Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Review: Hauntings, ed. by Ellen Datlow

Title: Hauntings
Editor: Ellen Datlow
Publication Date: March 12, 2013
Target Age Group: Adult
My Rating: 3 out of 5

Book Jacket Blurb

This ghastly anthology, compiled by the horror genre's most acclaimed editor, drags you into the twisted minds of modern literary masters, including Neil Gaiman, Joyce Carol Oates, Connie Willis, and Peter Straub, at their fiendish best. Visionary storytellers fill this collection of twenty-four tales, lyrical and strange, monstrous and exhilarating, horrific and transformative. Here you'll find a sweetly vengeful voice on the radio who calls a young soldier out to join a phantom patrol; a hotel maid who throws her newborn child from a fourth-story window, then lingering in an interminable state; an intern in a paranormal research facility who delves deeply into the unexplained deaths of two staff members; and a serial killer who plans his ultimate artistic achievement: the unveiling of an extremely special instrument in a very private concert. At once familiar and shocking, these riveting stories will haunt you long after you put down your book and turn out the light.

My Review: 

This is one of the books I acquired at Book Expo America 2013, so I'd like to first thank them and also Ellen Datlow for giving me the opportunity to read this book and autographing it for me.

Before I go into my review, I just wanted to list all the authors whose stories are included in this anthology so they receive proper recognition:

Pat Cadigan
Dale Bailey
E. Michael Lewis
Lucius Shepard
David Morrell
Caitlin R. Kiernan
Joyce Carol Oates
Elizabeth Hand
Neil Gaiman
F. Paul Wilson
Jonathan Carroll
Terry Dowling
Paul Walther
Simon Kurt Unsworth
Connie Willis
Stephen Gallagher
Michael Marshall Smith
Richard Bowes
James P. Blaylock
Jeffrey Ford
Gemma Files
Kelly Link
Adam L. G. Nevill
Peter Straub

Every so often, I return to my roots for reading material: horror. I love a good horror story. They're very difficult to find these days, as my tastes in horror have gotten very picky over the years. I'm always on the look out for stories that don't just offer cheap thrills but really haunt my very soul. Also, I have to care about the main character. I'm not that thrilled with the whole "innocent victim gets terrorized by the killer/monster/etc for no apparent reason" anymore. Nor am I drawn toward the "mean person gets what's coming to him" type of story. Nor am I thrilled with stories that aren't really stories but more like incidents. Of course, there are always exceptions, if the story is unique enough.

Using these criteria, Hauntings is a mixed bag for me. Every short story in the book is written extremely well, in the very capable hands of all the authors included in the anthology. However, in some cases, either the stories are not really "stories" - in the sense that there is a clearly defined beginning, middle, and end and there is some type of character growth involved - or they are of the type where the evil main character gets his "reward". There are some stories that definitely break the rules I mentioned above that are so unique they stand out. There are others that also break the rules that are just "meh".

A few stand-out stories for me and why they stood out:

- "Anna" by F. Paul Wilson. A revenge story that was very unique, so I loved it.

- "Two Houses" by Kelly Link. VERY unique ghost story, set in space, that haunts me still.

- "Hunger, an Introduction" by Peter Straub. This is one of the only stories in the anthology that I would consider a complete story, AND unique, and very well told.

Having said that, I'd invite everyone who loves a good ghost story to check out this anthology and these talented authors. I think there is something here for everyone. Don't just go by my own picky tastes. My rating is purely based on personal preference but in no way is a reflection on the talent and storytelling abilities of the authors.

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