Just a reminder:
Just a reminder:
Charles Tan has given a fine review to Ellen Datlow's anthology Inferno over on his blog: see http://charles-tan.blogspot.com:80/2008/
Here's three of my highlights: "Lives" by John Grant was quite interesting for me because the horror aspect is not what we would immediately expect from the genre. It all would have fallen apart however if Grant did not make us sympathize with the narrator--the key to any good story. "Stilled Life" by Pat Cadigan is another story that relies on characterization and the author throws in a unique element that is seeded right from the beginning. Third is "The Janus Tree" by Glen Hirshberg which is a different coming-of-age tale and just when you thought you could relax, Hirshberg pulls a fast one on us like a skilled magician. . . . If you're looking for horror that lurks beneath the surface or simply good fiction in general, Inferno is one of those must-have anthologies.
Tan rates the the anthology as a whole at 4/5 -- i.e., between "Highly recommended and is easily a pioneer of the genre" and "A classic or it will be".
Ellen Datlow's anthology Inferno, which came out just before Christmas, has received yet another nice review, this time by Colin Harvey on the suite101 website. You can see the whole of it at http://scififantasyfiction.suite101.com:
But the very best of the many fine stories in Inferno are by lesser-known writers; ‘Lives,’ by John Grant, for its original revisiting of an old theme, Lee Thomas’ ‘An Apiary of White Bees,’ for its disturbing conflation of pain and pleasure, and ‘The Janus Tree,’ Glen Hirschberg’s acute portrayal of teenage love, pain and possession in a dying Montana mining town. But the very best story in the collection, if good fiction makes the reader look at the world slightly differently, is ‘Stilled Lives,’ by Pat Cadigan, which tells an eerie story of street performers, their hidden lives, and the statuary of London; it’s the outstanding story in an outstanding anthology.
Twenty very different stories compose this collection, but as Datlow writes in her introduction, there are no demonic children, witches or vampires -- but plenty of other monsters to keep you on your toes. Highlights include Pat Cadigan's "Stilled Life," John Grant's "Lives," and Lee Thomas' "An Apiary of White Bees."
There's not a whole lot more to see than this, but it's all good. Check it out at http://www.romantictimes.com/
Nicholas Kaufmann has just posted at Fearzone an enthusiastic review of the new Ellen Datlow anthology Inferno. Here's part of what Kaufmann has to say (the full review is at http://www.fearzone.com/blog/inferno-
And what a feast it is! . . . Among the highlights to be found in Inferno's twenty tales are Laird Barron's "The Forest," which joins his growing oeuvre of Lovecraftian stories that focus compellingly on his richly drawn characters while relegating the beasties to the background; Nathan Ballingrud's "The Monsters of Heaven," the hypnotically surreal tale of a missing child (a theme that, interestingly, recurs numerous times throughout the anthology) and the wounded, angel-like creatures that have started falling to earth all over the world; John Grant's "Lives," which brilliantly turns the child-in-jeopardy trope on its head in a way that would spoil the pleasure of discovery to describe here; Lee Thomas' "An Apiary of White Bees," about a man torn between his outwardly perfect life and his true desires who discovers a magical elixir that begins to meld the two in dangerous ways; and what may very well be the best piece of fiction I've read all year, Glen Hirshberg's "The Janus Tree." Hirshberg's story has enough complexity, vivid detail and character development in its thirty pages to fill an entire novel. When I was done reading it, I needed several additional hours to pull myself out of the world he so skillfully created. "The Janus Tree" is worth Inferno's price tag alone.
Loud huzzahs not just for Ellen but, obviously, for Glen Hirshberg (my wax effigy of whom is consequently suffering heavy punishment right now). It's a long time since I've seen a reviewer so affected by a single story: hearty congratulations.
Also safely arrived is the latest review of the book, this time by reviewer Rod Lott in the webzine Bookgasm (http://www.bookgasm.com:80/reviews/
Equally as creepy [as Chris Fowler's "The Uninvited", which this reviewer hails as "the showpiece of Inferno"] is “Lives,” from John Grant, in which a child inexplicably has a knack for surviving tragedy after tragedy. Ironically, doing so rips his family apart. . . . More established masters [might] have elevated [Inferno], but its bold choice to give ink to even bolder new voices will pay off both now and in the long run.
"Lives," by John Grant, Inferno - a chilling story about a man's growing realisation about his son's ability to survive (or cause?) so many horrible disasters.
. . . and this time by Elizabeth A. Allen in the webzine The Fix (the short-fiction-review sibling of Interzone, Black Static, etc.): http://thefix-online.com/reviews/
Allen quibbles about a few of the stories but overall seems mightily impressed by the level of the contributions. Natch, the first thing I did, rather than read the review from start to finish, was scrabble down through Allen's story-by-story coverage seeking mention of mine own item. Here are her comments:
Death happens whenever Christopher is near. Or, more specifically, Christopher brings death and disaster, but he himself always escapes it. Accidents, disasters, and tragedies consume his family members, but he remains unscathed. His father, the one telling this story in “Lives” by John Grant, becomes increasingly disturbed by Christopher’s continuing unbreakability. Perhaps the two are more similar than the father cares to admit? Grant weaves a suspenseful story about the double-edged sword of superpowers, which bring great good fortune and great loneliness simultaneously, and he successfully balances the portrayal of Christopher so you’re not quite sure if this kid is intentionally destructive. At the same time, the melancholy undercurrent of the father seeing himself in his son’s character gives “Lives” a philosophical and poignant ring.
And now there's been a further excellent review for the new Ellen Datlow anthology Inferno, this time in the prestigious Booklist. The reviewer singles out just three stories for special mention . . . and I'm far too modest to say any more on that particular subject other than that in the same company as Steve Gallagher and Joyce Carol Oates strikes me as a damn' good place to be.
The review concludes:
Eschewing many of the horror genre’s common motifs, the stories here achieve unsettling effects with less mayhem and more pure craftsmanship, so that this is one of the best recent collections of horror as literature.
Seeking a definition of “modern horror” or “literary horror”? Look no further. Inferno, edited by Ellen Datlow, defines short dark fiction circa 2008 as surely as Kirby McCauley’s Dark Forces did in 1980.
adding, in the course of a long review, that "there’s not a bad story in the bunch". Eventually my own humble offering appears:
John Grant’s “Lives” is memorable for its twisted answer to one of those questions you may not want to ask again after you read his story: If there are those who have incredible luck, what might that mean for those around them without it?
Library Journal likes the book too ("All of the stories are wisely chosen and deserve attention and comment"), while PW (http://www.publishersweekly.com:80/
. . . the quality of the prose is high, and many of the contributions are triumphs of construction, bringing plot and metaphor together in resounding harmony. The impression, to a critic who doesn’t read overmuch horror, is of a genre recovering from its big commercial setbacks and yearning to assume a major market position once more. . . . The list of strong stories continues . . . “Lives” by John Grant turns to suspenseful humor in its portrait of a boy with many lives to call upon but one short of the necessary . . . Inferno delivers in full on its awful premise, and Ellen Datlow stands on the same plinth as Dante, if only in fright-coordinating echo. More anthologies like Inferno . . . should be urgent priorities. It’s very clear that horror at short length is poised for a major revival, and the commercial stimulus must, as here, be applied, and on a large scale . . .
All very cheering, eh?