The Best Horror of the Year, volume 4, edited by Ellen Datlow

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Publication date – May 1, 2012

Summary: (Taken from GoodReads) Fear is the oldest human emotion. The most primal. We like to think we’re civilized. We tell ourselves we’re not afraid. And every year, we skim our fingers across nightmares, desperately pitting our courage against shivering dread.

A paraplegic millionaire hires a priest to exorcise his pain; a failing marriage is put to the ultimate test; hunters become the hunted as a small group of men ventures deep into a forest; a psychic struggles for her life on national television; a soldier strikes a gristly bargain with his sister’s killer; ravens answer a child’s wish for magic; two mercenaries accept a strangely simplistic assignment; a desperate woman in an occupied land makes a terrible choice…

What scares you? What frightens you? Horror wears new faces in these carefully selected stories. The details may change. But the fear remains.

Night Shade Books is proud to present The Best Horror of the Year, Volume Four, a new collection of horror brought to you by Ellen Datlow, winner of multiple Hugo, Bram Stoker, and World Fantasy awards.

Thoughts: I’ll be honest. I nearly gave up on this book. I nearly stopped reading it and gave it up as a lost cause. Why? Because the introduction takes up over 10% of the book, and is mostly a rundown of the best horror novels published during the past year. I actually had to look at outside descriptions of this book to remind myself that yes, there are actual stories in here, and that it’s not just a book about other books. While having that listing certainly is nice, having it right at the beginning was a bit of a pain, especially when reading it on the Kindle, so it’s not like I could just flip a few pages and quickly discover that I can get to the stories that make up the bulk of the book.

But once I found that out, and spent five minutes pressing the “forward” button on my Kindle over and over, I can say with certainty that I was glad I did.

There’s some serious talent contained within this compilation, stories written by some big names and some who were — to me, at least — completely unheard of. Stephen King gets the honour of getting the ball rolling, and the only downside to that is that it sets a precedent that some of the other stories have a hard time living up to.

And if King sets a high standard to live up to in the first story, the final story, written by Peter Straub, was a big bust. Most everything in between was great, and very entertaining to read, but Straub’s story was something that I couldn’t get into no matter how hard I tried. The timeline jumped about all over the place, making it hard to follow and appreciate, and aside from a couple of legitimately creepy moments (and they were just moments, mind you), I couldn’t even tell half the time where the story was going, or what the point to it was. Perhaps it’s just that Straub isn’t to my taste. But I do feel compelled to say that as much as the collection ended on a low note, it was far better than beginning on such a low note. Had this story been the first one, I might not have found much of a reason to keep reading.

But looking at the stories individually, and trying not to compare them to what came before or after, ultimately this collection lives up to its name. It was a great collection of horror stories, some that make you shiver, others that make you feel a bit queasy, and others still that make you struggle to wrap your mind around what’s going on. A very good set that makes me want to keep my eyes open for next year’s compilation! In spite of a couple of low notes, this collection is definitely worth checking out, especially for horror fans and for those who want to have their spines tingled and their minds expanded.

(Book provided for review by the publisher via NetGalley.)

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