Dark Terrors 6: The Gollancz Book of Horror
(Gollancz, £12.99 499 pages, trade paperback published 24 October
2002; ISBN 0 575 07249 0. Gollancz, £7.99, 560 pages, paperback, this
edition published 22 July 2004.)
Before I start, I have to confess and state that this is my first Dark
Terrors anthology and therefore I cannot say on any authority how
it compares to the previous five. Right, now that's out of the way ...
Jones and Sutton have been editing anthologies for just about longer
than anyone, either solo or collaboratively, so they must be some form
of benchmark when it comes to deciding what's great and, conversely,
what's not so great in horror and dark fantasy: if they've accepted
a story for publication, then surely it must be good.
DT6 contains thirty-three tales from a veritable cornucopia
of horror masters: the veterans -- Ramsey Campbell, Graham Masterton
and Basil Cooper, to name but three -- to the relative new-comers in
the form of Tim Lebbon, Nicholas Royle and Conrad Williams, et cetera.
Obviously, with such a wealth of material, it is practically impossible
to like every single story, and with that in mind I will highlight just
the ones I personally enjoyed.
Christopher Fowler's "We're going where the sun shines brightly" is
a great antidote to the insipid Cliff Richard musical, with a neat twist
at the end.
Jay Lake's "Eglantine's Time"'s protagonist is a woman subjected to
a strange and bizarre medical ritual. The story is hard to describe,
but it gave a nasty taste to my mouth.
"The Burgers of Calais" by Graham Masterton is probably my utmost favourite,
though it's a very hackneyed horror tale. Its strength lies in the superb
black humour and characters, wonderfully realised by Masterton. You'll
guess the ending early on, but you'll love getting there. A sentiment
echoed with Nicholas Royle's "Hide and Seek" where he turns on the tension,
and delivers an absolutely killer ending -- very simple, yet very effective.
After Royle, I'd go for Conrad Williams's "Haifisch" which tells the
tale about how a thirst for revenge can stay with someone, and they
won't rest until it's completed -- a quiet, yet subtly upsetting tale.
Kim Newman's "A Drug on the Market" displays what could have possibly
happened if Dr Jekyll had succeeded, and the resulting tonic was readily
available -- researched in minute detail, and Newman delivers and almost
perfect sense of time and place.
And finally, the last of my personal favourites: "The Boy Behind the
Gate" by James van Pelt, who expertly wields two separate timelines,
yet both intertwined, then brings them both together to a conclusion,
which I could see coming yet found highly entertaining.
Of the rest of the tales, I found Ramsey Campbell's "The Retrospective"
slightly disappointing, even though it dripped of atmosphere, and I
expected more from Tim Lebbon's "Black". As for Stephen Baxter's "The
Dinosaur Hunter" I just shook my head and wondered in disbelief at why
it was placed in a horror anthology? It was probably the poorest
piece (definitely a case of a writer having an off day), and no doubt
only included to add his name to the contents list.
Two of the stories that didn't quite make the grade were "Slaves of
Nowhere" by Richard Christian Matheson and "The Prospect Cards" by Don
Tumasonis, which were both slightly askew in the way they were written,
original even. I applaud both for that, but neither gave me a sense
Overall, despite the fact I've only highlighted less than half the
stories contained therein, I still rate this anthology highly -- not
only because it is but one of two markets available on the mainstream
bookshelves for the horror/dark fantasy short story fan, but also out
of thirty-odd tales, there is enough there to satisfy everyone -- I
may only have been thrilled by six or seven ... you may like ten or
Let's hope Dark Terrors continues onwards and upwards.
Review by Christopher Teague.
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