June 2004
2004 Ernest Lilley / SFRevu
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Gathering the Bones: Original Stories from the World's Masters of Horror - Ramsey Campbell, Jack Dann and Dennis Etchison (eds)
UK: Harper Collins Voyager (UK) PPBK: ISBN 0732280680 PubDate: 05/01/04
US: Tor TRADE: ISBN 0765301792 PubDate: 08/16/03
Review by Iain Emsley

UK 560 pgs. List price  7.99 / US 447 pgs. List Price $11.17
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(Left: UK cover - drag mouse over cover for US cover)

Horror has resided, as far as the mainstream is concerned, in the doldrums really since Kathe Koja and Poppy Brite. Apart from the myriad of Steve Jones anthologies and the exception of one or two huge name authors, horror seems to have failed to really deliver in the same manner that it did during the 1970s and 1980s. As a genre, its most public face seemed content to churn out some very 'samey' books, revisiting the same tropes again and again.

Largely, the horror scene dissipated into its own magazines represented in slipstream or published in the small press market. Gathering The Bones, edited by Ramsey Campbell, Jack Dann and Dennis Etchison, is a curious anthology but long overdue. Each editor should be a recognized name to readers but they have each collated stories from the US, Britain and Australia which represent the finest writing in the major English speaking markets. What makes this anthology so enjoyable over some Tokai or Chianti is the range of modes and atmospheres that are contained within. These tales range from urban to historical to fantastic, from the Gothically dark to the sorrowful.

Lisa Tuttle and Terry Dowling take the genre back to its Gothic roots, realizing the genre as one of quiet mechanics that build into their terrifying conclusions, whereas Michael Marshall Smith and Stephen Dedman offer quite modern horrors that unsettle the reader. What comes from both styles is that horror does not have to tell, it can be an atmosphere which encroaches and oppresses. The horror also comes from everyday objects (you'll never see the yellow brick road in the same light after reading Steve Nagy) and tendencies that are abhorrent to most democratic and liberal minds.

These stories also enjoy playing with form and style, revisiting the conceit of the hidden knowledge and transmitted in letters, or intertwining the various narrative threads or even using folk songs to tell the story.

Gathering The Bones is an intriguing mix of names, styles and atmospheres which rewards dipping into as well as reading back to back. Hopefully what it will do is to give the horror genre a much needed push now that it has a new range of voices.

2004 Ernest Lilley / SFRevu
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