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Inferno - New Tales Of Terror And The Supernatural
editor: Ellen Datlow
Tor paperback $15.95

review by Sandra Scholes

Ellen Datlow edits this collection of 20 stories of modern horror and the supernatural, with the claim these tales have shock value or make the reader uncomfortable with fear. The stories are strange, far-reaching and disturbing in a particular way and at times can be considered unsettling due to the subject matter.

Within the pages of Inferno - New Tales Of Terror And The Supernatural there are short stories by several prominent authors including K.W. Jeter, Joyce Carol Oates, Christopher Fowler, Stephen Gallagher, and Pat Cadigan. This book is the winner of the World Fantasy Award 2008 and International Horror Guild Award - Shirley Jackson Award, and this alone shows the prestige the collection has.

In Inferno, each story begins with characters that have what look like normal lives but, as you continue reading, you find the terror lurking inside every door and round every street. It brings a sense of unease and the unexpected to the various tales in this compilation. From ghosts to haunting memories and everything in between, all have a skeleton in the closet, and each writer has a way of being able to offer that element of surprise in their work that stands out as dark and exciting.

Datlow's motivation for organising the book was her love for the horror story and novellas as it can activate the minds deepest, darkest corners of fear. It is also due to her admiration for such writers as Stephen King and Bram Stoker, dark works like The Monk by Matthew Gregory Lewis, and Frankenstein by Mary Shelley. Lovecraft should not be forgotten either as some main names in horror literature today has been influenced by their novels and stories. Though they are not in this compilation the stories could be said to be inspired by them.

Over the course of her career Datlow has edited many anthologies of various stories and they often focussed on a specific theme. What she tried to do in this anthology was make it without a theme in mind so the writers could really get a feel for the subject matter then write about it. The non-themed horror books will take readers back to more traditional series like The Pan Book Of Horror, later to be re-titled Dark Terrors which was edited by Stephen Jones and David Sutton.

When these books have been published several separate themes have recurred but it has become a more mixed set of stories that rouse the reader to want more. These stories can mostly be found set in real life. The horror of loss, fear of murder, the madness within all of us that is suppressed until something happens to bring it to the surface.

Of the stories several stand out as intriguing as well as gripping. Misadventure by Stephen Gallagher is about a worker who remembers a life when he was much younger and also reflects on a childhood incident from several years ago. Gallagher spent part of his life in the northern town of Salford, England and is the author of many novels including Angel, and Red, Red Robin. Winner of the British Fantasy Award in 2004, he has also had his work published in some of the most renowned magazines out there.

The Bedroom Light is one of Jeffrey Ford's short stories, and his other work has been published in The Year's Best Fantasy And Horror 19th annual collection. His story concerns an old house where couple Bill and Allison live with their cat Mama which they think is haunted. He has an idea who haunts it, but never tells his wife of his suspicions.

Lastly in this book, Inelastic Collisions by Elizabeth Bear asks the question of whether two sisters, both angels, can cope with living in the human world once they have fallen out of favour with the man upstairs. Bear's work is mainly in speculative fiction and has written many stories and novels, The White City and Scardown being two of them. There is enough fiction in here to give many fans a reason to read the book as it is full of unusual and thought-provoking stories designed to keep you on the very edge of your seat.

Inferno edited by Ellen Datlow



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