PrintE-mail Written by Alister Davison

For over quarter of a century now, editor Stephen Jones has been putting together the annual anthology of short stories under the title of Best New Horror. This, the twenty-sixth collection, is packaged beneath a lurid cover from the horror comics of the 1950s, but don’t let that fool you; inside are nineteen stories that showcase just how versatile the horror genre is. There are tales that would make Lovecraft and MR James proud, sat side by side with stories of magic, fables of ghoulish children and others that have little or no supernatural elements within them. What they all have in common, is the quality of writing.

Collections can sometimes suffer when some stories are weaker than others, often perceived as fillers, but this certainly isn’t the case here. Jones – a master editor – has assembled a group of such a high standard, that there isn’t a poor one among them. All of them succeed in keeping the reader in suspense, ending with a payoff or twist that rewards the time spent with them; many linger in the mind days later, challenging perceptions and prompting re-assessment or even a re-read. It would be impossible to pick out a favourite, as so many managed to get under this reviewer’s skin, whether they were read in the brightness of a summer’s day, or in suitably atmospheric lamp light.

Anyone who has read a Best New Horror collection will know that a cracking set of stories isn’t all you get. Jones’s introduction is worth the price on the cover alone, as he runs down almost everything that’s happened in the world of horror films, TV and books. Similarly, there’s a Necrology at the end, where – with the aid of Kim Newman – the deaths of anyone involved in the business of giving people scares are chronicled. One minor quibble is that, with this version being a paperback (the original hardback published in 2015), both introduction and Necrology feel slightly out of date, covering the year 2014.

Best New Horror 26 sets the standard for short story collections, in whatever genre, by ensuring that each tale draws emotion from the reader, delivering not only the shocks and scares that horror fans expect, but also subtle psychological twists that will have its readers thinking long into the night. Jones voices concerns about the future of the genre, but it would seem it will be safe in his hands and those of the writers that he has put into this stunning anthology.


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