Donald's Reviews > Poe's Children: The New Horror

Poe's Children by Peter Straub
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's review
Apr 09, 2009

really liked it
bookshelves: 2009, shorts

Because this is an anthology, not only of stories but of authors, I knew going in I would not like everything that was included. I had not heard of half the authors in this collection, though I have looked up a couple of them because of it. The title of this seems a bit of a misnomer. I would have classified most of the inclusions as literary spec fiction. Or maybe spec fantasy. Perhaps that is a sign of the times; that those we look to for great horror have been horrified by what else is out there and they are slowly backing away.

Dan Chaon's story: The Bees, was the perfect first story for this collection. It set the bar at a certain height. Unfortunately that height doesn't get reached again for some time.

The subtitle of this anthology is The New Horror. But some of these stories go back two decades or more. That is some kinda sad bit of false advertising. I read Joe Hill's 20th Century Ghost quite a while ago in his collection of the same name and I still like the story. I also think it wasn't well told. All the damned italics just bummed me out. Came off as a sort of concept fiction that didn't need to be that way. I got the same feel from Stevenson's Insect Dreams. She puts double spaces between all her paragraphs. With all the white space dutifully removed by any decent editor, the story's page count would have been halved.

The one truely shining example of great story telling is in Stephen King's The Ballad of the Flexible Bullet. No trick high concept bull going on here; just good stuff. I had not read that one before even though it was twenty-five years old.

Some of the stories were just sad. Glen Hirshberg's The Two Sams fell into that category. And others just seemed unfinished, or perhaps hurriedly finished for some deadline.

Neil Gaiman's October in the Chair, about the months of the year sitting around a fire roasting sausages and telling campfire stories still is a good story. I liked Graham Joyce's Black Dust for its ending. Found Kelly Link's Louise's Ghost unnecessarily confusing for its two Louises. And Ramsey Campbell's The Voice of the Beach was just so out there. Truely, to be honest, I like something about each of these. There is some quality in each of these to like them all.

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