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Darkness: Two Decades of Modern Horror

3.56  ·  Rating details ·  345 ratings  ·  38 reviews
Compiling the finest in frightening tales, this unique anthology offers a diverse selection of horror culled from the last 25 years. Hand selected from cutting-edge authors, each work blends subtle psychology and mischievousness with disturbingly visceral imagery. In the classic "Chattery Teeth, Stephen King provides a tautly drawn account of a traveling salesman who ...more
Paperback, 424 pages
Published March 1st 2010 by Tachyon Publications (first published January 1st 2010)
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Average rating 3.56  · 
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Wil Wheaton
Jan 27, 2016 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: horror, abandoned
Some of the stories in this very uneven collection are really good, but too many entries just did nothing for me. I abandoned it a little less than halfway through (so feel free to judge me and this review accordingly), because I have a huge stack of stuff that I genuinely want to read, and life's too short.
Maxine Marsh
Nov 24, 2015 rated it really liked it


So I'd read some other anthologies earlier this year and remembered how much I do enjoy a good collection. So when I realized that Darkness was one of my reads for the Horror Aficionados yearly challenge (from the Nightmare Top 100 Horror Books list), I cracked this puppy open! After the first few stories I was glad that I did. Most of the selections are top notch, with only a few that didn't seem up to par with the others.

The most striking stories included:
- The very creepy "The Pear-Shaped
Rachel Hall
Oct 29, 2012 rated it it was ok
Honestly I was really disappointed with this horror anthology. I have been looking forward to reading this for a while especially because of the selection of horror authors, which was truly impressive. But I'm not really sure the editor has a very clear picture of what horror is, and it seemed very apparent because of the selections made. I wouldn't really recommend this to anyone, although it was not wholly awful (there were a handful of creepy tales.) I say if you're thinking about picking ...more
I really liked reading this collection, more for the fact that it helped me narrow my likes and dislikes when it comes to horror, than because the stories were all consistently good. There were some true gems and some real bombs in here, but I guess that's to be expected in an anthology. Overall I recommend this book, especially if your looking for a sampling of what the genre has to offer and some new authors you may not have heard of before.

Jacqueline Ess: Her Will and Testament-4.5 stars
Robb Bridson
Jan 09, 2013 rated it liked it
It's what you expect from a horror anthology: a few good stories, a few decent stories, a few boring stories. Some of them I had already (the Joe Hill story is in 20th Century Ghosts; the Clive Barker story is in Books of Blood, Vols. 1-3). My personal favorites from this collection are the Stephen King, George R. R. Martin, Elizabeth Hand, and Gene Wolfe stories; I didn't care for the Peter Straub and Neil Gaiman stories.
Feb 06, 2011 rated it liked it
A decent collection of horror, though a couple of the stories were so boring I couldn't get through them. A very dark and grotesquely sexual story by Neil Gaiman was a surprise, in the form of a screenplay/prose poem, no less. A good one by Clive Barker, a very upsetting story by Peter Straub that I'd already read, a fantastic one by Pat Cadigan whom I'd never heard of before, something typical but fun from Stephen King, and a dreamily sick piece by Joyce Carol Oates which was worth going ...more
Esther King
Jul 11, 2016 rated it liked it
A solid collection of some choice pieces of horror fiction. I was delighted to find some old favourites such as Stephen King and Joe Hill, along with a plethora of new authors, some of whom I shall soon be actively seeking the works of. Not all these stories are directly terrifying either, a welcome change to many horror omnibuses. Many of these stories suggest a far more subtle and insidious fear. There's a few weak pieces, and perhaps some I would have not chosen (such as King's 'Chattery ...more
Joel Nichols
Jun 03, 2010 rated it really liked it
varied anthology that's pretty readable right through and with a few gems. I really liked the ones from Edward Bryant, a really queer take on alien invasion, and Poppy Z. Brite's, which was traditional zombies in Calcutta. The Dan Simmons one is interesting but instantly forgettable. There's probably stories you've already read though, like the (still excellent) stuff from Kelly Link, Joyce Carol Oats, Stephen King, etc. The last story in this one is from Joe Hill, and is vivid, uncanny and ...more
As she has done consistently for decades, Ellen Datlow has here assembled another anthology of fantasy/horror/specualtive fiction as diverse in quality as it is in genre and theme. I obtained my overall 3-star rating by ranking each story individually then dividing the total score by the number of stories (25) in the collection. The average is 2.76, and since Goodreads doesn't allow partial star ratings, I rounded up to 3.

Here's my ratings breakdown by number of stars:
1: "Eaten (Scenes from a
"Jacqueline Ess: Her Last Will and Testament," by Clive Barker (1984): 6.75
- really out of my depth here, but apart from some arresting juxtapositions, seemed like a muddled faux-femmy narration of an otherwise straightforward woman as succubus story, albeit crudely glazed in some Reagan-Thatcher-era money culture bromides and assumptions (i.e. Where power resides). As for horror elements, largely predicated upon explicitness and gore, with no real dread built up, other than a kind of grimy
Steven Carter
Jun 06, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: anthologies
Chilling. Repulsive. Abhorrent. Dreadful. Disturbing. None of it is scary or frightening but yes, all of it is horrific. Each and every offering is in its own, unique way horrifying, offering a vignette or a revelation of the macabre intruding, coalescing into the mundane world. Are you a dog person? Do you like trinkets and brick-a-brack? Are you comfortable in your routine? Do you think that you have a special insight into something sacred? Do you trust or distrust your government? Your ...more
Oct 29, 2018 rated it liked it
So I'm a huge horror fan, and while a couple stories were decent, there were too many that just did nothing for me. I ended up stopping about halfway through because I lost interest mainly due to being upset about a couple of the stories being uncomfortably and disturbingly sexual; simply having content that is gross to read in my opinion doesn't really count as good horror. The good stuff messes with your mind in a cool psychological kind of way, like what "The Pear Shaped Man" did, but out of ...more
Valter Moreno
Nov 08, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Not what you expect

I expected a lot more o horror than I found in the stories that make up this collection. Even so, it was a pleasant reading. Joe Hill's story was the best one for me and worth the whole book.
Jay McCue
Dec 22, 2016 rated it really liked it
3.5 stars.

The collection was a little uneven. Clive Barker, Stephen King, and George R.R. Martin had some interesting stories. A few others felt a little flat. Steve Rasnic Tem's "Heat" was also mildy intriguing for me.
Micky Parise
Sep 06, 2019 rated it did not like it
Very disappointed in this book. Only kept reading it to see if there was any good story that would save it. None.
Dec 27, 2017 rated it really liked it
Solid collection, but a bit long.
Pam Winkler
May 15, 2019 rated it really liked it
Overall, a pretty good collection. Getting my reviews in was such a pain, I felt so lazy. I ended up reading most of them twice.

Jacqueline Ess: Her Will and Testament by Clive Barker was interesting.
Dancing Chickens by Edward Bryant was horrifying. I've read it before, and it's just a true horror story.
The Greater Festival of Masks by Thomas Ligotti is a good story, I like it.
The Pear-Shaped Man by George R. R. Martin is interesting and a fun horror story.
The Juniper Tree by Peter Straub
Nicole Cushing
Jan 04, 2011 rated it really liked it
This anthology compiles a fairly broad array of short horror fiction published from 1984-2005. It's a valuable resource for the newer horror author (or, for that matter, anyone who loves the genre) to use to get the "lay of the land" of recent developments in the field.

I found Glen Hirshberg's novella "Dancing Men" to be the strongest piece in the book, but also enjoyed George R.R. Martin's "The Pear-Shaped Man," Joe R. Lansdale's "The Phone Woman," Poppy Z. Brite's "Calcutta, Lord of Nerves,"
I like to joke that since my last name is Graves, if I am unable to publish my utopian, sf, or fantasy novels I will eventually switch over to horror and achieve success. The first step: Read horror.

I have a long way to go, however. This anthology quickly reminded me why I haven't read much horror since my Stephen King phase in high school, which ended abruptly with The Tommyknockers (1987) (in his excellent book On Writing, perhaps not coincidently, King says Tommyknockers was written at the
DeAnna Knippling
Lots of good short horror, although (probably due to the nature of two decades of the best of the best, which has spread downstream in an imitable fashion) nothing really surprising. I'd read more of these than I expected.

Highlights in a collection of highlights:

Dancing Chicken - Edward Bryant. I...don't want to spoil it. In any fashion.

The Pear-Shaped Man - George R.R. Martin. I felt like hugging people after this. I *dare* you...

Teratisms, by Kathe Koja. Had to read this three times.

Sep 29, 2012 rated it liked it
Recommends it for: people who like horror but aren't expecting too much.
Shelves: horror, adult
This collection of horror stories had some good ones in it but not many. There are many well known authors in it who write horror. It kept me occupied but to tell you the truth I don't remember one of the stories in here and I just finished reading it. Maybe "_______" by Joyce Carol Oates but it seemed unfinished in a way. Most of these stories to me seemed to be leftover works that just never made it into anything else so TA DAAA! they made it into a "compendium" of horror. I have read worse ...more
Anna Gaffey
Apr 02, 2015 rated it really liked it
Some good stuff in here. My favorites: "No Strings" (Ramsey Campbell), "The Erl King" (Elizabeth Hand), "The Specialists Hat" (Kelly Link), "The Tree is My Hat" (Gene Wolfe), and "My Fathers Mask" (Joe Hill). I also enjoyed George R. R. Martin and Stephen King's contributions. Pat Cadigan was new to me, and her story "The Power and the Passion" took me aback while reading -- was a wonderful, shocking delight to read. I look forward to reading more of her work. One of the better horror ...more
Syd Dickson
There were so many deliciously creepy stories in here that I always felt let down when there was one I didn't like. But there are always going to be a few stories you don't like in a collection like this. There was one in particular that really bothered me because I felt like it didn't fit in with the rest, nothing supernatural or suspenseful, it was just sort of depressing. There are a few that really stuck with me, my brain can't stop thinking about them even though I was a little disgusted ...more
James Ronholm
May 11, 2016 rated it liked it
An interesting collection of short stories - some by authors I knew, and others that were new to me. Like most short story collections there are stories with completely concrete [and satisfying] endings and others leaving you wondering about what really happened in the story. If you don't like stories with less obvious endings, you might want to give this collection a pass.
Jul 02, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: horror, fantasy
A bit of a mixed bag, I noticed that those authors introduced as masters of the horror genre did not necessarily delivers the chills the way authors known for other types of writing did. That's ok, because I did finally discover Clive Barker (been a horror fan forever and finally read something by him!) and was verified on the mastery of Thomas Ligotti.
Feb 15, 2014 rated it it was amazing
I had read this book years ago, and I'd forgotten about how good it was! Most of the tales are psychological in tone, but stories from Stephen King, Steve Rasnic Tem, Joe Hill and others will have you thinking for days to come! A "must read" if you like subtle horror and a "different" type of storytelling.
Santosh Bhat
Dec 13, 2015 rated it liked it
Shelves: ebook
Some of the short stories in this anthology are really scary, while others start out promisingly but bail out on us due to mediocre endings. Some of them plain don't make sense and those were the ones which caused me to stop reading midway and pick up something else. This is why it took me 6 months to finish the book.
Jay Caselberg
May 30, 2011 rated it liked it
I am in two minds about this collection. Some tales really stand out for me and stick, e.g. the Michael Marshall Smith and the Gene Wolfe (of course). Some, however, come from writers who leave me cold. All in all, it's a worthy read, but certainly not a favourite for me.
Mar 31, 2013 rated it really liked it
A solid anthology of horror short stories, with lots of pitch-perfect hits (Dowling, Brite, Bryant, Wolfe) and only a few misses (Simmons, Shepard, Etchison). Really enjoyable collection.
TammyJo Eckhart
May 13, 2010 rated it liked it
Actually my review of this will be posted next week most likely on the New York Journal of Books where I recently started working this spring.
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Ellen Datlow has been an award-winning editor of short science fiction, fantasy, and horror for over twentyfive years.

She is editor of the Best Horror of the Year and has edited or co-edited a large number of award-winning original anthologies. Her most recent are Supernatural Noir, Naked City, Blood and Other Cravings, The Beastly Bride, Teeth, Trolls Eye View, and After (the last three with

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