Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Book Review: The Year's Best Horror Stories: Series III

Book Review: 'The Year's Best Horror Stories: Series III' 
edited by Richard Davis

4 / 5 Stars

‘The Year’s Best Horror Stories: Series III’ (173 pp) was published in July 1975. It is DAW Book No. 155. The cover artwork is by Michael Whelan.

Some of the stories in this volume were commissioned, while the rest previously were printed in the interval 1968 – 1974.

This is one of the better volumes in this series, perhaps because editor Davis didn’t share the affinity for ‘quiet’ horror shared by later editors Gerald W. Page and Karl Edward Wagner, but was more interested in unusual, offbeat treatments of horror themes.

My capsule reviews of the contents:

The Whimper of Whipped Dogs, by Harlan Ellison: vintage Ellison. An examination of the dehumanizing effect of city life.

The Man in the Underpass, by Ramsey Campbell: this tale features Campbell’s oblique and labored approach to crafting a narrative; however, his purple prose is under restraint, a state of affairs that – unfortunately - evaporated as his writing career progressed……in this story, a provocative bit of graffiti makes Liverpool schoolgirls uneasy.

S. F., by T. E. D. Klein: in the year 2039, people wear metal caps. The why and wherefore, is not associated with fashion ………

Uncle Vlad, by Clive Sinclair: this story was originally published in ‘Transatlantic Review’, a highbrow journal of fiction and criticism. The story lumbers along – one sentence reads: Our family is jealous of its dark arboreal rebus. But it has a vampire-themed, creepy undertone that emerges despite its onslaught of florid prose.

Judas Story, by Brian M. Stableford: overwrought tale of a rock star whose success comes with a price.

The House of Cthulhu, by Brian Lumley: competent Mythos tale by Lumley.

Satanesque, by Alan Weiss: this tale starts out as seemingly yet another tired allegory on the theme of a backward community’s hate and fear of The Other. But then the plot takes an offbeat, and unexpected, turn. One of the best entries in this anthology.

Burger Creature, by Steven Chapman: in a greasy-spoon burger joint, a strange new Life Form arises. More about satirical humor than horror.

Wake Up Dead, by Tim Stout: mad scientist tale with a hint of dieselpunk flavor.

Forget-Me-Not, by Bernard Taylor: a young American girl living in London espies the deserted house that once belonged to a serial killer.

Halloween Story, by Gregory Fitz Gerald: surreal tale of a young woman who experiences an unusual Halloween. Too contrived to be effective.

Big Wide, Wonderful World, by Charles E. Fritch: four chums decide on an impromptu experiment, with unpleasant results. Barely three pages long, this is a memorable tale, and an example of how to write a great short-short story.

The Taste of Your Love, by Eddy C. Bertin: a serial killer seeks his next victim among the swinging Mediterranean party scene of the early 70s. Another shorter-length story that delivers a great ending, and another of this anthology’s better entries.

Summing up, copies of ‘The Year’s Best Horror Stories: Series III’ are long out of print and fetch higher prices than most paperbacks in the used bookstore shelves, but if you can find one for an affordable price, it’s well worth picking up.

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