Thursday, July 18, 2013

Book review: The Dark: New Ghost Stories, compiled by Ellen Datlow

This is one that I've had on my shelf since literally about 2005 or so. It was a ghost story compendium that came out in 2004, and for one reason or another I've never pulled it off the bookcase and have read it. I think part of the problem is that the first two stories were kind of lame, and I lost interest.

But I have told myself that I can't buy any new books until I read every unread book in my collection, and that leaves about 10 more books or so, including this one. So I read it! And it was...mixed.

The entire catch with this book is that the stories are all supposed to be:

1) New (well, new for 2004)
2) Very scary

The stories were indeed 1, but not so much 2. Plus I didn't realize they were 'adult' ghost stories, so there was some language and violence in parts. The interesting thing, though, is that the stories were, for the most part, pretty well written. And many of them had some good set-ups. But most had lame payoffs.

Jeffrey Ford's "The Trentino Kid"
An OK story about a guy who drowned while clamming, and he comes back as a scary ghost and helps a guy in a storm. Whatever.

Tanith Lee's "The Ghost In The Clock"
A story about an extremely entitled and unlikeable British woman who gets an offer to stay with her estranged Aunt but resents that when she gets there, she's expected to cook and clean to earn her keep. The author seems to want us to root for the woman, though, and not the Aunt, so maybe that's just how modern entitled British young adults are now. At the end I was cheering for the ghost to eat her. (It didn't.)

"The Thing About the Night"
A cool title and a very interesting story about mirrored rooms, with a lame and not scary payoff. A waste of a great setting.

"The Silence of the Falling Stars"
Another excellent title, this one is a great story...with absolutely no point whatsoever. Terrific set-up and characters, but the end is extremely ambiguous and you get no resolution.

Gahan Wilson's "The Dead Ghost"
A very short story about a guy in a hospital who wakes up next to a scary ghost. Meh.

Oates "Subway"

"The Seven Sisters"
An interesting story with a strange ending, and not strange in a good way. It's about 7 cool old houses. A decent set-up, but the ending doesn't really make any sense and they don't bother filling in any of the blanks, especially the main blank of the entire story. It's implied to be some kind of magic, but the plot holes bugged me too much to recommend.

"Doctor Hood"
This one was OK. It's about a scientist and his unbelieving daughter who investigate ghosts.

"An Amicable Divorce"
Another waste, this had a 'scary' ending that was tacked on completely after the fact, it seemed. It was like the guy wrote a short story about a divorced couple trying to reconcile, and realized it was going nowhere so in the last paragraph he adds 'oh and also there's a ghost monster thing the end.'

"Feeling Remains"
Unlikeable characters and the ghost isn't scary enough.

"The Gallow's Necklace by Sharyn McCrumb"
Unbelievable ending. The characters do stuff that is completely against their nature. Also has enormous plot holes.

"Brownie, and M"
Sort of has a twist. It's OKish.

"Velocity by Kathe Koja"
An interview with a haunted guy. Not worth reading.

"Limbo by Lucius Shepard"
By far the best story in the entire bunch. It's also quite long for a short story. It's a novella, I suppose. An ex-con escapes some assassins and hides out at a lake where he meets a woman. It's got some great twists and a very scary ending at a bizarre house in the afterlife. But I didn't like the ending. I suppose it was the right ending for the story given that it was a twist I didn't see coming, but it's a downer. Still, great scares-exactly the kind I like. Not violent-just unusual and SCARY. Very hard to find stories like this.

"The Hortlak by by Kelly Link"
It was OKish. It's sort of a comedy about zombies who go to a convenience store. It was written deliberately 'weird' and surreal so it's tough to know what's going on or what the point was. Interesting premise.

"Dancing Men by Glenn Hirshberg"
No idea what the point of this was. An old guy from WW2 trains his grandson to do ... who knows. Some meditating, and there's a wooden carving thing and maybe the guy's spirit was supposed to go into the grandson? I have no idea.


Hillary said...

That doesn't sound mixed. That sounds like the book was crap with the exception of one cool, but depressing story.

Christian said...

But the stories were well written and had lots of interesting PARTS. Just when you look at the sum of the whole, it all sucked.