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The Mammoth Book of Best New Horror Volume 20
edited by Stephen Jones
Robinson, 541 pages

The Mammoth Book of Best New Horror Volume 20
Stephen Jones
Stephen Jones is the winner of multiple World Fantasy Awards, the Horror Writers Association Bram Stoker Award and International Horror Guild Awards, British Fantasy Awards and a Hugo Award nominee. A full-time columnist, television producer/director and genre movie publicist and consultant, Stephen Jones is also one of Britain's most acclaimed anthologists of horror and dark fantasy. He has edited and written more than 100 books, including: Shadows Over Innsmouth; Exorcisms and Ecstasies, a Karl Edward Wagner collection; and Clive Barker's A-Z of Horror. He is co-editor of a number of series including Best New Horror, Dark Terrors and Dark Voices. He lives in London, England.

Stephen Jones Website
ISFDB Bibliography
SF Site Review: The Mammoth Book of Best New Horror Volume 19
SF Site Review: H.P. Lovecraft In Britain
SF Site Review: The Mammoth Book of Best New Horror #18
SF Site Review: The Mammoth Book of Monsters
SF Site Review: The Mammoth Book of Best New Horror #17
SF Site Review: Shadows Over Innsmouth
SF Site Review: Dark Terrors 5
SF Site Review: White of the Moon
SF Site Review: Dark of the Night

Past Feature Reviews
A review by Mario Guslandi

The annual Best New Horror anthology edited by Stephen Jones celebrates its twentieth anniversary with flying colours providing one of its more compelling and satisfying selections in years. With a few exceptions, the large majority of the twenty pieces of dark fiction included in the latest volume of this long lasting, successful series are either outstanding or simply excellent.

Peter Crowther's "Front-Page McGuffin and the Greatest Story Never Told," firstly appeared in The Land at the End of the Working Day, a superb collection of novelettes set in a bar's microcosmos. It is a touching story featuring a dead man unable to leave this world and enter the after-life.

"It Runs Beneath the Surface" by Simon Strantzas, although not one of his most memorable stories, is a good tale of urban horror effectively conveying a sense of despair and oppression, while "Through the Cracks" by the prolific Gary McMahon, is a deeply unsettling tale of paranoia.

Two stories are reprinted from the splendid Ash Tree Press anthology Shades of Darkness. Steve Duffy's outstanding "The Ooram County Whoosit" recreates Lovecraftian atmospheres with great taste and craftsmanship while Paul Finch's "The Old Traditions are Best" unearths, in a very dark fashion, ancient Cornish evil forces.

In the beautiful "The Long Way," Ramsey Campbell blends the horror of a malevolent creature dwelling in an empty house with the private terror of growing up and facing life's hard aspects.

The vivid and unusual "The Pile" by Michael Bishop depicts a community sharing discarded objects thrown into a trash pile, including an ill-boding ape doll.

Stephen King makes his very first appearance in this anthology series with "The New York Times at Special Bargain Rates," a little gem probing the roots of human condition with its hopes and delusions, and making the readers meditates upon what awaits us beyond life.

Tanith Lee contributes the excellent, atmospheric "Under Fog" about the tragedies taking place on a rocky shore where ships keep wrecking, much to the satisfaction of the avid local inhabitants.

"Arkangel" by Christopher Fowler is a clever, although not quite convincing piece revolving around the tragic ride on a train still following the tracks of past journey toward the holocaust. Similarly, a train is involved in "Destination Nihil by Edmund Bertrand" yet another of Mark Samuels' disquieting nightmares, where a man takes a ride, unaware of his own identity and destination.

The talented Reggie Oliver revisits Greece's antique mysteries in the captivating "A Donkey at the Mysteries."

To me, the highlights of the volume are represented by the stories penned by Sarah Pinborough and Albert E. Cowdrey, maybe because, being scarcely acquainted with those authors' previous work, they came as an unexpected, extraordinary surprise. Pinborough's "Our Man in the Sudan" is an extraordinary mix between a spy story and a horror tale. The superior storytelling, and the subtly unnerving exotic atmosphere make it an unforgettable piece of fiction. Cowdrey's outstanding "The Overseer" is a complex historical novella set during the Civil War, mixing public events and personal dramas in a strong, spicy cocktail of mainstream and supernatural fiction dominated by a mischievous, demanding ghost.

In addition to its fair amount of short fiction, the volume, as usual, includes an exhaustive overview of the horror scene (books, magazines, movies, obituaries etc.) which makes the book invaluable to any horror fan.

Copyright © 2009 by Mario Guslandi

Mario Guslandi lives in Milan, Italy, and is a long-time fan of dark fiction. His book reviews have appeared on a number of genre websites such as The Alien Online, Infinity Plus, Necropsy, The Agony Column and Horrorwold.

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