Science fiction and fantasy
The Mammoth Book Of Ghost Stories By Women
edited by Marie O'Regan
Alex Bell's The Fifth Bedroom is the story of an angry divorcee whose looks have been ruined after a car crash. Her former husband has a lot to answer for, but now she's moved into a big old house where she may not be as alone as she wants to be. It's a good psychological horror, and it was one of my favourites even though its conclusion is somewhat enraging.
Sarah Langan's The Ninth Witch is set in a post-apocalyptic nightmare world where women aren't valued at all. The ninth daughter of a ninth daughter, a witch, is treated horrifically in this allegorical feminist rant. Elizabeth Massie's Sister, Shh... is set in Arizona in a community that's also a patriarchal nightmare. Two young women are running away from evil men, in a society where men can do as they please. It's another violent, button-pushing story.
Lisa Tuttle's The Third Person deals with a couple of friends, one of whom imposes on the other for help with a secret affair. It's icky and creepy, and I really enjoyed the twist. Another outstanding story is Front Row Rider by Muriel Gray, in which a fat and under-confident woman lets her friends persuade her to take a roller-coaster ride. The main character has a strong voice, and she's very likeable.
Aside from those by Lisa Tuttle, Muriel Gray, and Alex Bell, I found most of the other stories middling to good. There are a few well-worn twists and themes that often come up in ghost stories: some character we think is alive being a ghost, grief, the ghost who points to whoever wronged him or her, for instance. I didn't understand what Nina Allan's Seeing Nancy, or Nancy Holder's Freeze Out were trying to say, although both stories touched on serious issues: PTSD and the abuse of people with dementia respectively.
Overall this is a very varied collection, with styles all over the place, and it's also quite variable in quality. I think most fans of the supernatural would be able to find something to like and dislike in this anthology, because it's such a mixed bag.
11th November 2013
If you like this, try:Terror Tales Of The Cotswolds by Paul Finch
An anthology of creepy stories from the imaginations of Gary McMahon, Alison Littlewood, Reggie Oliver, Simon Clark, Simon Kurt Unsworth, Gary Fry, Ramsey Campbell, and others.
The Mammoth Book Of Best New Horror 21 by Stephen Jones
This anthology showcases a varied selection of modern horror. Featuring stories by Joe Hill and Stephen King, Barbara Roden, Ramsey Campbell, Simon Strantza, Rosalie Parker, Robert Shearman, and more.
Hair Side, Flesh Side by Helen Marshall
A woman replaces her heart with a clock, a child is given a martyr for her birthday, and a woman discovers a lost manuscript written inside her skin in this collection of short stories.
Review © Ros Jackson
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