When describing anything as "BEST" you had better be pretty sure of your conviction. One man's best is another man's mediocre. So if you are going to start a new anthology entitled Best British Horror, you had better be sure your editor knows what he is doing.
Salt Publishing has put their faith in Johnny Mains, who is regarded by many, including myself, as one of the curators of horror. An accomplished writer himself, Johnny has an encyclopedic knowledge of horror and a vast wealth experience within the genre.
So has Johnny and Salt created an anthology worthy of this title?
When you look at the table of contents and the writers present here it reads like a who's, who of horror fiction. Adam Nevill, Reggie Oliver, Stephen Volk, Gary Fry, John Llewellyn Probert and Thana Niveau. These writers even on an off day are capable of writing spectacular horror fiction. So adding them to this anthology gives Best British Horror a running start.
However where this book excels is in it use of lesser known authors. It's a;ll well and good filling an anthology with big names, but in my opinion a good anthology should open the reader up to new and lesser known talent.
Best British Horror (BBH) has introduced me to some great new talent. Those who read horror know full well that as a genre it expansive and varied, probably one of the most expansive. The genre runs from bloodsoaked gorefests, right through to deep, emotional and personal tales of loss and despair. This is not just a genre of cheap and nasty writing, it is a genre that is capable of standing shoulder to shoulder with the best of any other genre.
BBH does a fantastic job in showcasing the diversity of the genre. From Stephen Volk's truly disturbing and stomach churning Arselicker to the deeply unsettling and creepy When Charlie Sleeps by Laura Mauro.
As a whole this book is a progressive and divergent anthology each one of these stories is exceptional and more than deserving of a place in an anthology with this name. Anyone who thinks the genre is dead will have their opinion overturned by this brilliant book.
Some of my personal favourites of this anthology are the aforementioned When Charlie Speaks by Laura Mauro. This creepy and unsettling tale of three woman who must care for a monster in a bath tub, that seems to be an integral part of London. When he sleeps and is happy London is happy, but when he is angry or disturbed London suffers riots crashes and social unrest. A wonderfully creepy and intimate tale with whose ending sent a shiver down my spine. Who is Charlie and where does he come from, these things are never really answered, but that doesn't matter.
Stephen Volk's over the top sickening tongue in cheek story Arselicker. Volk's story is a masterclass in dark satirical writing, it pushes the boundaries of acceptability, yet still manges to make laugh almost as much as it makes you cringe.
Doll Hands by Adam Nevill is a smouldering post apocalyptic story that layers on the horror and terror little by little. The horror comes not from some evil being, but from the depths of depravity that we as a species is capable of sinking to. A deeply disorientating story whose tenebrous and ambiguous ending will leave the reader in a glorious state of confusion. I love this sort end ending to stories, and Nevill delivers a blinder of one.
Robert Shearman’s That Tiny Flutter of The Heart I Used To Call Love is a powerfully emotional story about how two damaged souls come together and find some sort of happiness via a relationship with dolls and sacrifices. This chilling story will pull at your heartstrings, this is one of the most poignant stories I have read in a long time.
Exploding Raphaelesque Heads by Ian Hunter is as far away removed from the above story as could be possible. This story about an artists grotesque obsession with Salvador Dali painting is a glorious over the top story that somehow manages to find a dark vein of humour among the trail of exploding heads.
YOU WANTED THE BEST? YOU GOT THE BEST!!!
Best British Horror is the best horror anthology with best in the title.
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