hate being so negative, but jeez -- there's just no other way to say it.

The tale I liked the best was "The Lagerstätte," by Laird Barron, which I read a couple of months back in his most exquisite horror collection Occultation. Moving on to number two is "The Hodag" by Trent Hergenrader, a creepy little story set in the woods of northern Wisconsin. The third entry is "Loup-garou," by R.B. Russell, about a man whose world changes after viewing a film called Loup-garou. It's not so much a story of hair-raising terror, but it was unsettling enough at the end that I had to read it twice.

I'd also like to mention "Beach Head," by Daniel Le Moal. There is a line at which horror becomes no longer fun for me -- and this story crossed it. In the strictest sense of the word, I was indeed horrified, but this one went well beyond my comfort zone and actually kept me awake all night. Three smugglers wake up one day to find themselves buried up to their heads in sand on a beach somewhere. After thinking over their situation and how they must have ended up there, things proceed to go from very bad to the worst possible scenario ever. I give much credit to the writer: the images his writing conjured were extremely vivid, but downright depressing and I hope to god I never see another story like this one again. I won't deny that the story was very well written, but there are just some things I don't want to see in my head.

I've got Best Horror of the Year volumes 2 (2009) and 3 (2010) sitting here, so I hope the quality of writing picked up after 2008. There is a bonus in Volume 1 that I haven't yet mentioned: the editor has put together a 33-page "Summation" of the horror writing of the year, including "Notable Novels," "Anthologies," "Mixed-Genre Anthologies," etc., offering a wide selection of stories and books for future reading. This is probably my least favorite anthology of my horror-reading experience, but I suppose horror, like beauty, is in the eye of the beholder.
Profile Image for Jess the Shelf-Declared Bibliophile.
2,043 reviews629 followers
November 27, 2016
Ugh. Why is it so difficult to find a GREAT horror anthology? They always seem to be mediocre, and this was no different. Decent, okayish stories for the most part, a couple that were actually enjoyable, but overall, not wowed.
4 reviews1 follower
May 12, 2011
It's important to start with what this volume is not. It's not a collection of a particular type of horror story; Datlow's taste, while tending toward the subtle over the blatant, is wide-ranging, and includes stories traditional and modern (to the extent that these labels are useful), long and short, serious and comic. Some are closer to dark fantasy than "horror" as some readers define it. This book is also not necessarily cued to your specific tastes. the editor has not magically reached into your head and selected nineteen stories and two poems that you are guaranteed to love. Cover copy notwithstanding, Ellen Datlow does not know what scares you personally. To say that a book is "not for everyone" is often a form of back-handed criticism, but here it's just a fact.

With that out of the way, I can say what this book is: a collection of fine stories displaying the scope of the modern horror story. I can't say that I unreservedly admired all of the stories here, but I respected each one's craft. A new anthology edited by Datlow is a guaranteed purchase for me, and the reason I keep coming back is that I never find a story whose appeal utterly baffles me. Sometimes I don't find them as successful as they might be, but I never think "What the heck was ~that~ doing in this book?"

I'll highlight a few stories I particularly admired. Margaret Ronald's "When the Gentlemen Go By" is a brief, chilling story about a small town and the price it pays for its happiness. Again, traditional-sounding stuff, but the story's structure allows it to build to maximum effect, and there are a number of chilling moments along the way. It's also an interesting contrast with "The Hodag," a very different but equally effective small-town horror story elsewhere in the volume. "The Rising River," by Daniel Kaysen, is a sharply-styled, twisty little story about a girl who can talk to ghosts, or can she? Graham Edwards' "Girl in Pieces" is a mystery/science fiction/fantasy/horror hybrid. It's also a comedy. It sounds too busy to work, but in fact the noir-derived prose style makes it all fit together nicely.

In addition to the stories and poems, the volume also includes Datlow's summation of the year in horror publishing, an eminently useful list of novels, collections, anthologies, magazines, and other outlets for horror prose. With a genre that's so dependent on small presses, this essay is a much-needed annual resource for finding works you may have missed.

This is the kind of book you might want to look over before buying if you're not familiar with the editor's taste. Horror is (and should be) a broad church, so it's worth looking at some of the stories, and the editor's recommendations of other books in the summation, to get a sense of whether it's right for you. If it is, you're in for some excellent tales.
Profile Image for Jonathan Briggs.
176 reviews37 followers
November 8, 2017
Indie outfit Night Shade Books swooped to the rescue after bigger publisher St. Martin's scuttled Ellen Datlow's long-running annual anthology of the best horror fiction. Although it's good to have the venerable editor still at work culling the good stuff, the inaugural volume of this series reboot is wobbly on its newborn feet. It's not that the stories are particularly objectionable. But for the most part, they're not exceptional either. What makes them the "best" horror of 2008? They're not scary or unsettling. They're not thought-provoking. They don't push boundaries. They don't even go for the easy grossout. I suppose "Adequate Horror of the Year" wouldn't sell very well, but it would be a more accurate title.

Datlow starts the book with her traditional summary of the previous year. Kudos to her for doing it with far less whining and far fewer typos than her fellow editor Gardner Dozois in his science fiction "best of" annuals.

The Table of Contents features a list of mostly unfamiliar names. The most prominent participant is probably Joe Lansdale who turns in a two-page scrap, a piffle, likely one of his "popcorn dreams" (Lansdale transcribes the nightmares he always has after eating popcorn). Even among that goofy company, "It Washed Up" is lightweight, and I suspect it was included more for marquee value than merit.

Among the rest of the crew: Richard Bowes writes his standard dreary story of how gay and haunted he is. Steve Duffy's "The Clay Party" adds a few twists to that wheezy cliche of the predator stalking the helpless woman only to find out in the shocking twist ending that she's really a vampire/werewolf/insert theme-anthology monster here. And guess what? It's still a wheezy cliche.

William Browning Spencer's "Penguins of the Apocalypse," about an alcoholic wrestling with literal demons, is one of the two stories that could legitimately lay claim to the title "best of the year." I wish Browning was as prolific as his fellow Texas raconteur Lansdale. His stories are frequently funny but carry a poisonous sting in the tail. He writes sentences like Tom Waits writes lyrics: "This wasn't a Saturday-night kind of bar. This was more the sort of bar you went to because you had gone to it the day before."

E. Michael Lewis, Trent Hergenrader and Adam Golaski turn in the kind of solid B-horror that Leisure should be publishing more of instead of printing glorified fan fiction.

Glen Hirshberg is one of the overrated new voices in the genre. He's written some good stories (and some better than good), but he has a stylistic quirk that absolutely bugs the hell out of me, and I'm surprised no editor has called him on this: the weeping. His characters bust out weeping at the slightest provocation. They weep and they weep and they weep and they weep. "Weep" must be Hirshberg's favorite word in the dictionary. "But Will, it seems, just wants to weep some more." Well, of course he does: He's a character in a Glen Hirshberg story. I swear, the pages were soggy.

Ever since I stumbled across Laird Barron's "Hallucigenia" a few years back, I've been on the lookout for more work by this amazingly assured newcomer. That novella accomplished two incredibly difficult feats: It did something new with well-used Lovecraftian tropes, and it gave me a serious case of the willies. Barron's entry here, "The Lagerstatte," about grief and ghosts, isn't as effective as "Hallucigenia," but it showcases the author's potential to become one of the most important new talents in horror and suspense since the Dell Abyss days introduced Kathe Koja and Brian Hodge.

Daniel LeMoal shows promise, Margo Lanagan gives good gore, and Graham Edwards' "Girl in Pieces" is memorable for all the WRONG reasons.

So that's a total of two outstanding stories rising to the top of a sea of so-so. I won't make any silly declarations about horror being dead as a genre coz these things go in cycles (I hope), but 2008 apparently was not the year for it to shamble out of the crypt where it's been snoozing. And what's the deal with the naked zombie on the book cover, waving his tweeter at you? Nobody likes to see that.
Profile Image for Ross Lockhart.
Author 28 books199 followers
August 3, 2009
Read in manuscript. A solid collection of terrifying tales, collecting the best short stories and fiction published in 2008. High points include E. Michael Lewis's "Cargo," William Browning Spencer's "Penguins of the Apocalypse," Laird Barron's "The Lagerstatte," Adam Golaski's "The Man From the Peak," and Simon Bestwick's "The Narrows."
Profile Image for Andrew Neal.
Author 3 books8 followers
July 4, 2012
There's a thin line between portraying something mysteriously horrific and writing so vaguely that a reader doesn't know what the hell you're saying. Most of the authors in this anthology trip over that line so hard that this should be an America's Funniest Home Videos montage, not a Best Horror anthology.

Having said that, I quite liked:
The Hodag
It Washed Up
The Narrows
Profile Image for Daniel.
92 reviews41 followers
August 21, 2017
Overall a below average anthology that unfortunately does not do its name any justice. If it wasn't for the fine entries by Laird Barron and William Spencer Browning this anthology would not be worth mentioning at all. Either 2008 was a extremely bad year for horror fiction (even though I remember it quite differently) or the the normally impeccable Ellen Datlow had a bad day (or rather a bad year) when chosing this sea of mediocrity as the year's best horror.

But enough of my lengthy ramblings, let's dive right into my notes on the stories included:

** Cargo by E. Michael Lewis
Though using the incident at Guyana as a backdrop makes for an interesting premise, Lewis makes nothing out of it and bores the reader with a generic ghost story that basically goes nowhere in the end. What a terrifyingly weak opener for a collection that claims to be the best horror fiction of the year 2008.

** If Angels Fight by Richaed Bowes
Another letdown. Confusingly written the story is all over the place with no story arc, no building up of suspense or whatsoever and finally leads to an unsatisfying ending. You are constantly getting the feeling that the author is trying to pull off something smart in terms of storybuilding but whatever it is, it simply doesn't work. Jeez, I could easily name half a dozen horror shorts from 2008 that would have deserved the slots of the first two stinkers in this collection. Good thing is: It can probably only get better from here on out...at least I hope so.

*** The Clay Party by Steve Duffy
Decent diary-style tale set in the old west. Duffy builds up suspense very nicely but then delivers a rather foreseeable climax that seasoned horror readers will see coming from miles ahead. Even the unexpected little twist in the end cannot bring the story fully back on track. Mildly entertaining, but nothing to write home about either (or include in a year's best of collection for that matter...).

***** Penguins of the Apocalypse by William Browning Spencer
There you go, finally something truly worthwhile. "Penguins..." is a highly original, dark-humored and twisted tale about alcoholism and the ghosts it calls up. In the literal sense of the word. Brilliant!

*** Esmeralda: The First Book Depository Story by Glen Hirshberg
Hirshber creates an intriguing imagery of a decaying world but unfortunately doesn't manage to bring the story to a satisfying close and leaves the reader with a rather vacuous and generic ending that does in no way do justice to the tension created beforehand. Bummer as Hirshberg sure as hell got talent.

** The Hodag by Trent Hergenrader
Generic tale of monster folklore that does pretty much nothing for me. Only thing remarkable about this is the author's solid writing that unfortunately can't help the thin story.

* Very Low-Flying Aircraft by Nicholas Royle
Really, that's your story - that's all there is? And with that you made into a year's best of? Seriously? Oh my...

*** When The Gentlemen Go By by Margaret Ronald
The story of a town in league with dark forces demanding regular sacrifices from the townspeople is a setup that has been done to the death in horror firction and this does not add anything particularly interesting to the canon. At least Ronald keeps it short and sweet with good writing and delivers an interesting imagery for the entities demanding sacrifice. Enjoyable at this short length but again nothing to write home about.

***** The Lagerstätte by Laird Barron
Bam! And in comes Laird Barron showing everybody how it's done. In fact Barron's writing is so vastly superior that the story sticks out like a sore thumb in this sea of mediocrity and banality that this collection has been so far (except for Spencer's story). A twisted descent into madness and paranoia, garnished with some wonderful imagery and prose. Another prime example why Barron is currently one of - if not the - best contemporary horror fiction writer(s).

**** Harry And The Monkey by Euan Harvey
An entertaining short story with a lot of wit. Nothing surprising, but very enjoyable in its light-heartedness and not-too-serious tone.

*** Dress Circle by Miranda Siemienowicz
Had quite some potential as a bizarre nightmare where reality is bend and the veil towards the weird and the dreaded is pulled away but unfortunately the ending fell flat and send all the build up atmosphere crashing down like a pierced balloon (or I simply did not get it - if someone did: please elaborate!). Bummer!

*** The Rising River by Daniel Kaysen
Solid piece that leaves you guessing even after the end what is real an what not. If that is enough to make it into a year's best of collection though...

**** Loup-Garou by R.B. Russell
Liked the mood this invoked. There is a subtle melancholic vibe to the story which I enjoyed as well as the cinematic references. Somehow it felt that there was something more brooding within the story that could have been fleshed out a little more to make it a real gem but nonetheless it is

*** Girl in Pieces by Graham Edwards
Started off strong by relentlessly throwing noir elements in a blender with urban fantasy, multiple dimensions and hebrew folklore but lost its way halfway through, turning into a standard modern Urban Fantasy tale topped of by a banal ending. Besides all that you might wanna raise the question what an Urban Fantasy story (okay, with a few minor horror elements) like this has to do with the year's best horror anyway?

*** It Washed Up by Joe R. Lansdale
The Pied Piper in a marine version with hints of Cthulhu mythos hovering above it all. Good for what it is, but in the end also fails to really excite the reader.

**** The Thirteenth Hell by Mike Allen
Very nice to also see some poetry included into this volume. This was great piece about crawling madness and the downward spiral towards insanity which while reading it reminded me quite a lot of Laird Barron in verse form (to whom - to my surprise - it also was dedicated in the end by the way).

** The Goosle by Mark Lanagan
Rather pointless retelling of "Hänsel and Gretel" that tries way too hard to be edgy by adding rape, sex and gore into the mix. Yawn, next please!

** Beach Head by Daniel LeMoal
Started off pretty interesting with a group of men awakening at a beach buried up to their necks in the sand while the tide is rising. So far so good, unfortunately the author does not make much of the possibilities that the setting offers and instead steers the story towards an ending that feels utterly incongruous and rushed.

*** The Man from the Peak by Adam Golaski
Has a certain odor of mystery and noir about as it slowly turns violent. Nevertheless the last spark to ignite the fire was amiss even though I couldn't quite put a finger on what it was the story lacked.

**** The Narrows by Simon Bestwick
Sets a great tone and builds a believable scenario in its breathless style and feverish thought jumps in the beginning, tightening the screws further and further while things spiral out of control and the nightmare worsens, making it a placable ending for this collection.
Profile Image for Robin.
Author 2 books9 followers
April 24, 2022
Much of the book had me wondering if 2008 was a bum year for horror. It doesn't help that the least interesting stories are almost always the longest (with the exception of the concluding novella, "The Narrows," which single-handedly improved my opinion of the book as a whole). Apart from "The Narrows," highlights of the anthology include "Cargo," "Penguins of the Apocalypse," "The Hodag," "Harry and the Monkey," and "Beach Head."
Profile Image for Lindsey R.
95 reviews
February 3, 2022
Favorites in this volume:
"Cargo" by E. Michael Lewis
"Penguins of the Apocalypse" by William Browning Spencer
"Harry and the Monkey" by Euan Harvey
"Loup-garou" by R.B. Russell
"The Goosle" by Margo Lanagan
"Beach Head" by Daniel LeMoal
"The Man from the Peak" by Adam Golaski
"The Narrows" by Simon Bestwick
Profile Image for Susanne.
160 reviews1 follower
September 20, 2022
2,9* out of 5 if we average out all of the separate scores here. So it wasn't great overall. I did not enjoy most stories, and would not recommend this bundle, were it not for the absolute last story in here, The Narrows which gave me the shivers.

The anthology starts with 50 pages of pretty much everything that appeared in 2008 when it comes to horror. Needless to say, I didn't read any of this.

On to the stories (with spoilers in most reviews):

21. The Narrows - by Simon Bestwick
Leave the best for last, eh? This one is atmospheric, it's scary, there's character development, I actually felt really invested! After an atomic bomb is dropped on Manchester, three teachers and their students escape underground to avoid radiation poisoning. They make a home around an underground lake, but are forced to head into the narrow passages leading further inward when radiation starts leaking in. I won't spoil this one, because if you are going to read this anthology, this is the story you're doing it for.
Profile Image for Shawn.
800 reviews239 followers
September 10, 2023
And here we are again, having worked my way BACK to the first volume, so that now I can return to volume 9 and continue forward.

As always, a mixed bag, with about half not to my taste or underdeveloped and half solidly good or good with some slight flaws. No outstanding story/ies, surprisingly - but at least two I wouldn't mind running on PSEUDOPOD, if we can get them.... As always, the "Year In" is both depressing (due to the sheer volume of stuff) and enlightening (added a few books to my Goodreads lists). Being that this is the initiatory volume, the presence of a bit more dark fantasy than I'd like can be given a hand wave. So, weakest to strongest.

Few things out of the way first. JoSelle Vanderhooft's "Sweeney Among the Straight Razors" and Mike Allen's "The Thirteenth Hell" are both poems, which I don't feel I have the ability to effectively critique (I did like Allen's work). Graham Edwards' "Girl in Pieces " is not my kind of thing at all - detective pastiche in dark fantasy setting ("A golem walked through my door and said...") - not what I read for. Decide for yourself. "If Angels Fight" by Richard Bowes has someone contacted by an old, wealthy, politically-connected Irish family to discover the whereabouts of their black sheep son (who used to be their friend and is officially dead). But it's a shared secret that said black sheep has the ability to jump his consciousness from body to body, possessing others, and could be anywhere... Well, I guess this is a good example of how a well-written, honest, emotionally and psychologically informed work could still just end up not being for you. It was an interesting read but, despite all the well-observed detail, it just never grabbed me (at least partially made me wonder why it needed the genre element at all).

Of the "Okay" stories: Miranda Siemienowicz's "Dress Circle", wherein a woman finds herself drafted into a nightmarish stage production, is surrealistic, oneiric and symbolic, but a little too vague for me. "It Washed Up" by stalwart Joe R. Lansdale has a man made of seaweed rise from the sea and lead a small town to its doom. Reminded me too much of Matheson's "Lemmings." William Browning Spencer's "Penguins of the Apocalypse" has an alcoholic discover that has inadvertently made a deal with an inhuman spirit while on a bender, a deal that endangers his child. A modern riff on "Harvey" (which it even acknowledges), but a bit too glibly told for my taste. Finally, "The Rising River" by Daniel Kaysen starts with a troubled woman telling of murder and ghosts, but whose murder and whose ghosts and what troubles, or is it all lies inside of lies inside of lies? Told in a breezy and engaging manner, this ends up being one of those "modern mental illness" yarns that keep undermining itself.

Next would be the "Good but flawed" stories, that usually are pretty solid but have some kind of niggling aspect. "Esmeralda (The First Book Depository Story)" I guess kicked off a series of stories by Glen Hirshberg. After a country-wide phenomena of the dumping of vast amounts of unused printed matter into huge urban warehouses ("Book Depositories", natch) - cause who reads anymore? - which are later, faddishly documented by "exurban explorers" - comes the discovery that maybe something more dangerous is going on in these book graveyards. It's a cool idea/setting with lots of potential resonance, but I found the story lacking, if well-written. A woman suffers hallucinations and disassociation after her husband and son die in a plane crash, but a suggestion by another individual suffering loss only opens doorways to further horrors in "The Lagerstätte" by Laird Barron. The story is an extremely well-written examination of deep grief that moves through loss, addiction and suicide into something metaphysical and far worse, for all that. Still it seemed a bit meandering (although that does fit into the overall theme of slow, stunned reactions). Nicholas Royle gives us "Very Low Flying Aircraft" (a J.G. Ballard reference, I assume) which has Africa-stationed RAF men attempting to keep themselves occupied, with one attempt leading to a gruesome incident. Good setting, good writing, okay story.

Continuing: In "When the Gentlemen Go By" a mother weighs her options in the sacrifice of her child because the town has made a reciprocal deal with supernatural forces ages ago, Margaret Ronald crafts an effective metaphor for small-town insularity, with a nicely visionary and eerie ending, but perhaps takes a bit too long getting there. Set in 1978, (E.) Michael Lewis' "Cargo" has a surprised military cargo hauler called on to accompany a shipment of hundreds of children's coffins back to the United States from some place called "Jonestown." This story is a solid spooker, slightly hobbled by the (understandable) restraint needed so as not to be accused of stumbling into bad taste. Finally, in the 19th Century a group of travelers, comprising "The Clay Party," head West but an attempt to cut a corner (geographically) leaves them stranded in the mountains as Winter arrives, and they soon succumb to starvation, despair and the unthinkable. Much like "Cargo," this takes an actual and unfortunate historical event ("The Donner Party") and uses it as inspiration, adding a genre element (a bit too late, in my opinion) and suffering the same problem as "Cargo" suffered.

Which leaves seven solidly "Good" stories. The novella length "The Narrows" by Simon Bestwick has three teachers and a handful of their charges survive a nuclear strike on Manchester by fleeing into the vast series of underground canals and tunnels, leftover from the coal-mining industry of the last century. But, of course, they're not alone down there.... Good suspense, atmospheric and with a believable (if awful) set-up, and a logical plot momentum that leads to an almost inevitable conclusion. In a quasi-sequel to a famous fairy-tale, "The Goosle" by Margo Lanagan, we follow two underhanded travelers (the younger regularly sexually abused by the older) in medieval times, who stop overnight at the cottage of a hideous woman. A woman who the younger one recognizes... A brutal little story that presumes a grimy backstory to a familiar fairy tale, this is seedy and dark. Meanwhile, Euan Harvey's "Harry And The Monkey" has British father in Thailand tell about the real (and unreal) dangers and benefits in teaching your child about imaginary beings. This effortless and breezy read has a very real feeling about it.

A man recounts a strange French film he once saw while waiting for an appointment, a film which haunted him, but eventually tracking down a copy years later proves even more problematic in "Loup-garou" by R.B. Russell. I really enjoyed this very "Video Watchdog"-esque tale of an art film's inadvertent effect on a life. In "The Hodag" a man reminisces about a singular experience of his childhood in a Wisconsin coal town in which a strange, vicious beast from backwoods folklore began to prey on the townsfolk. A solid monster yarn that wisely weaves in prosaic details of a hard time and desperate people. Well done work by Trent Hergenrader.

Finally, I found these last two stories particularly strong and would like to run them on Pseudopod. A man attending a party at a friend's mountain home becomes suspicious of an ugly yet undeniably charismatic stranger who crashes the affair. This, "The Man from the Peak" by Adam Golaski, is a good story, told in a self-involved, overly aware voice and while the scenario itself may be familiar, the presentation really sets it apart. Finally, "Beach Head" by Daniel LeMoal has a real grabber of an opening, as a low-level drug runner awakens to find himself, and a group of his compatriots, buried up to their necks in sand at some isolated beach. From there, it only gets weirder... Very enjoyable "comic horror anthology" type story.

And that seems to be it.
Profile Image for Pam Winkler.
151 reviews2 followers
December 20, 2018
This was a good collection. A lot of good pieces and a few fantastic ones.
Cargo by E. Michael Lewis was good.
If Angels Fight by Richard Bowes was interesting and good.
The Clay Party by Steve Duffy was one I read earlier, it's a very good story.
Penguins of the Apocalypse by William Browning Spencer was outstandingly creepy.
Esmeralda: the First Book Depository Story by Glen Hirshberg was good.
The Hodag by Trent Hergenrader was also good.
Very Low-Flying Aircraft by Nicholas Royle is one I've read before. It didn't do much for me the first time.
When the Gentlemen Go By by Margaret Ronald was absolutely beautiful.
The Lagerstätte by Laird Barron didn't really stick with me.
Harry and the Monkey by Euan Harvey was beautifully shivery and wonderful.
Dress Circle by Miranda Siemienowicz was ok? I don't think I got it.
The Rising River by Daniel Kaysen was good.
Sweeney Among the Straight Razors by JoSelle Vanderhooft was a poem and I guess it's ok?
Loup-Garou by R.B. Russell was good.
Girl in Pieces by Graham Edwards was not what I expected at all, and I won't call it horror. It was urban fantasy. It was good though.
It Washed Up by Joe R. Lansdale was very short.
The Thirteenth Hell by Mike Allen was another poem. It was good.
The Goosle by Margo Lanagan was probably good but I didn't like it.
Beach Head by Daniel LeMoal was good and brutal.
The Man from the Peak by Adam Golaski was good.
The Narrows by Simon Bestwick was good, although I didn't like the ending too much.
Profile Image for Jena.
316 reviews2 followers
June 12, 2017
Lo mejor del año en cuentos de horror, es lo más malo que he leído en este año. De esta selección que fue editada por Ellen Datlow, podría mencionar como los mejores, sin afirmar que son ni siquiera buenos, el de Michael Lewis: "Cargo", que toma como pretexto lo sucedido en Jamestown (conocido como Jamestown Massacre), cerca de Georgetown en una de las antiguas Guayanas de Sudamérica, en donde el pastor Jim Jones, envenenó a su congregación (900 personas) con Kool Aid de uva. "Esmeralda" de Glen Hirshberg, es sobre la desaparición de personas en viejos almacenes de libros en Chicago y, "Girl in pieces" de Graham Edwards, que relata un mundo fantástico en donde los "golems" recogen la basura y los zombies se emplean como policías.
La mayor parte de los temas de los cuentos no son de Horror, sino de Fantasía, pues buena parte de ellos fueron publicados en la revista de Ciencia y Fantasía que muchos tuvimos la oportunidad de leer. Hago esta aclaración porque existe entre los autores estadounidenses una diferencia bien clara entre el "Horror" y el "Terror". Horror es la mera insistencia en lo sangriento y lo repugnante, en los asesinatos y los cuerpos pútridos, asuntos que también podrían pertenecer a lo porno. Por el contrario, el terror tiene su raíz en el miedo cósmico a lo desconocido, que se considera la más terrible experiencia que se pueda experimentar.
Profile Image for Lyndsey Gollogly.
894 reviews4 followers
April 30, 2021
55 of 250
The Best Horror of the Year Volume 1
Edited by Ellen Datlow

Once read a review will be written via Smashbomb and link posted in comments!

I will post in comments a short comment on each story!

An Air Force Loadmaster is menaced by strange sounds within his cargo; a man is asked to track down a childhood friend... who died years earlier; doomed pioneers forge a path westward as a young mother discovers her true nature; an alcoholic strikes a dangerous bargain with a gregarious stranger; urban explorers delve into a ruined book depository, finding more than they anticipated; residents of a rural Wisconsin town defend against a legendary monster; a woman wracked by survivor's guilt is haunted by the ghosts of a tragic crash; a detective strives to solve the mystery of a dismembered girl; an orphan returns to a wicked witch's candy house; a group of smugglers find themselves buried to the necks in sand; an unanticipated guest brings doom to a high-class party; a teacher attempts to lead his students to safety as the world comes to an end around them...

What frightens us, what unnerves us? What causes that delicious shiver of fear to travel the lengths of our spines? It seems the answer changes every year. Every year the bar is raised; the screw is tightened. Ellen Datlow knows what scares us; the twenty-one stories and poems included in this anthology were chosen from magazines, webzines, anthologies, literary journals, and single author collections to represent the best horror of the year.

Legendary editor Ellen Datlow (Poe: New Tales Inspired by Edgar Allan Poe), winner of multiple Hugo, Bram Stoker, and World Fantasy awards, joins Night Shade Books in presenting The Best Horror of the Year, Volume One.

1. Cargo by E.Michael Lewis
So chilling and so sad! This is short I dedication to the families of those children in Jonestown and the men and women who brought the bodies home.

2. If Angels Fight by Richard Bowes
This is about a man searching for his friend who was possessed by an Angel. On this journey you see and find out that this Angel left his friend and left a trail behind him to follow. His family never gave up he managed to find his friend and Angel Michael and return him to his home one last time. Only question was did he bring him home to find his sister to posses or to say goodbye to his mother?.

3. The Clay Party by Steve Duffy
A group of settlers embark on a journey for a new life in California in 1846, the journey does not go as expected. I was a bit bored at the beginning but certainly had a twist at the end.

4. Penguins of the Apocalypse by William Browning Spencer
This is brilliant! A man fighting his personal battles with alcohol! Now is the pulka and penguin freedom movement real or a fragment of his imagination while under the influence? Either way it was entertaining!

5. Esmeralda by Glen Hirshberg
This is a very strange little story involving the end of all books,pens and paper! Very odd!

6. The Hodog by Trent Hergenrader
A good old fashioned urban legend!

7. Very Low Flying Aircraft by Nicholas Royle
Not one for me didnt really grip me.

8. When the Gentlemen Go By. By Margaret Ronald
This was a bit chilling and I would love to have read more about these “Gentlemen” who come at night to make bargains!

9. The Lagerstatte by Laird Barron
Grief does strange things to our minds and body! This was quite chilling.

10. Harry and the Monkey by Euan Harvey

This really plays on every fear a parent has when their kids go missing especially in a place and time where children are vanishing!

11 Dress Circle by Miranda Siemeinowicz

12. The Rising River. By Daniel Kaysen
This was strange and after reading it I’m still not sure what’s happening 😂😂

13 Loup-Garou by R.B. Russell
I enjoyed this strange litte story set in my hometown of Birmingham. A little french film causes a little drama in this mans life.

14. Girl in pieces by Graham Edwards
This was my favourite! So far fetched into a world of monsters a detective helps a Golum save a girl cut to pieces! So much fun

15 It washed up by Joe R. Lonsdale
Wow how to pack a punch in 2 pages! Loved it!

16 The Man from the Peak by Adam Golaski
Brilliant short full of mystery blood and gore! Very well written.

17. The Narrows by Simon Bestwick
This actually chilled me I’d hate sending my child to school and have something like this happen which of course is totally possible.

I loved this book of small tales and discovering those writers I wouldn’t normally be exposed too!
812 reviews21 followers
October 7, 2017
I like anthologies the same way I like M&M's: they're chocolate so they're all good. They're small, so they don't require a major commitment, and all the different colors make them fun.

And every now and then, you get one you swear just tastes better than the others. I still swear the tan ones were more chocolaty than the others but then they stopped making those, so that's another story.

But anyway. . .I've read enough short fiction the last few years to start recognizing the authors that I seem to like better than the others. Don't get me wrong - the others aren't bad, they just weren't to my taste.

Except for poetry - just not a fan. Poems in horror collections are like those deformed M&M's you come across, misshapen and hard. You may like those, for all I know.

1. "Cargo"/E. Michael Lewis -- 4 stars
2. "If Angels Fight"/Richard Bowes -- 5 stars
3. "The Clay Party"/Steve Duffy -- 5 stars
4. "Penguins of the Apocalypse"/William Browning
Spencer -- 5 stars
5. "Esmeralda - The First Book Depository Story"/Glen Hirshberg -- 4 stars
6. "The Hodag/Trent Hergenrader --4 stars
7. "Very Low-Flying Aircraft"/Nicholas Doyle -- 2 stars
8. "When the Gentlemen Go By"/Margaret Ronald -- 5 stars
9. "The Lagerstatte"/Laird Barron -- 5 stars
10. "Harry and the Monkey"/Euan Harvey -- 5 stars
11. "Dress Circle"/Amanda Siemienowicz -- 2 stars
12. "The Rising River"/Daniel Kaysen -- 4.5 stars
13. "Sweeney Among the Straight Razors"/JoSelle Vanderhooft (poem) -- 1 star
14. "Loup-Garou"/R. B. Russell -- 1 star (totally didn't get it)
15. "Girl in Pieces"/Graham Edwards -- 3 stars
16. "It Washed Up"/Joe R. Lansdale -- 4 stars
17. "The Thirteenth Hell"/Mike Allen (poem) -- 2 stars
18. "The Goosle"/Margo Lanagan -- 4 stars
19. "Beach Head"/Daniel Le Moal -- 3.5 stars
20. "The Man from the Peak"/Adam Golaski --4 stars
21. "The Narrows"/Simon Bestwick -- 4 stars
Profile Image for Kimberlie.
191 reviews11 followers
December 3, 2019
Some good stories, some meh.

Some of the stories are okay. I liked a few, but I wish I had read reviews before I bought the first 8 books of this series. The stories are not bad, they're just not all super interesting to me. I'm going to stop reviewing story by story after When The Gentlemen Go By unless there are any I really like.

Cargo ***
The cargo is some of the bodies from the Jonestown massacre, and the story is about the horrors that come with them. Very creepy, this one gave me goosebumps, which is exactly what a horror story should do.

If Angels Fight ***
A man's hunt for a long dead friend has a strange and surprising outcome.

The Clay Party ***
Basically the story of the Donner party with different names and a twist.

Penguins Of The Apocalypse ***
A story about a sad alcoholic with an unusual problem. It was a little slow for me.

Esmeralda: The First Book Depository Story ***
This one was a bit confusing, but is dark and haunting.

The Holdag ****
Chilling and horrifying, this one gave me the creeps. It kept me fully engaged from the first word to the last, I will remember this story for a long time.

Very Low Flying Aircraft  **
That was a strange one. Survival of the fittest perhaps?

When The Gentlemen Go By ****
Seriously creepy. What families go through in this hollow is a nightmare.

I gave up on this book after a few more stories. I just could not stay interested.
480 reviews5 followers
March 5, 2022
This review was originally going to be much shorter. “The Best Horror of the Year: Volume One” is the fifth horror anthology I’ve read in the past three months, and the fourth of its series. That quantity of genre can be numbing after awhile. Each story has a narrator. You know they’re going to get screwed. There’s ten to twenty pages of tense prose with varying amounts of tension, dread, and humor. Then the protagonist is screwed. The end.

I’m being a bit glib, of course; there’s plenty of room for originality in a horror story. But that originality felt absent for the first two-thirds of this anthology. For most of the stories, I could foresee the exact beats of the plot from the first paragraph. Sometimes I could predict the ending as well. Yawn.

So I put “The Best Horror of the Year: Volume One” down for a week or so. But when I picked it back up, the stories had changed. They had become unpredictable again. Some were twisted retellings of common horror tropes; some presented unique situations and devices; some were written with a thick layer of artistic dread. These stories seduced me in the most enjoyable way.

In the end, the anthology had a few clunkers, many competently told but ultimately forgettable stories, and a nice run of gems near the end. That’s good enough for me!
Profile Image for Gw.
142 reviews5 followers
August 25, 2022
There were 21 stories I only like 5.5 of those stories .5 because one was barely ok. This is the first edition of a series that has many editions. I do hope it gets better. Most of these stories weren’t even horror, more like thrillers and the two aren’t exactly the same. Quite a few of the stories were just plain stupid, and juvenile.
I read some where that there was a series before this, like this one, but the editor was different. I don’t know why it was changed. I wonder if it was better? I can’t imagine it was worse. Another thing is, there a lot of typos in this book. That is very irritating.
To have a title claiming THE BEST HORROR OF THE YEAR, is quite a boast. One would think there would be some great quality between the pages. Geesh, even the stories I liked were far from the “the best” of anything. I don’t know where the editor was pulling from when she chose the stories and authors in this book, but if she thinks any of the stories and authors in this book are the best of anything, she must teach first grade. If this book was the best writing her first graders came up with and she published it, from the standpoint..ok sure,it wasn’t bad a book for first graders except it had really vulgar parts in so shame on her..lol
82 reviews
May 20, 2020
I love this series. Finally able to pick up an used copy of volume one. On to volume four and then the two most recent volumes. A little bit of everything horror in these volumes, from Lovecraftian to body horror to apocalyptic to monsters and more. Even some macabre poetry! Volumes also include excellent information on all things in horror literature from the year previous to publication: award winners in horror, new books, magazines (print and ezines), etc. Closes with a brief, entertaining bio of all the authors whose stories are included. Datlow is the best horror editor in the business! Any time I see her name, I know it will be worth my time. Sweet dreams, sleep tight, and don't let the bugs bite...
Profile Image for Lord Humungus.
463 reviews10 followers
June 13, 2023
Some really entertaining and really creepy stories in this collection. There were a lot of new names for me so it will be cool to track down more works by the authors. One of things I found interesting was there were poetry entries; I can't remember the last time I found "horror" poetry in the wild, let alone in any of the other volumes in this series.

Hands down favorite story was The Clay Party by Steve Duffy, but also really liked Richard Bowes, Laird Barron (of course), Miranda Siemienowicz and Daniel Lemoal. Graham Edwards' noir piece was super fun and Margo Lanagan's sordid tale was so fucked up I knew I wanted to read more of her stuff.
Profile Image for Јордан Kocevski).
Author 7 books88 followers
January 29, 2018
I would've rate this anthology 3.5 if possible instead of 4 starts.
What bothered me most was the fact that there are some really good story whose effect and pleasent experienced is lost because of the mediocre and bed stories. there are some stories that I wouldn't put in the genre of horror, some predictive ones, some that have nice way of building tension but don't deliver at the end.
I wouldn't call this the best horror stories.
On the other side that are stories so we'll paced and intriguing that will stick with you. My favorite was Beach head.
Profile Image for Casey.
128 reviews3 followers
March 19, 2019
Overall strong collection with high quality writing.

The beginning half of this collection is fine and contains a mix of weak and strong stories. The concluding half is very strong. “Very Low Flying Aircraft” is the weakest of the lot and essentially functions as an accident report. Generally horror stemming from realistic events is effective for me but this story fell flat. “Harry and the Monkey” is great. It’s always nice to see the bad guys get their comeuppance and the vindicator in this tale comes with a demand for respect and a creepy presence. “Girl in Pieces” works as a Pratchettesque take on noir-horror-detective fiction and has a humorous feel as well.
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
8 reviews
October 16, 2021
I was unimpressed with the extreme America focus of the first handful of stories. I mean, seriously, a Kennedy adjacent story? An Oregon Trail story? It eventually settled down, and I liked a couple of the stories but overall the parochialism of the first part of the book left the whole thing feeling a little flat.
Profile Image for Horrorbooksfan.
18 reviews5 followers
January 27, 2022
Cargo ****
If Angels Fight **
The Clay Party ***
Penguins of the Apocalypse ***
The Hodag **
Very low Flying Aircraft *
When the Gentlemen Go By ***
The Lagerstatte ***
Harry and the Monkey **
The Dress Circle *
The Rising River ****
Loup Garou **
It Washed Up **
Beach Head **
The Man from the Peak ****
The Narrows ****

I gave up on the rest
Profile Image for Alan.
1,081 reviews66 followers
March 12, 2022
The first in Ellen Datlow's series of "Best Horror of the Year" series. I found it underwhelming. I only recognized a couple of names of the contributor's to the anthology, and I guess there's a good reason for it. There was nothing all that terrible, but nothing all that great. Maybe three or four stories I really liked and the rest were pretty average or just plain meh.
Profile Image for Brandon Bragg.
8 reviews
April 6, 2022
Disappointing first volume overall, but will continue with the series as I heard it gets much better. Stories below were the standouts and made me want to seek more out by those authors:
- If Angels Fight by Richard Bowes
- The Hodag by Trent Hergenrader
- The Lagerstatte by Laird Barron
- The Narrows by Simon Bestwick
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