The Best Horror of the Year – Volume 9

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Nesters – Siobhan Carroll The Oestridae – Robert Levy The Process Is a Process All Its Own – Peter Straub The Bad Hour – Christopher Golden Red Rabbit – Steve Rasnic Tem It’s All the Same Road in the End – Brian Hodge Fury – DB Waters Grave Goods – Gemma Files Between Dry Ribs – Gregory Norman Bossert The Days of Our Lives – Adam L. G. Nevill The House of Wonders – C.E. Ward The Numbers – Christopher Burns Bright Crown of Joy – Livia Llewellyn The Beautiful Thing We Will Become – Kristi DeMeester Wish You Were Here – Nadia Bulkin Ragman – Rebecca Lloyd What’s Out There? – Gary McMahon No Matter Which Way We Turned – Brian Evenson The Castellmarch Man – Ray Cluley The Ice Beneath Us – Steve Duffy On These Blackened Shores of Time – Brian Hodge

Edited by Ellen Datlow

Night Shade Books 2017

When I real-time review this anthology, my comments will appear in the thought stream below…

15 thoughts on “The Best Horror of the Year – Volume 9

  1. NESTERS by SIOBHAN CARROLL

    “The dust-lung had him.”

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    “If he was trying to frighten Pa with that flapping paper, he didn’t know nothing.”

    It’s as if the flapping pages I imagine this book possessing, turning, at its start, to dust – dust dunes or sand dunes with a Colour out of Space at its heart. As I follow Sally, the young daughter and sister, entering more a Heart of Darkness where family links become a corroded gestalt…

    “Don’t try to solve all the problems at once, Pa always said. Break them up. Deal with each one in order.”

    Each grain of dust, a sort of Southern Gothic Blood Kin as Link, with a Howser, where the living off the land for these Nesters is one of fighting dust not Tem’s kudzu. Where animal stomachs and vegetable turnips equally have dust within.

    A stoic miracle, though. As we follow Sally into a hyper-nightmarishly evoked battle that this story gives us to share, almost, almost, as hope…

    “Sally remembered the color from the old days,

  2. I have already reviewed the next story and this is what I wrote about it in its previous context…

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    THE OESTRIDAE by Robert Levy

    “And just when I think I’ve finally run out of hope, one last drip of it leaks out to ruin everything.”

    Another haunting and well-written story, one that is in tune with the oestrogen-transfer of the previous story, a vaguely feminine version of Dorian Gray or Jekyll-Hyde, this time telling of a brother (trainee surgeon) and sister in a Pennsylvanian family house among the trees and mountains, still looking for their missing mother, when someone turns up calling herself an aunt, their mother’s sister. Here the Oestridae or botflies (the latter word strangely and tellingly like a computer virus to my mind) represent an objective-correlative within the increasingly disturbing process towards – as well as against – a leaching or burrowing identity.

  3. THE PROCESS IS A PROCESS ALL ITS OWN by PETER STRAUB

    “Tilly Hayward was one of those men in possession of two lives. Either he was a dark, disturbing criminal sociopath who wore a more conventional person around him like a perfectly fitted suit of clothing, or he was a conventional person who within himself concealed a being like a wild animal.”

    “—turns out, words are blue collar guys.”
    Significant that a killing blade cuts into “blue broadcloth shirt” much later in this text. Not many of us would notice that.
    This is an amazing work of fiction straight from the function as well as dysfunction fiction room (where I shall now put it.). It is essential reading for those who enjoy either experimental fiction or the conservative horror genre – or both, as this eminently is.
    IMG_3494It also reminds me of William H Gass’s work, where Trump is on every old page of the written past (as he is, as an synaesthesic serialist, in this STRAUB, somehow) and Gass’s ON BEING BLUE, a sensory listing of words and their Siobhan Carroll duststorm of meanings, colours, smells, with a heart of darkness as well as, paradoxically, of colour and fragrance. I finished my review of that very GASS yesterday!
    This Straub starts with the smell of words, a Gass of words, and I cannot do justice how this is accomplished, conjured as bubbles as well as, inferentially, as dustmotes of meaning. And leads to a madness of stalking that reminds me of the Consul stalking drinks in UNDER THE VOLCANO that I also just finished reviewing!
    And the inverse hawling or dreamcatching of the gestalt at the end of this substantive work, where body parts are placed this way and that on the cobblestones.
    Horrific and disturbing, with no redemption – as UNDER THE VOLCANO or in the shadow of Trump Tower.

    “At the you know. During the. Maybe. If not then, what a pity, never.”

  4. THE BAD HOUR by CHRISTOPHER GOLDEN

    “Maybe it’s one demon or maybe it’s a bunch of little ones, like parasites, but it gets stronger.”

    …in the same way as do our era’s motes and myriads make the man or woman… or father or mother. An era many of us call the bad hour, in the hope this hour, like other hours to date, is finite within its span.
    A text of those who have come back from fighting in Iraq, and now, like that place, even here at home on an American border there begins to be erected concrete blocks (as the beginning of a longer wall?) and fundaments of each human face hiding another face that makes its suicide an embattled murder.
    Seen through the seeming omniscience of a woman hiding an even deeper withheld omniscience, this story, of mutant friendly fire, was simply plain and horrific, but it saves its last disguise as the best disguise. Or worst.

  5. RED RABBIT by STEVE RASNIC TEM

    “You can learn to live with crazy, but you can’t touch it.”

    A perfect gem is a perfect Tem.
    Old Matt and his senile-demented wife Clara, and each day a new redly flensed and flayed rabbit is left in their grounds, one she always think is the same rabbit, whilst he knows that they are different rabbits subjected to the same predator.
    Until the final rabbit, so flayed and flensed it is “in the border between dark and light”. On the brink of wonderland, I infer. Where shadows swim in shadows. Attuned more to Lewis, not Siobhan, Carroll?

  6. IT’S ALL THE SAME ROAD IN THE END by BRIAN HODGE

    “Sometimes there wasn’t even enough town to land on the map.”

    This is a long rambling but structured journey of classic horror Lovecraftian-tending, page-turning, with a Colour out of Space in Siobhan Carroll’s DUST BOWL, but now an area of America, that is either your bag to travel with or it’s not. A town like that in Golden’s Hour. Take a camera, stare at photographs, hold them properly to see what is pictured, and do not depend on digital but analog, even though you are now a Cloud Architect for IT. Whichever you choose, and my moods will differ from day to day, there are treasured moments of anxiety and poignant regret here in this work and retrocausality, and a cutting off of yourself, a self that should keep alongside the horror instead of returning to, say, your dying mother. Horror as we read it is better than being in a home where you have that disease from the Tem story, that mental kudzu, where you have enough mind left to recognise you will soon be like the other demented ones. Better a Lovecraftian effigy as bedmate than THAT. Gilead, too, is mentioned here, as nod to TED Klein. Enemy the monotony of the DustBowl trying to absorb you. One Grandad with Black Lung, that Lung from the Siobhan. But the other Granddad is the Songcatcher, as I am a Dreamcatcher? Old enough to be a Granddad. Next to this story I shall stay. Or at least part of me shall. Must get rid of my car first. Not a series of life’s motels, but a central one. Twanging my gutbucket. This my slowburn reaction. Lies are sometimes better than truths. Just one of those scabs.

    “And whatever rotted out here would rot alone.”

  7. I have already reviewed the next story and this is what I wrote about it in its previous context…

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    FURY
    Copy numbered 102/200
    The story itself from page 5 to 15
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    “But as he watched the red scratches darken and bleed, he simply smiled –”
    This story, as its own intended discrete work of fashioning you the reader inside it even against your will, standing alone as a powerful force of a fury from the buildings or crime scenes the narrated protagonist investigates as part of his job, ‘connecting’ him to them, flattening out our real three-dimensional world of objects inside them, people, too. There is of course more to it than that, as you will find out, without my need to spoil it for you first.
    The work also connects with the connection of Alice to her own new house by a cord against her own Wyl.

  8. I have already reviewed the next story and this is what I wrote about it in its previous context…

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    Grave Goods by Gemma Files

    “Put the pieces back together, fit them against each other chip by chip and line by line, and they start to sing.”

    In the same way as I make stories sing, I hope.
    But this story, for once, defeated me on a first reading (all my real-time reviews are based on first readings) but it defeated me in a good way. I understood none of it or I understood MORE than it meant. Nothing in between. A number of women on an archaeological dig, couched in a stunning literary style that seems to have been engrained in the very ground where they dug. An obstreperous group, debating the ethics — of preserving the bones where they lay or taking them back to the lab for further dismantlement — surrounding the sanctity of human beings or of less (or more?) than human beings that they dug up. Skeletal structures as that very debating point, even to the extent of one of the so-called woman archaeologists found to have a questionable anatomy herself – or himself?
    I was entranced by the scientific terminology, while floundering somewhere in a no-man’s-land sense of Lovecraftian horror as a cross between, from earlier in this book, Wagner’s dug stench-hole and Gavin’s creature with breasts and a comically small, stubby penis.

    “these people were barely binocular—”

  9. BETWEEN DRY RIBS by GREGORY NORMAN BOSSERT

    “I am sure I look native to their eyes, a slow local in this slow local bar that is far too busy for my peace of mind.”

    This seems aptly for me to range from the hot bar room of ‘Under The Volcano’ (that I real-time reviewed in the last few days here) a bar room where the heat simulaccentuated the sculpted ice appendage potentially to be dunked into the endless drunken drinks, FROM THAT to the real ice of Finland where the ice is subsuming us and the core now is hotness instead, hotness in the form of an intense sauna. There, the female protagonist Chloe is in Sapphic contact with another female, and the graphically described flayed and flensed male in even greater sacrificial contrast as part of their sensuality – as if a snow-white fountaining blood-red in oblique interface with the red-flensed ‘white rabbit’ in Tem earlier in this book? Tem: “in the border between dark and light”, here the border between hot and cold.
    A theme and variations upon a wonderland pitching hot against cold, in a moment of gratuitous passion.

    I am still suffering delays and mind-interference in my book reviewing.

  10. I have already reviewed the next story and this is what I wrote about it in its previous context…

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    THE DAYS OF OUR LIVES by Adam LG Nevill

    “So many ways to see everything. One skin and then another skin. It had made me squirm and squirt.”

    You may think this inwardly Nevill story is the Theatre of the Absurd and the Theatre of Cruelty trying to outdo each other, or a misdirected package of literature in itself, but knowing it takes place in a seaside resort similar to the one where I live makes it seem quite believable, judging by my own experience over many years, even the eating of ‘child-size vanilla ice-creams.’ Or vanevilla?
    It tells of a wedding held in a charity shop, and a man and woman relationship of attrition together as a result of this misdirected package, a story that seems more in keeping with bodily excess and manual relief as forms of concocted revenge against complete strangers and even stranger Movements of people each tantamount to a hobbyist diaspora within a ritual re-enactment of a church painting.

  11. THE HOUSE OF WONDERS by C.E. WARD

    “…a seaside town on the East Coast—the place isn’t important so I won’t mention it.”

    I have lived in such an English East Coast place for over two decades now. And such vaguebooking by this accomplished and stylish story inspires me to be equally vaguebooking in my review of this refreshingly different ambiance to some of the other tales so far in this book, a relatively comfortable story told between two gentlemen smoking, comfortable but about some ghastly events! The ambiance of the seaside place is wonderfully evoked, as is its House of Wonders with exhibits of believable ancient seaside amusement arcade machines and tableaux of gory history. I loved the way this ambiance eats into the told-about vaguebook being written ABOUT that very ambiance and then into that very book’s author’s own real life – and then into even deeper real history itself (or vice versa?)

  12. I have already reviewed the next story and this is what I wrote about it in its previous context…

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    nullimmortalis June 21, 2016 at 2:08 pm
    THE NUMBERS by Christopher Burns

    Numbered 23 of 200, and signed.

    “…but the mist is clearing and the rising sun is the colour of a communion wafer.”

    Please note the date of this real-time review, this dreamcatcher of fiction, as if it has itself dreamcaught the spirit of this short cathartic or angry period in British political history. As if it is a sudden storm out of nothing, having begun like an episode of The Archers, with motivations as nonchalant nuances, the nagging weight of past misuderstandings or mistakes as two brothers meet unexpectedly at the whim of one of them, alongside the catalyst of the other one’s wife. Self-pity of the whimsical brother…
    And if I tell you any more, it will spoil this effectively described story of unscryable intention and poetic phrase – and spoil any shock it might or might not hold for you especially after what recently happened on the streets of Britain in recent days and whether the brother’s tontine prize is to remain or leave…

  13. BRIGHT CROWN OF JOY by LIVIA LLEWELLYN

    “….disappearing into the pale sunless mists that have muted day and lightened night. These are the birds of the world now. And they are stupendous. They are beautiful.”

    A mind-blowing variegated on-line diary fractured narrative of After, Before, After After, Memory AND the real-time of the readers reading this variegated text as we gestalt (dreamcatch) it to make sense of it, equally as mankind itself seems to be physically gestalted (dreamcaught) alongside us, a lump of togetherness to transcend our planet’s own changes? To assist the female narrative voice and the gestalting of mankind like a complex Jungian raft, there is even a “DreamCatcher App” mentioned in this fragmented text.
    Some wonderful meaty descriptions of visionary power. Beautiful and evanescent, too. And children with a form of puberty that becomes, I sense, a sort of blend of hope beyond Earth’s end and of a meaty merging physically into something, I fear, like Azathoth once at the centre of that Earth? I hope it is the former hope, not the latter merging. We would need an on-line After After After to find out which it is. Endless hawling.

    “…and endless and, and. And.”

  14. THE BEAUTIFUL THING WE WILL BECOME by KRISTI DEMEESTER

    “…every one was blank, all of that white space waiting to devour the fingers hovering over it, and I shoved the notebook under my bed.”

    Possible spoilers.
    A very powerful narration of a schoolgirl seen evocatively through a schoolgirl’s naive but still knowing eyes about her friend Katrina, with Katrina’s father becoming the sort of Azathoth I saw, joining together children, in the previous Llewellyn story (DeMeester: “A thing that had no beginning and no end, our bodies indistinguishable from the other”), here joining scissored flesh with flesh into a living surrogate doll so as to obviate child abuse. Bad to avoid worse bad? The narrator girl unloved by her own father tellingly helps the process along.
    I somehow wished this story had been left blank. But then I thought that any blank page could never have something bad on it worse than what I actually imagined to be on it. Especially when skimmed or skinned and reconstituted as this story. Too late. Once read, never to be unread until life’s final blankness. The beautiful thing we will become.

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