This morning we want to bring you a new review of The Spectral Book of Horror Stories: this one’s from the Morpheus Tales Review Supplement October 2014 issue (available for FREE HERE and also includes my ‘Ramblings of a Tattooed Head’ column), and was written by J. S. Watts – here it is in full:
Review: The Spectral Book of Horror Stories edited by Mark Morris
I am so impressed by this polished short story collection that I almost don’t know how to start this review. For this reason I’m going to begin with some basic facts. The Spectral Book of Horror Stories is published by Spectral Press, who are going from strength to strength in my estimation, contains over three hundred pages of eclectic horror fiction, nineteen short stories (written by nineteen of the best contemporary horror writers) and aims to be the first volume in an annual series of horror anthologies. It is unthemed (according to its editor, but I’ll come back to that later), contains supernatural and non-supernatural stories “of madness, of dread, of warped longing and twisted love”. Contributors include Stephen Volk, Lisa Tuttle, Stephen Laws and Angela Slatter, to name just four of the Grand Masters and Mistresses of Horror who have written for this anthology.
The collection is so good there was only one story out of the nineteen presented here that I didn’t connect with, no mean feat in an anthology of this size, and no, I’m not going to name it. That would be unfair on the story and its author. It wasn’t a bad story (all the stories are superbly crafted), it was just that, to me, it didn’t seem as outstanding as the other eighteen, but in a collection this good it really comes down to a question of taste and the stories are so varied there is surely something here that will please everyone.
So I return to my original dilemma, with eighteen (okay, nineteen) outstanding horror tales to choose from, how am I going to describe this collection in a way that will do it justice and whet readers’ appetites. My solution lies in challenging the “unthemed” claim made by Mark Morris. Yes, it contains both supernatural and non-supernatural horror, ghosts, demons, rock’n roll, ancient books, celebrity bus tours, spooky monsters and serial killers, pagan renewal and sacrifice, unspecified evil, eviscerated corpses, madness, isolation and supernatural life-inspectors and might therefore be considered unthemed, but, apart from the sheer quality of the stories themselves, there is, to my mind, a theme running through these eclectic tales: the unknown. Even in the most graphic of these stories, there is as much unsaid as said, as many questions left unanswered as those spelled out in dripping blood or salt tears. The authors leave the reader’s imagination to do some of the legwork and it pays off big-time: these are stories that will continue to echo round your head long after you have finished reading them, assuming you have a head left, of course – there are at least two characters within these stories who have a physical absence in the head department and many more who certainly have a lack within it.
I’m not sure what else I can tell you about The Spectral Book of Horror Stories other than go buy it, or borrow it from a friend, but definitely be good and read it, because, to quote from Stephen Laws’ strange and dark story, “You must be gud, or The Slista will come get you.”
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