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Poe's Children: The New Horror: An Anthology Hardcover – Oct 14 2008
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“Revelatory. . . . A remarkably consistent, frequently unsettling book.” —The Washington Post
“Straub is uniquely qualified to hold forth on what makes a good horror story. . . . [He] collects the best scary short stories out there.” —Time
From the Trade Paperback edition.
About the Author
PETER STRAUB is the author of seventeen novels, including Ghost Story and Koko, as well as two collaborations with Stephen King. Winner of eight Bram Stoker Awards, two International Horror Guild Awards, two World Fantasy Awards, and both a Lifetime Achievement Award and election as a Grand Master from the Horror Writers Association, he lives in New York City.See all Product Description
Top Customer Reviews
The Bees by Dan Chaon
Cleopatra Brimstone by Elizabeth Hand
The Man on the Ceiling by Steve Rasnic Tem and Melanie Tem
The Great God Pan by M. John Harrison
The Voice of the Beach by Ramsey Campbell
The Body by Brian Evenson
Louise's Ghost by Kelly Link
The Sadness of Detail by Jonathan Carroll
Leda by M. Rickert
In Praise of Folly by Thomas Tessier
Plot Twist by David J. Schow
The Two Sams by Glen Hirshberg
Notes on the Writing of Horror: A Story by Thomas Ligotti
Unearthed by Benjamin Percy
Gardener of Heart by Bradford Morrow
Little Red's Tango by Peter Straub
The Ballad of the Flexible Bullet by Stephen King
20th Century Ghost by Joe Hill
The Green Glass Sea by Ellen Klages
The Kiss by Tia V. Travis
Black Dust by Graham Joyce
October in the Chair by Neil Gaiman
Missolonghi 1824 by John Crowley
Insect Dreams by Rosalind Palermo Stevenson
I'd like this anthology a lot better with 'horror' removed from the title, though what one would replace that word with could lead to some debate: several stories don't feature the supernatural, so that's out; ghosts don't appear in all the stories, so there goes 'ghost story.' Even The New Fabulists fails, despite the broad net of that term.
"The New Horror" seems to have started around 1980 for Straub, though several writers (Stephen King, Ramsey Campbell, and Straub himself, among others) have published careers that stretch back up to 15 years before that. Again, odd: there are at least two generations of writers here, maybe even three.Read more ›
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
I was also pleased to see that Neil Gaiman was included with his October in the Chair. Here's a list of all the stories included in Poe's Children:
The Bees Dan Chaon
Cleopatra Brimstone Elizabeth Hand
The Man on the Ceiling Steve Rasnic Tem and Melanie Tem
The Great God Pan M. John Harrison
The Voice of the Beach Ramsey Campbell
Body Brian Evenson
Louise's Ghost Kelly Link
The Sadness of Detail Jonathan Caroll
Leda M. Rickert
In Praise of Folly Thomas Tessier
Plot Twist David J. Schow
The Two Sams Glen Hirshberg
Notes on the Writing of Horror: A Story Thomas Ligotti
Unearthed Benjamin Percy
Gardner of Heart Bradford Morrow
Little Red's Tango Peter Straub
The Ballad of the Flixible Bullet Stephen King
20th Century Ghost Joe Hill
The Green Glass Sea Ellen Klages
The Kiss Tia V. Travis
Black Dust Graham Joyce
October in the Chair Neil Gaiman
Missolonghi 1824 John Crowley
Insect Dreams Rosilind Palermo Stevenson
Also included at the end is a brief biography of each of the authors.
I suspect that like many readers, I have just a wee bit of difficulty reading when the story/author changes. Authors write with their own cadence. It always takes me a page or two to get in step, but other than that, I look forward to new anthologies, especially in the horror genre.
The best story in the collection, in my opinion only has to be October in the Chair by Gaiman, followed closely by Cleopatra's Brimstone. Picking these over the others is really pretty arbitrary since all of the stories are grabbers.
All things considered, Poe's Children is a unique collection by a diverse group of authors.
I highly recommend.
Two of the better tales are Stephen King's "The Ballad of the Flexible Bullet" (1984)--a story about the genesis of insanity, featuring a writer who suffers from the paranoid delusion that an imp inhabits his typewriter--and Elizabeth Hand's "Cleopatra Brimstone" (2001), a story about an entomologist who is sexually assaulted and wreaks her revenge on men by "collecting" them in bizarre fashion.
King and Hand, plus 22 other New Wave horror writers, exhibit telltale affinities with the spooky imagination of Edgar A. Poe.
If you are a fan of horror stories written by inventive wordsmiths, this quality work is just your cup of tea!
About the author: Peter Straub is the author of 17 novels, including Ghost Story and Koko, as well as two collaborations with Stephen King. Winner of eight Bram Stoker Awards, two International Horror Guild Awards, two world Fantasy Awards, and both a Lifetime Achievement Award and election as a Grand Master from the Horror Writers Association. He lives in New York City.
The second problem is the editing. The stories have all been previously published, so the words haven't been tampered with. But Poe's Children is an example of how the reader's perception of individual stories can be influenced within the context of their order within an anthology. Stories are placed in sort of thematic chunks that in theory seems like a good idea but in practice gets to feeling rather redundant. By the third story in a row about a protagonist trying to cope with the death of a loved one ("The Two Sams," "Unearthed," "Gardener of Heart") you're sick of grieving heroes. It's unfair to the individual merits of each story to lump them together so you can only really see their similarities rather than their differences, and in this capacity I feel Straub did his authors a disservice.
Of 24 stories there were only two I loved unreservedly. Twentieth Century Ghost, by Joe Hill, is a brooding modern Gothic piece about a haunted theater. (Ghosts always seem to haunt theaters, don't they?) And Louise's Ghost is dark, funny, incisive, bizarre, and heartbreaking--in other words, a Kelly Link story. I highly recommend short story collections by either author.
Stories that I enjoyed: "The Sadness of Detail," by Jonathan Caroll, was good, and refreshingly brief, an existentialist validation of art with disturbing theological implications. "The Bees" is a good story about past regrets that uses genre elements as a metaphor, though it seems almost like an afterthought. "In Praise of Folly" is a brief story with an obvious cymbal clash climax, which works because it doesn't overstay its welcome. I rather liked "The Kiss," about a woman coming to terms with her infamous jazz-singing Jezebel mother's untimely death. "The Green Glass Sea" is a stomach-churning exercise in dramatic irony about a vacation to a nuclear bomb test site. David Schow has fun with "Plot Twist," a study of survival in the face of personality clash for three immature adults on an aborted vacation to Vegas. "Missolonghi 1824" is a pretty neat story of the long-ago and far away and forgotten, when Lord Byron happens upon a captured Greek god. And "Gardener of Heart" is a story of going home again, as the protagonist returns to his hometown to bury his twin sister.
The rest is a mishmash of varying degrees of quality. "The Voice of the Beach" is pretty typical neo-Lovecraftian gobbledygook of the sort that Ramsey Campbell is known for; it's well-written but personally I don't have much fascination for the spaces between reality that Lovecraft fans seem to embrace. "The Great God Pan," "The Man on the Ceiling," and "Body" are another unofficial trio, this time united by surrealism and ambiguity. I don't mind ambiguity, in fact I rather enjoy it, but with all these stories I felt like the authors didn't know any more than I did and just wanted an excuse to connect vague ideas.
"Black Dust," "The Two Sams," and "Unearthed" are perfectly functional but none of them really stood out to me. I like the iconography of "Cleopatra Brimstone" but it was overlong and felt random at points; what was the meaning of all the S&M counterculture apart from a superficial representation of character development? "Insect Dreams" has some interesting ideas and touches on a true horror (slavery) in a way that doesn't feel cheap, but it could have been briefer. And King's early piece "The Ballad of the Flexible Bullet" just doesn't do anything new.
"Notes on the Writing of Horror" is long-winded and dull. "Little Red's Tango" is sporadically intriguing but ultimately I failed to grasp the point. "Leda" is just bizarre. And "October in the Chair" was disappointing. Neil Gaiman is my favorite author and I really like the device of having the months gathered around a campfire to tell tales, but that same device also felt like a meager justification allowing the story-within-a-story to remain unfinished.
Is the collection worth checking out? More than definitely. But don't expect a grand slam of every story.
I'll just go through a few:
In "Green Glass Sea", a father takes his family out to White Sands shortly after the first atomic bomb testing. The heat from the fireball melted the sand into green glass. His kids take some of the glass for souvenirs. He checks it with a geiger counter. The end. Seriously, that's the entire story.
"The Bees" is a well written slice-of-life vignette, but again, not scary in the least.
"Leda" is about a woman raped by a swan. She lays an egg. You can't make this stuff up.
"Body" was incomprehensible to me. A killer who can't tell women from shoes is tormented by an order of leather-obsessed monks?
"Sadness of Detail" is actually unsettling. I kicked it up a notch, as Emeril would say, for that story alone.
"Plot Twist" is a gimmicky unbelievable mess.
"Insect Dreams" is full of one line paragraphs like the following:
"Entranced she is looking, in a fever she is looking."
“Cold Print” by Ramsey Campbell
“20th Century Ghosts” by Joe Hill
“Songs of a Dead Dreamer” by Thomas Ligotti
Going through my notes I really enjoyed six stories from this collection. Gaiman’s “October in the Chair” was whimsical and gothic. “Leda” is seriously messed up, but also an interesting take on Grecian classic mythology and rape survival. “In Praise of Folly” is almost great and a reasonable sequel to things like “The Lurking Fear.”
There was a fair amount that I was ambivalent about, and more than a fair share of stories that deserve outright loathing. The more time I spend with Straub, the less I like him. As an author, I hate his use of hard second person. As an anthologist, he fails to deliver. The coveted first story slot failed to blow me away. The second story (Cleopatra Brimstone) was a novella length rape fantasy. An intensely weird rape fantasy but still at its core a rape fantasy. Girls just need to be raped enough to burst out of their cocoon and become a butterfly. Maybe I'm looking at it wrong, and it's just the bodice ripper-horror mashup that has been missing from the genre.
The inclusion of a story called “The Great God Pan” confused me. No, it’s not the Machen story. That would actually make sense tonally, but wouldn’t match the “new” part of the subtitle. But authors, if you want to write a horror story, don't give it the exact same name as a Machen story. And if you insist on doing so, make sure it is at least as good, or better. Bonus points for making it circular and referential. This applies to editors selecting stories for an anthology as well. The other story known as "The Great God Pan" fails all of these.
More often than not, I found myself skipping stories after they failed to engage me. I try really hard to give everything a chance, but a preponderance of this book was not worth the effort.
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