Horror is a category I usually avoided, because I never enjoyed it. However, I chanced upon Josh Malerman’s Bird Box a few years ago, and found that I really enjoyed it. I’ve been taking a chance with reading horror since then, and I most recently enjoyed reading Nightmares: A New Decade of Modern Horror edited by Ellen Datlow.
This anthology of 24 short stories, though slotted under horror, spans a bigger range of genres with horror intersecting fantasy, crime fiction and even sci-fi. It has something for everyone. Broadly, this is weird fiction.
Like all anthologies, there is a mix of stories that are amazing, to others that one wants to skip over. I should add in here, that many of the stories are extremely disturbing and could be triggering. So the recommendation comes with trigger warnings for sexual abuse, incest, body horror, graphic torture. A lot of the descriptions are pretty gory and nasty, expected for the genre, but certainly not for a reader who may be disturbed by them.
Some of the stories I really liked are:
Dead Sea Fruit by Kaaron Warren: The Ash Mouth Man will kiss you and you can never eat again! Written from the POV of a dentist working with anorexics, this is one of the tamer, yet very chilling stories.
Closet Dreams by Lisa Tuttle: This one made me weep when I was done! I’d say this one scared me the most because it is so close to reality.
The Clay Party by Steve Duffy: This reminded me of the Donner Party, but this one comes with something extra.
Lonegan’s Luck by Stephen Graham Jones: This is the story I liked the most! Zombies in the Wild West. And that cracker of an ending!
At Night, When the Demons Come by Ray Cluely: Set in a post-apocalyptic world overrun with demons, it highlights how sexism is alive and well even after teh world has gone to hell.
Was she Wicked? Was she Good? by Mary Rickert: This one was scary because it magnified the cruelty of a child.
Little Pig by Anna Taborska: This one is sad and heartbreaking, yet chilling.
How We Escaped Our Certain Fate by Dan Chaon: This is rather philosophical for a story about zombies, and has a cliffhanger ending that keeps the reader wanting answers.
Interstate Love Song (Murder Ballad No.8) by Cailtin R Kiernan: Incestous serial killers on a murderous road trip…need I say more?
Shay Worsham Corsted by Garth Nix: Sci-Fi meets horror. So many questions left unanswered! I wish this were a novel. Certainly want to read more!
There were some stories that were not for me. One is Spectral Evidence by Gemma Files. It is an unconventional story, presented as the notes taken during an investigation and reads like the written version of a found footage video tape. Unfortunately, I couldn’t really understand it. Very Low-Flying Aircraft by Nicholas Royle seems out of place in this anthology. The Goosle by Margo Lanagan is a particularly dark and nasty retelling of Hansel and Gretel and I found it too disturbing. Strappado by Laird Bannon is weird and creepy but I just don’t get why it has to be set in India. And frankly, a lot of the portrayals were very stereotypical. I just didn’t care for this one.
One criticism I would level at the anthology is the lack of POC writers. Apart from Stephen Graham Jones, the anthology is whitey-white, which is a shame because there are so many wonderful POC writers of horror out there.
What ties a lot of these stories together is the horrifying realization that there is much more to fear in the here and now; that the real monsters walk amongst us. In touching upon these very real horrors that we read about in the newspaper everyday and then magnifying them, Nightmares succeeds in being a true representation of what scares us in today’s world.
Do you enjoy reading horror? Have you read this anthology? What did you think of it? Let me know in the comments!
FTC disclaimer: I received an ARC of this book from the publisher via Netgalley in exchange for this honest review.