Original stories from a dark place, as collected by Datlow, who, with Terri Windling, edits The Year’s Best Fantasy and Horror collections.
The 16 here, about half by well-knowns and half by fresh voices, are meant to scare your pants off. That, of course, is unlikely, since fright hangs on surprise and if you know ahead. . . . Best foot forward is Jeffrey Ford’s utterly beautiful “The Trentino Kid,” which anchors its ghost in a close study of clamming in Great South Bay. If it weren’t for the occasional slippery-slimy body floating by, you’d want to get out and start clamming yourself. Joyce Carol Oates’s “Subway” is about a destiny-hungering woman with panting crimson lips and glistening mascara-ed eyes caught up in a recurring death-cycle on the subway. Gahan Wilson’s “The Dead Ghost” tells of a person waking up immobile in a hospital bed after an explosion to discover a fat, weighty, jellylike see-through body on the bed beside him and having to push his only moveable hand through the globby muck (it exhales corpse-stink) to get to the emergency button. Kathe Koja’s “Velocity” presents a sculptor whose current specialty is driving bicycles into trees. He’s the son of a vile artist, whom he calls the Prince of Darkness, who apparently burned his wife alive and later suicided by driving into a tree. Now his son is sure that Dad is crawling about the pipes of the Red House, which the son has inherited: he’s afraid to sit on the toilet and allow Dad to crawl up inside him. Ramsey Campbell’s “Feeling Remains” offers his usual marvel of domestic satire with acidic commentary on feminist strong-arming and the failed attempt to rein in a changeling who wants to burn down a house. Also on hand: Charles L. Grant, Tanith Lee, Terry Dowling, Jack Cady, Lucius Shepard, Kelly Link, Glen Hirshberg, Daniel Abraham, Stephen Gallagher, and Mike O’Driscoll.