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The Mammoth Book Of New Terror
editor: Stephen Jones
Robinson paperback £7.99

review by Mario Guslandi

For a newcomer to horror fiction this anthology would deserve a five-star ranking, because, at a very low price, it provides almost 500 pages of entertainment, spread over 24 stories and two novelettes. But someone who, like your reviewer, has been reading horror for more than 25 years, cannot but wonder about the meaning of the adjective 'new' in the book title.

About half of the stories featured in this volume date back to the 1980s and the reason for their inclusion is not always clear. The choice of the stories reprinted therein reflects the editor's well known preferences and idiosyncrasies in terms of horror writers, so of course you'll find a Ramsey Campbell story (and one so often reprinted, The Chimney, that horror fans by now must know it by heart) as well as reprints from Dennis Etchison, Brian Lumley, R. Chetwynd-Hayes, F. Paul Wilson, Lisa Tuttle, and David Case. It's not always easy to understand why, among the above authors' ample production, a particular story has been selected, but that's just a matter of personal taste, I guess. Likewise, while it's nice to read again E.C. Tubb's deeply unsettling Mirror Of The Night and Terry Lamsley's outstanding debut novella Under The Crust, one wonders if among the various good stories by Karl Edward Wagner The Fourth Seal is really the most representative of his writing skill and, in terms of literary quality, what on earth justifies the presence of Kim Newman's Amerikanski Dead At The Moscow Morgue? But, again, it's the editor's privilege to choose whatever he likes; hence to discuss his choices is probably a waste of time. So let's stick to what is actually 'new' here, starting with the few stories that are original to this anthology.

Christopher Fowler, an author who has certainly written much better material, contributes with an agreeable tale where a cell-phone becomes the digital version of Aladdin's lamp - with an unusual final catch. In Reflection Of Evil by Graham Masterton, an ancient mirror, possibly belonging to the Lady of Shalott, proves to be the source of inexplicable evil. It's a fascinating story by a true master of terror. Brian Mooney's Maypole revisits the theme of the remote village where ancient, forbidden rites are still performed, with the unwilling involvement of an outsider. Despite the predictable outcome the writer contrives to keep the reader's attention hooked throughout the story.

David J. Schow's Wake-Up Call is an imaginative story about the difficulties of ending one's life by means of suicide when this is considered an anti-economic activity that society simply can't afford. The duo of Tanith Lee and John Kaiine provides a brand new tale, Unlocked, by far the best one in the book. This outstanding story recounts the events concerning the complex relationship of a young woman with a man (her rough suitor) and his sister (her tender lover). The unhappy liaison between the two girls, described by the authors with extreme subtleness, will have a tragic outcome for both of them. Here's a story that Jones should move straight from New Terror to the next volume of his yearly anthology Best New Horror.

There are also reprints of a bunch of stories appeared elsewhere in the last couple of years, such as Neil Gaiman's excellent Closing Time, set in an old London pub, where a man recalls a chilling incident from his childhood involving a mysterious, secluded playhouse and then unexpectedly discovers more about it by another customer. Another good one is the smart Open Doors by Michael Marshall Smith, exploring the possibility for a man to live different lives. By contrast both Caitlin R. Kiernan's Andromeda Among The Stones - an epic fantasy of sorts - and Glen Hirshberg's Flowers On Their Bridles... - aimlessly dragging on with reminiscences about an old amusement park on the Long Beach pier - seem rather out of place in an anthology supposedly devoted to terror tales.

Much more substantial is Fodder, a collaborative story by Tim Lebbon and Brian Keene, mixing the horrors going on in the WW1 trenches with that of hungry dead coming out of the ground to look for fresh meat. The tale is a bit too long and after a while starts losing power, yet conveys to the reader a sense of dread perfectly in tune with what the book's title promises.
Mammoth Book of New Terror

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