I'm reading through three lists of best horror with two friends (DeAnna Knippling and M.B. Partlow), posting reviews as we go. (For more information, including a list of the books, see this post.) To see the books I've reviewed so far, you can view the list at the end of this post where I rank them.
This week I'm reviewing Joe Hill's 20th Century Ghosts.
This is a collection of short stories, at least one of which I'd already read in one of the Year's Best type anthologies. It would probably be a good collection for someone wanting to dip their toes in horror, but not wanting anything too extreme. A lot of these stories are haunting (though only a couple were supernatural in nature, despite the name). Some of them linger more on the fantasy end than the horror end.
An example of one that leaned toward the fantasy end (though it was decidedly still horror), was "Voluntary Committal." In this story, the POV character's brother is special needs. He builds an involved maze out of cardboard, full of rooms and decorations, but the tunnels ultimately lead somewhere no one comes back from.
Even more out there is "Pop Art," in which the POV character's good friend is a balloon boy, picked on by the other children. And yes, he's really inflatable. This one was whimsical and full of heart.
Probably the most viscerally disturbing was "You Will Hear the Locust Sing," where a young boy turns into a locust with a taste for people.
"My Father's Mask" is very "Twin Peaks"/"Twilight Zone." Creepy and odd.
The title story (20th Century Ghosts), was sweet and supernatural. I grew in movie theaters since my mom managed several, and I have a special fondness for the world.
All in all, it's a good collection with a lot of diversity in subject matter, although many of the stories revolve around youth and have younger characters. The stories range from sweet to horrifying. Surreal to gritty. Familiar to bizarre.
My new rankings:
1. The Handmaid's Tale (Margaret Atwood)
2. The Bottoms (Joe R. Lansdale)
3. Coraline (Neil Gaiman)
4. A Choir of Ill Children (Tom Piccirilli)
5. The Year's Best Dark Fantasy & Horror 2010 (Paula Guran)
6. The Year’s Best Fantasy: First Annual Collection (Ellen Datlow and Terri Windling)
7. Needful Things (Stephen King)
8. 1Q84 (Haruki Murakami)
9. Those Who Hunt the Night (Barbara Hambly)
10. Darkness: Two Decades of Modern Horror (Ellen Datlow)
11. 20th Century Ghosts (Joe Hill)
12. Rebecca (Daphne DuMaurier)
13. Dark Forces (Kirby McCauly)
14. Dawn (Xenogenesis, Book 1) (Octavia E. Butler)
15. Wet Work (Philip Nutman)
16. The Stranger (Albert Camus)
17. Dead in the Water (Nancy Holder)
18. The Witches (Roald Dahl)
19. Psycho (Robert Bloch)
20. The Damnation Game (Clive Barker)
21. The Wolf's Hour (Robert McCammon)
22. Berserk (Tim Lebbon)
23. Prime Evil (Douglas E. Winter)
24. Best New Horror, Volume 1 (edited by Stephen Jones and Ramsey Campbell)
25. Flowers in the Attic (V.C. Andrews)
26. The Tomb (F. Paul Wilson)
27. Shadowland (Peter Straub)
28. Blood Meridian (Cormac McCarthy)
29. The Imago Sequence (Laird Barron)
30. My Soul to Keep (Tananarive Due)
31. Penpal (Dathan Auerbach)
32. World War Z (Max Brooks)
33. From the Dust Returned (Ray Bradbury)
34. The Red Tree (Caitlin R. Kiernan)
35. In Silent Graves (Gary A. Braunbeck)
36. The Cipher (Kathe Koja)
37. Drawing Blood (Poppy Z. Brite)
38. The Doll Who Ate His Mother (Ramsey Campbell)
39. Hotel Transylvania (Chelsea Quinn Yarbro)
40. Naked Lunch (William S. Burroughs)
Have you read anything by Joe Hill? Did you see the movie "Horns?" Did you know he was Stephen King's son when you first read him or was it a pleasant surprise later on?
May you find your Muse.