Haunted Nights by Ellen Datlow
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
This new collection of Horror (or I should say strictly Halloween stories,) was probably the best surprise I got this month. I generally don't expect all that much about made-to-order stories based on a theme, but every single one of these was consistently awesome. Some were rather extraordinary.
Something else that comes as a rather nice surprise was the fact that I've been following most of these authors anyway, so I'm getting a feel for what they'd do naturally and I can even get a sense as to whether their stories are up to snuff. And if you've been reading this far, you can tell I think so. :)
BUT. And here's the odd part... some of my favorite authors aren't getting their top marks in this collection! Seanan McGuire's story, "With Graveyard Weeds and Wolfsbane Seeds", actually fell near to the bottom of my list of favorites! *gasp*
"Dirtmout" by Stephen Graham Jones, was absolutely gorgeous and atmospheric and creepy as hell. This is where I knew I was going to rock to this collection.
Jonathan Maberry's "A Small Taste of the Old Country" was pretty good for a history lesson and a traditional ghost story vibe and I have no complaints even if it didn't strike fear into my heart.
I really loved Joanna Parypinski's "Wick's End". It really captures the taste of sitting around a campfire telling stories about how to beat the devil... even if it's a game in a pub. I LOVE these kinds of stories within stories.
"The Seventeen-Year Itch" by Garth Nix was a good one for hospitals and obsession but it didn't really grab me that much even though it was entertaining.
"A Flicker of Light on Devil's Night" by Kate Jonez was pretty atmospheric even if it was more just a mild horror. :)
"Witch Hazel" by Jeffrey Ford was a decent witch story with twins for all you people who are naturally freaked out by those freaks of nature. :) :)
"Nos Galan Gaeaf" by Kelley Armstrong wasn't part of any of my favorites, unfortunately.
"We're Never Inviting Amber Again" by S.P. Miskowski, was, okay, pretty forgettable, too. :)
BUT Brian Evanson's "Sisters" really knocked things out of the park. I loved the fish out of water aspect. :)
"All Through the Night" by Elise Forier Edie was sweet and bittersweet and thoughtful.
"A Kingdom of Sugar Skulls and Marigolds" by Eric J. Guignard was pretty awesome as an adventure through thug territory living through the Day of the Dead for real. It was pretty brilliant.
Paul Kane's "The Turn" made me turn for real. Nice and scary and a perfect pick me up. :) Boo!
Pat Cadigan's "Jack" was pretty much a pumpkin king. Familiar, full of myth, and decent fun, but kinda middle of the road.
John Langan's "Lost in the Dark" blew me the **** away. This one is easily my absolute favorite of the bunch, half-way a documentary, a horror movie, a barroom expose, and a thoughtful and smart addition to the shaky-cam genre that blows most of the shaky-cams out of the atmosphere. I actually got creeped out and started biting my nails a bit.
And for the last story of the bunch, we got a SF! "The First Lunar Halloween" by John R. Little wasn't particularly scary but it felt like a great lunar/archeological experiment in trickery. :)
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