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The Best Horror of the Year Volume Eight
Edited by Ellen Datlow
Cover Artist: Blake Malcerta
Review by Benjamin Wald
Night Shade Books Paperback  ISBN/ITEM#: 9781597808538
Date: 07 June 2016 List Price $15.99 Amazon US / Amazon UK / Show Official Info /

In The Best Horror of the Year Volume Eight, acclaimed editor Ellen Datlow gives us her picks for the standout horror short fiction of 2015. Some of my favourite horror authors are represented, including Neil Gaiman, Laird Barron, and Steve Resnic Tem, and they do not disappoint. The focus throughout this collection is on classic horror material--we have Lovecraftian monsters, vengeful ghosts, and hideous tales of revenge. The aim of most of these stories is to unsettle, unnerve, and downright terrify, and a good number of them succeed at that goal.

One of the standout stories is from the always excellent Laird Barron. "In a cavern, in a canyon" features the kind of tough, damaged protagonist that Barron excels at. This time it is a woman who narrates the story, a grandmother even, but she is as spiky and hard-headed as any of Barron's characters. There's a moment midway through the story where the reader starts to put together the pieces of the story in a magnificently creepy way, a time bomb in the narrative that works spectacularly well. One of my all-time favourite stories from one of my all time favourite authors.

"The woman in the Hill" by Tamsyn Muir is an epistolary story, which might seem to undermine the tension of the narrative since the writer must, of course, survive to write the letter. However, Muir manages to construct a scenario in which the inevitability of the heroines demise becomes all the more horrible for leaving her the space to write a letter recounting her experiences. Muir manages the tricky balance of revealing exactly enough and leaving the rest to the imagination.

Neil Gaiman's "Black Dog" rejoins the hero of American Gods, Shadow. The story relies fairly heavily on the reader's familiarity with American Gods, but it is a compelling story, and a joy for fans to see Shadow again.

Some of the stories are less successful. Kelly Armstrong's "We Are All Monsters Here" spends a long time on thoroughly unconvincing world building in the service of a fairly predictable twist ending. Similarly, "Lords of the Sand" telegraphs its revenge plot storyline so heavily the reader feels beaten about the head with foreshadowing, sapping all the force of the climatic revelation.

But overall, the collection is consistently strong, with several excellent stories. Well worth it for fans of horror short fiction.

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