The Dark: New Ghost Stories Edited by Ellen Datlow ★★★☆☆

  1. The Trentino Kid by Jeffrey Ford ★★☆☆☆
  2. The Ghost of the Clock by Tanith Lee ★★★☆☆
  3. One Thing About the Night by Terry Dowling ★★★☆☆
  4. The Silence of the Falling Stars by Mike O’Driscoll ★★☆☆☆
  5. The Dead Ghost by Gahan Wilson ★★★☆☆
  6. Seven Sisters by Jack Cady ★★☆☆☆
  7. Subway by Joyce Carol Oates ★★
  8. Doctor Hood by Stephen Gallagher ★★☆☆☆
  9. An Amicable Divorce by Daniel Abraham ★★★☆☆
  10. Feeling Remains by Ramsey Campbell ★★★☆☆
  11. The Gallows Necklace by Sharyn McCrumb ★★☆☆☆
  12. Brownie, and Me by Charles L. Grant ★★
  13. Velocity by Kathe Koja ★★★★★
  14. Limbo by Lucius Shepard ★★★★★
  15. The Hortlak by Kelly Link ★★☆☆☆
  16. Dancing Men by Glen Hirshberg ★★★☆☆

I am reading this for the Trick-or-Treat-athon. You can read why I chose to read this in my Trick or Treat-athon Post.

Update: 10/2/19

I am not going to waste my time reviewing a bunch of mediocre stories. These are a variety of tales of mostly mundane life with hints of ghosts, at times, in only the tiniest of bits. I have read the first 3 stories, and I have a strong urge to drop this. These stories aren’t good. The goodreads reviews often put the first few among the better stories, so is it really worth continuing?

Fearful Symmetries had some lows, but in general, it was giving me what I wanted. Here, I just find these stories dull and uninteresting. If I read a story more than 3 stars, I’ll go more in depth. The fact that I gave 3 stars to some of these does speak to a small aspect of the story peaking my interest. It just wasn’t enough to save the entire story. It doesn’t help that the narrators are terrible. The female is slightly better than the monotone male, but it is still horrible to listen to (I’ve grown to like the female narrator more). There have been at least two instances where I noticed they start to say one thing and they correct themselves. It is quick but noticeable.

Update 10/3/19

I finally read a story I liked. I really want to believe there have to be more stories in here I can enjoy. I think a big problem her is the mindset of the writers. Many of these read like ghost hunting stories in the sense that the story is too much about the supernatural or the wishy washy rhetoric ghost hunters put towards ghosts. I don’t want to hear a bunch of bullshit about the philosophy of ghosts. I want interesting stories with ghosts. Maybe I would have been better suited to read Haunted Legends, also edited by Ellen Datlow. The title suggests it is composed of stories more in line with my taste (i.e. stories about ghosts haunting you, frightening you, etc.).

End of day update

I am roughly 2/3rds through this book, so I am going to push through. There are only 3 stories left, each are basically a novella in length (especially Limbo). Hopefully they stand out like a couple of my most recent listens.

Finished 10/4/19

Success! I managed to finish a book that I had considered DNFing pretty much since the first story. However, I forced myself to read to at least halfway because I was sure that I couldn’t possibly dislike every story in the collection just as I wouldn’t expect to love every story. That proved true with Subway by Joyce Carol Oates, and I am glad. Granted, I can’t, in good conscience, recommend this book as a great collection, but there are a few that you might consider reading if you can get your hand on the collection (e.g. maybe a library copy, or borrow my copy 😉). In all, there were 5 stories that peaked my interest, and you can read about these below! 3/5 stars on average.

2. The Ghost of the Clock by Tanith lee ★★★☆☆

Read 10/2/19

I didn’t love this story, but I decided to discuss it because it resonated with me more than the others did. The story is kind of long and dragged out. It is about a woman who visits her wealthy aunt. The aunt does not like her niece. She does everything in her power to make her niece’s visit terrible. Specifically, she tells her a story about a haunted clock. The story is contrived and untrue, or rather, it is about a clock of which she does not own. However, in telling the story, it becomes true. I did not particularly love the story even though the concept is interesting. What stood out to me in this story was the dynamic between the aunt and her niece. Family drama is always a great device in story telling. I just wish the ghost story was more effective. 3.5/5 stars, rounding down.

7. Subway by Joyce Carol Oates ★★★★

Read 10/3/19

This is the first story I really enjoyed. It was short, but it was effective at being creepy and unsettling. This isn’t exactly a ghost story. It feels more like the making of a ghost story as we detail a young woman who is discussing her interactions with various people on the train. All the while, she remissness about relationships passed wondering who is the love of her life. While avoiding any specifics, the ending is dark and disturbing, but everything I’d like to see with a good ghost story. 4/5 stars.

12. Brownie, and Me by Charles L. Grant ★★★★

Read 10/3/19

This story was okay. It was a little basic. In what may be somewhat spoilery description, it was like a take on Sixth Sense in a very mild way. Essentially, a man sees a haunted friend who keeps showing up. Things play out differently than he expects. The story worked better than most of these, but it still felt sort of lackluster. 3.5/5 stars, rounding up

13. Velocity by Kathe Koja ★★★★★

Read 10/3/19

This was my favorite story. I actually stopped and re-listened to the it after it finished to make sure I completely understood what was going on. In the acknowledgments, the author mentions The Yellow Wallpaper and The Haunting of Hill House as their favorite ghost stories. Both of these are favorites of mine, and I think that contributes to the style working so well for me. There is no clear evidence of a ghost. Instead, we are reading the interview with an abstract artist who is disturbed from troubling events with his father before he committed suicide. The artist is angry and aggressive and convinced his father has been haunting him. It has some solid Haunting of Hill House and The Yellow Wallpaper vibes. Is it really haunted, or is this just a disturbed individual? I was thinking 4-4.5 stars, but the ties to my favorite stories pushes me to give it a full 5/5 stars rounding up.

14. Limbo by Lucius Shepard ★★★★★

Read 10/4/19

This might be my favorite story of the collection. Limbo is about a criminal on the run. He makes a stop at a lake in Michigan where he meets a woman that he becomes involved with sexually. He soon comes to find this lake is the home to certain spirits and a weird house of sorts that is basically a form of limbo–somewhere where spirits exist after death. The man tries to reconcile with this and his attachment to this woman all the while struggling with the need to continue moving to avoid being caught by whoever is after him. He is forced to make some difficult decisions as he becomes tangled between our world and the “next”.

This story was amazing. It had ghosts, surprises, and a dark view of an afterlife. Limbo isn’t exactly hell. Although, it certainly is a form of it. This was the longest story in the collection (basically a novella with a 3hr+ length), and the other uses this tune very effectively. He gets us invested in a morally ambiguous man before he takes us on a disturbing ride into the afterlife challenging our perception of life and death. I loved the world he built and the story he told. 5/5 stars.

Fearful Symmetries, by Ellen Datlow ★★★★☆

Start 8/9/2019

I hate posting so many partial reviews. I am going to post this once I am half way through it. This is another anthology of horror stories. Like The Devil and the Deep, this is edited by Ellen Daltow. It is 2014 winner of the Bram Stoker Award and the Shirley Jackson Award, so I am hopeful (again).

I don’t have much a guide on how to move forward. I am just going to go on a whim (and likely with the shortest ones first because they are the easiest).

Update 8/10/2019

It seems apparent that this anthology has a much clearer tone than Daltow’s Devil and the Deep. This is complemented by the narrator, Fleet Cooper. He knows exactly how to pace himself and just the right way to emphasize each situation. I really wish I would finish Devil and the Deep first, but this is becoming increasingly difficult to ignore. I have yet to come across a story I didn’t love (3 so far).

Update 10/1/19

I took a bit of a break because I was getting a little burnt out, and I wanted to change it up. I am back, and I hope to finish this this week. My latest story was great and unnerving like several of these stories. This is, so far, a very effective collection.

Finished 10/2/19

I finally finished this collection. Honestly, I am ending it with a lower opinion than when I started. Don’t get me wrong. There are several stories in here you you need to read because they are amazing. There are others that are enjoyable, but I feel like I read most of my favorites early on. That left me with several stories that just weren’t as good. A lot of them are very effective. Most of them even do at least a little to ignite some fear or dread, but it is a bit of a roller coaster of very high high and some very low lows. The average score is 3.93/5 stars.

Table of Contents

  1. A Wish From a Bone” by Gemma Files ★★★★
  2. The Atlas of Hell” by Nathan Ballingrud ★★★★★
  3. The Witch Moth” by Bruce McAllister ★★★★
  4. Kaiju” by Gary McMahon ★★★★★
  5. Will The Real Psycho In This Story Please Stand Up?” by Pat Cadigan ★★★★
  6. In the Year of Omens” by Helen Marshall ★★★★
  7. The Four Darks” by Terry Dowling ★★★★
  8. The Spindly Man” by Stephen Graham Jones ★★★★★
  9. The Window” by Brian Evenson ★★★★★
  10. Mount Chary Galore” by Jeffrey Ford ★★★★★
  11. Ballad of an Echo Whisperer” by Caitlín R. Kiernan ★★★☆☆
  12. Suffer Little Children” by Robert Shearman ★★★★
  13. Power” by Michael Marshall Smith ★★☆☆☆
  14. Bridge of Sighs” by Kaaron Warren ☆☆☆
  15. the worms crawl in,” by Laird Barron ★★★★
  16. The Attic” by Catherine MacLeod ★★★★★
  17. Wendigo Nights” by Siobhan Carroll ★★★★
  18. Episode Three: On the Great Plains, In the Snow” by John Langan ☆☆☆
  19. Catching Flies” by Carole Johnstone ★★★★
  20. Shay Corsham Worsted” by Garth Nix ☆☆☆

Story Reviews

01 – “A Wish From a Bone” by Gemma Files ★★★★

Read 8/15/2019

This was a solid story. Really, I think it benefited from an amazing narration. I had a hard time getting into the story at first, but as soon as things get weird, the narrator knows just how to translate that, even if the writing itself isn’t doing that. Attention is key, particularly at the start of the story.

This story uses one of my favorite horror monsters, demons. I love satanic and demonic stories, so this story had a leg up there. Here, we follow a television crew on an archaeology expedition as they investigate an old Sumerian ruin. Things quickly turn weird as it becomes clear The Seven seek to return–ancient demons, or fallen angels who seek to destroy everything.

This story feels like classic horror with death, mutilation, and possession. As they have to deal with being overtaken by these demons, what can they do to stop this? Will they make it out alive, and is their death the only way to stop the return of the seven? It definitely reminded me of a Cabin in the Woods, so far was we consider sacrifices. Overall, it was good and satisfying, but the ending was sort of lackluster 4.5/5 stars, rounding down

02 – “The Atlas of Hell” by Nathan Ballingrud ★★★★★

Read 8/12/2019

LOVED this story. This is everything I want from a horror story. The Atlas of Hell gets its name from an apparent book that works as some sort of portal to hell through which you can retrieve desired items. We learn about it while following the owner of a book store. It begins with him being confronted by some big guy who acts as muscle for a mob like leader. It turns out our narrator has a dark history. What exactly, we don’t know. All we know is his services are required, much to his chagrin. There is no tiptoeing around it: this is real. Our narrator is all too familiar with the likes of this item they are in pursuit of. What unfolds as they go to retrieve it is a dark and deliciously disturbing tale.

The concept uses primal concepts of hell, demons, hate and sin. I love the atmosphere it creates. I am not a believer of such things, and there is something so intoxicating about the world in these types of stories. Part of me wonders if there is something wrong with me to enjoy it so much. In reality, this is just another escape. It is a distraction from the real horrors that we have to deal with. This type of story simplifies things. It narrows all our problems down to a black and white where evil stems from something else that is beyond our control. The reality is much more depressing. We have to live with the fact that the world is what we make it. Fantastic story 5/5 stars.

03 – “The Witch Moth” by Bruce McAllister ★★★★

Read 10/1/19

I think this was the last story I started to read before taking a break from this, and I am glad I did. I enjoyed this a lot more the second time I dug into it. I think the biggest flaw is there was a bit of confusion; I wasn’t sure if what was happening was what I thought had happened. This is a story about a couple brothers who live with their grandmother because something is wrong with their mother. It seems there are issues with mental illness here, but the idea is she is a witch who doesn’t know it. That results in her doing things she doesn’t know she’s doing. Couple that with her mental illness and you can get some pretty dark outcomes. It isn’t straight forward in this. The “witch moth” is somewhat confusing, but its role seems to come across. Despite the confusion, it is effective at evoking some fear. 4.25/5 stars

04 – “Kaiju” by Gary McMahon ★★★★★

Read 8/9/2019

This story is an example of what amazing storytelling can do. The term “Kaiju” refers to ancient Japanese creatures like Godzilla. In general, I wouldn’t consider myself a major fan of Godzilla type stories. Its a fine premise, but not one that I would go out of my way to experience. Nevertheless, I would consider this a near perfect story. From the start, the author sets a clear depressing and ominous tone. We don’t understand exactly what has happened, but we don’t need to. We understand the emotions these people are undergoing. The writer eventually makes his way to what is going on (in a way that Broken Record failed to do). All the way it was a disturbing experience. What’s amazing is we are experiencing the aftermath. We are learning the true horrors of the Kaiju by seeing its effect first hand. Will it return? Will we be safe? We really can’t know. Tragedy has struck and there is no telling if it might strike again. 5/5 stars.

05 – “Will The Real Psycho In This Story Please Stand Up?” by Pat Cadigan ★★★★

Read 10/1/19

This was a slow burn but thoroughly enjoyable. The story starts off like a retelling of Carrie. A boy in high school has to deal with constant bullying. The story isn’t very unnerving at the start. It feels like a constant series of misdirections. At one point I was ready to rate this as one of my least favorites. In fact, the build up was overdone. In the end, it pays off well enough. We find out who the real psycho is.

This will include spoils for the story. I liked how the psycho was the boy, an overly christian zealot who glorifies suffering. It reminds me of Christopher Hitchen’s take on Mother Teresa. I understand how people may struggle to really appreciate the unsettling nature of this fact, and Cadigan does a great job articulating how these biblical principles, when applied, are outright disturbing. I wish the story dug deeper into this idea. Regardless of the slow build, it pays off well enough in the end. 4/5 stars.

06 – “In the Year of Omens” by Helen Marshall ★★★☆☆

Read 10/2/19

This story is about a young girl who starts seeing omens that are followed by deaths of other people. The story was interesting, and the point of view was generally effective at conveying the darker tone. Other than that, not a lot stood out for me. 3.5/5 stars rounding down.

07 – “The Four Darks” by Terry Dowling ★★★★

Read Late 8/2019

I literally remember nothing about this story. I remember thinking how excellent the narrator was doing and wishing I cared more. I don’t know if I ought to give this another listen. I don’t know if this was the story’s fault or my own mindset going in. I think I ought to relisten, because a part of this process of reviews is to understand what makes a story good and by extension, what makes a story bad.

Reread 9/12/2019

I reread the story, and I am glad I did. This is a solid story. It isn’t my favorite, but it is hardly forgettable. The story follows a couple men, one a doctor at a mental institution (I think) and the other an old patient turned maintenance for the facility after his release. The doctor is introduced to a man who talks about darkness and evil. We come to learn that the doctor and patient seem to have something special about them. This leads them to realize the visitor was something evil that needed to be stopped. To be honest, I can see why I might have been confused. The story is a little convoluted, and the rules are not clear.

To me, it felt like a mashup of Stephen King works. We have this person who isn’t a person, instead they are an evil entity of some sort, like Pennywise/IT. Then we have our doctor and patient who seem to know things others don’t. They basically have a form of the Shine, the powers that Danny has in the Shining, hence the name, something that will be explored more in depth in the upcoming sequel film, Doctor Sleep. Then there is talk of evil and how it tends to gravitate to a certain place or in this case, certain people. This feels analogous to Derry and by extension Dallas as it is seen in 11/22/63.

I don’t know if these connections were intentional, but I find it an interesting variation. This wouldn’t be the first story (that I’ve read) in this anthology to use King for their story telling. In any case, it makes for an interesting story that feels ominous and creepy. Nevertheless, the story doesn’t offer anything particularly new, which makes it less effective than the other stories in this collection. 4/5 stars.

08 – “The Spindly Man” by Stephen Graham Jones ★★★★★

Read ~8/10/19

I think this was the only story I read twice because I loved it. Sure, Graham is cheating a bit by using my love of Stephen King, but who cares! This story is about a book club discussing the Stephen King story about the man in the black suit when a spindly man shows up uncannily similar to the man in black in the story. Not only do I love that I know this story (its a personal favorite of King’s), I love how dark Graham takes it.

Some might suggest King’s story is a hopeful one because a world with demons means theirs a world with angels. Of course, the skeptic knows that isn’t true. Any piece of your religion could be true and that is not proof of all of it being true. The fact that there are monsters does not necessitate the need for guardians, and that thought is so dark and terrifying. I absolutely love this story. It is by far my favorite because this story really gets to the heart of my thoughts on horror and being afraid.

There are a lot of people who don’t like horror, or when they experience it, they struggle with leftover fear. I don’t believe in the supernatural. but I am only human. Ever since Sixth Sense, I have had a fear of a little dead girl grabbing my foot from under my bed. Even before this, I remember having nightmares about the monster under the bed. To this day, I often get nervous when getting into bed. I experience similar feelings during other times but not as often. I enjoy the fear though. The fear proves I still have an imagination. What I refuse to do is let that control my life. In these moments, I force myself to act perfectly natural and reasonably. Not just because it isn’t justified, but because if these monsters exists, my running or jumping into bed won’t save me. If these monsters exists and want me, I have no chance. 5000/5 stars.

09 – “The Window” by Brian Evenson ★★★★★

Read 8/9/2019

I decided to read this story first for the sole reason that it was the shortest. That makes it easy to read without too much commitment while also giving me a feel for what is in store in this collection. I was not disappointed! This is another example of an author who sets a clear tone.

Like “Kaiju”, this is a retelling, but there is still fear. Fear that the narrator had in the moment that we can empathize with. Also, fear that would come after. This strange unreal experience may be a figment of his imagination. He doesn’t think so (I don’t think we are supposed to think that either), but is his survival really something to be happy about? He has now experienced something that most of us would prefer to think is fiction. He now lives in a world where his deepest fears might actually be real. For most people, the monsters go unnoticed, but as soon as we notice they are there, whose to say they won’t notice us too?

I was very happy with this story. My first reaction was to give it 4.5 stars, but I can’t do that without having something to criticize for which I have nothing. Maybe it wasn’t as horrific as I would have liked, but that is okay. It horror elements were there even if I wasn’t overcome with fright. 5/5 stars.

10 – “Mount Chary Galore” by Jeffrey Ford ★★★★★

Read 10/2/19

I was beginning to worry that I was getting burnt out on this collection with low review after low review. I am happy to say I loved this story. It does force me to ask what makes a good story? What role does plot play because this story stands out not for its plot which is lacking but for its overt weirdness. In what feels like a take on Hanzel and Gretel, a few kdis go to spy on an old lady. What happens is disturbing and weird in the best way possible. I absolutely loved it for its weirdness even if it left me somewhat confused. 4.75/5 stars.

11 – “Ballad of an Echo Whisperer” by Caitlín R. Kiernan ★★★☆☆

Read 10/1/19

This story was so-so. It was about a haunting or the idea of one. The main character starts to hear sounds that shouldn’t be. This story struggled to keep my interest, and it was lacking in the scares or dread. Not terrible, but not my favorite either. 3.25/5 stars.

12 – “Suffer Little Children” by Robert Shearman ★★★★

Read 10/2/19

This was another weird one. A young women gains a teaching job at what I think is a private school, but she struggles with insecurities about her ability to do the job. All of that is made worse when weird things begin to happen with the kids. I liked this story because I could relate to the main character feeling insecure and struggling to make the right decisions. 4.5/5 rounding down.

13 – “Power” by Michael Marshall Smith ★★★☆☆

Read 10/1/19

I really didn’t enjoy this story. The most horrific thing about this story is the toxic masculinity of the main character. It is about a man who has an inflated idea of his self worth, and in the end he gets whats coming to him. That’s pretty much it. It didn’t accomplish much of anything. 3/5 stars,.

14 – “Bridge of Sighs” by Kaaron Warren ★★☆☆☆

Read 10/2/19

Meh. This story was hardly the worst, but it relied on a premise that was weird in all the wrong ways. It is the story of a ghost hunter and photographer. The premise just feels dumb, and it didn’t work for me. 2/5 stars.

15 – “the worms crawl in,” by Laird Barron ★★★★

Read 10/1/19

This was an interesting story. It wasn’t the scariest, but it was one of the more intriguing tales. It is about a man who is killed but comes back. He is something. Some type of monster. I didn’t find the story that straightforward, but it reminded me of Beowulf. In particular, it reminded me of something I read in high school that told this story from Grendel’s Mother’s perspective. At the time, it made me question my Christianity and the meaning of sin when considering instinct. In any case, it makes for a nice twist on the story telling. The biggest flaw here was that it was confusing at times what exactly was happening or why. 3.75/5.

16 – “The Attic” by Catherine MacLeod ★★★★★

Read 8/10/2019

The biggest set back for this story was a bit of confusion that I had as I listened. The main set up seems clear: a women rides to no where as she escapes some dark past. The story flashes between where she was (and how she got there) to her current escape. Now that it’s finished, I see how it fits together. The author does a great job setting up clear tone of disturbing moments. We don’t know what is going on, but we certainly feel the fear felt by our narrator. She joined this rural town where the people are strange. It reminded me of Midsommar where a seemingly normal town has some seriously dark secrets.

There are still some questions left, but I don’t think it hurts the story for it. This is case of mystery befitting the situation. All that matters is we understand our main character and can feel the terror she seeks to escape. 4.5/5 stars rounding up.

17 – “Wendigo Nights” by Siobhan Carroll ★★★★

Read 10/2/19

I read this story twice because I forgot to write about it after. This was the last story I read of the anthology, and I liked it. We are reading about a team of people in Antarctica who find themselves under attack by their own team members. The story is told by a man who himself is just beginning to be overtaken by whatever this curse is. The story did a well enough job conveying the denial and fear of the man as well as the fear of those around him who understand whats going on even less than himself. Perhaps the most terrifying thing is that it forces you to attack those closest (emotionally) to you, and there is no real escaping the disease. Knowing is all it takes, and by reading this you are as damned as the characters in the story. I enjoy this sort type of story that tracks ones loss into madness. One might even say this is a fate worst than death. 4/5 stars.

18 – “Episode Three: On the Great Plains, In the Snow” by John Langan ★★☆☆☆

Read 10/2/19

This story was a mess. It felt more like a time travel story than a horror story. There are ghosts from different times on different plains. There are even dinosaurs. The idea is intriguing, but in the end it just doesn’t work. I can also think of better stories along the same line of thinking (e.g. Fish Night). I didn’t like it much, nor do I feel like it belongs in this collection. 2.5/5 stars, rounding down.

19 – “Catching Flies” by Carole Johnstone  ★★★★

Read 8/13/2019

This was another great story, but coming off the “Atlas of Hell,” it’s hard not to see this story as not as satisfying. Don’t get me wrong, I highly recommend this story. A young girl is investigated by some government entity after her mother is found dead. The story then becomes a slow reveal of what took place. Everything about the tone of the story is on point. It is creepy and well executed. My problem revolved around the reveal. The way the story is structured seems to suggest it was going in one direction, but as we get further along it seems as if that isn’t the case. The problem was I am not sure what the author wanted us to think, and I found my self overthinking it, unable to really appreciate the quality of the story telling as it unfolded.

I did a reviewed what I could find about the story online (it is hard to find a lot of discussion on individual short stories). It appears this story reappeared in Datlow’s, The Monstrous. Aptly named, it is a horror anthology of monsters. The question arises, are the monsters the flies, or are the flies merely there when the true monster is.

I may return to this one more time, but for now, I’d give it 4/5 stars.

20 – “Shay Corsham Worsted” by Garth Nix ★★☆☆☆

Read 10/1/2019

This story did not work for me. I got the premise because I read review on goodreads, but I really didn’t get the connection between the main character and Shay Corsham. I could reread this to try and follow better, but it had its chance and didn’t work. 2/5 stars.

The Devil and the Deep, by Ellen Datlow – ★★★★☆

Start 8/8/2019

I was hesitant to begin this anthology because as much as I love horror, I don’t have a particular fascination with the Sea/Ocean. I never was very fond of pirate stories or myths of the Kraken. Nevertheless, The Devil and the Deep won the Bram Stoker Award for best anthology last year, so I wanted to give it a shot. Like the Time Traveler’s Almanac, I won’t be reading this consecutively. Instead, I will listen to stories as I see fit. I will try to fit it in between other novels and not focus to0 much on finishing this quickly. There is a benefit to having short and concise stories to go to from time to time. I still want to take the time to discuss the story. It is much shorter than TTA, so I will do my best to go in depth(ish) for each story.

There aren’t a lot of reviews for this book, but I am going to go off the reviews I could find to help guide me through the stories. My discussions for each story are listed below or can be accessed via the Table of Contents.

Update 8/11/2019

I’ve made it through more than I expected this quickly (9/15 stories). There have been several disappointments in here, but there have also been a couple great ones with several okay ones thrown in. I am not ready to recommend this just yet. That said, I have been intentionally saving several of the supposed best stories for last. So far, the horror has been lacking, at least in the way I was hoping for, but most of the stories achieve a decent enough tone to fit partly into the horror genre.

Update 8/13/2019

I’ve read 11/15 stories, so I have nearly completed this anthology. I think I have a good idea of the over quality. The current average rating is ~4/5 stars. That doesn’t seem bad, yet there are so many disappointments in here. Then again, there are some good to great stories too. What’s more, I’ve intentionally saved what are likely to be the best for last, so chances are it will be ~4.5 stars when all is said and done (I hope). All in all, these are good stories, but they are better classified as weird, fantasy, and science fiction with horror elements tossed in at times.

Finished 9/4/2019

When all is said and done, this book comes away with an average score of 4.2/5 stars. I am disappointed that it didn’t rate higher because there are some great books in here, but in the end, the lows drag it down. This book really challenges what it means to be horror. Some of my ratings maybe biased by my own definition (one that inspires dread and/or terror). I just left Dragon Con where I watched a panel discuss this very topic, and they made a point about ambiguity in horror and how it can be effective. I can think of a lot of terrifying film monsters made less scary by understanding them (e.g. the Babadook, the ghosts in Murder House). This makes me want to reanalyze a few of the more ambiguous stories.

I don’t mind ambiguity, but I still expect some grounding in what I am reading. I also have to deal with the fact that sometimes I don’t register when listening to audiobooks. I noticed that for the Haunt, and I stopped and returned to it later. That helped. The same may be true for a few others in this anthology. All in all, I don’t think it is a bad buy, even if you just read some of these. If you are a fan of ocean/sea stories, then definitely this is for you. If you are a horror fan looking for pure horror, maybe avoid this, but if you want abstract horror then check it out.

Table of Contents

  1. Deadwater — Simon Bestwick ★★★☆☆
  2. Fodder’s Jig — Lee Thomas ★★★★★
  3. The Curious Allure of the Sea — Christopher Golden ★★★★★
  4. The Tryal Attract — Terry Dowling ★★★★
  5. The Whalers Song — Ray Cluley ★★★☆☆
  6. A Ship of the South Wind — Bradley Denton ★★★☆☆
  7. What My Mother Left Me — Alyssa Wong ★★★★★
  8. Broken Record — Stephen Graham Jones ★★★☆☆
  9. Saudade — Steve Rasnic Tem ★★★★★
  10. A Moment Before Breaking — A.C.Wise ★★★★
  11. Sister, Dearest Sister, Let Me Show to You the Sea — Seanan McGuire ★★★★★
  12. The Deep Sea Swell — John Langan ★★★★
  13. He Sings of Salt and Wormwood — Brian Hodge ★★★★
  14. Shit Happens — Michael Marshall Smith ★★★★★
  15. Haunt — Siobhan Carroll ★★★★

Story Reviews

01 – Deadwater — Simon Bestwick ★★★☆☆

Read 8/9/2019

This is not a strong start. Needless to say, I am glad I didn’t take the editors guidance on where to begin. The YouTuber seemed to like it, but I can’t say I did. Part of me wonders if I just wasn’t giving it enough attention. Perhaps I just didn’t appreciate it enough. Unfortunately, from where I’m sitting it feels like a story with a slow start that abruptly jumps to a climactic conclusion without sufficient build up. The problem was I didn’t understand why I should care about what’s happening or the characters involved. I get the gist. Bad things were done. Revenge or justice is going to be had, but all that is lost on me because the author did a poor job setting it up. It doesn’t matter if the concept is good (it isn’t that exceptional), you have to get us invested in the characters and make us care about what’s happening. 3/5 stars.

02 – Fodder’s Jig — Lee Thomas ★★★★★

In Buffy’s Once More With feeling, characters are forced to dance uncontrollably, with dire consequences. This is similar to what we see in Fodder’s Jig.

Read 8/11/2019

I loved this story. Some people may want to start this without knowing the premise, but I I don’t think knowing takes away here. The author uses suspense over surprise, and that may be why it excels so much. Right away, we are introduced to what is going on. We don’t really understand why or what, but we don’t need to. The fact that it’s happening and that he author is highlighting it, tells us something is up. Then, we leave it for the time being to return to the normal world.

This story alternates between the days/weeks/months leading up to the event and some point after the event. It might be intentional on the authors part or it might be an effect of listening rather than seeing it on paper, but these transitions were hard to spot at first. Moving back and forth not realizing whats happening. However, I quickly catch on.

This story is built on a great premise (highlight to read: Cthulhu infects people with a dance that entrances them and draws them to the ocean), but what makes it so great is that it revolves around good characters. A man of no particular wealth or stature becomes involved with a wealthy married man. Things progress and the two fall victim to the strange occurrences taking place.

I did not expect to love this as much as I did. The premise was never that interesting to me as a topic, but I know plenty of people who would disagree. Even if you don’t, its a great story. The most horrific thing about this is the suspense. Knowing it or something is coming but not truly understanding it. 5/5 stars.

03 – The Curious Allure of the Sea — Christopher Golden ★★★★★

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The sea steals the souls of many. The Curious Allure of the Sea explores why so many people are drawn to such a dangerous entity that never stops.

Read 8/9/2019

Now this, I liked. From the start, the author makes it clear who the main character is and gives us a reason to be invested in them. Her father is dead. She gets a couple of tattoos to remember him by, one being his name and date of death, and another being a symbol of an item on his ship. You see, her father died at sea and there was no body to be found. Some time later, things begin to get weird. The symbol she got a tattoo of is acting strange.

I loved this story because the author did such an amazing job creating a disturbing and creepy atmosphere. I was finally feeling a bit of dread, and it was coupled with the majesty of the sea. When things begin to reach their climax, the main character panics unsure what to do. The sea called to her father, and now the sea calls to her. Is that what she wants? She doesn’t think so, but in the end, she returns to the sea regretting her decision.

That is the most I can say without spoiling it. I loved the story. It is all about the allure of the sea, as the title suggests. Even when the main character thinks she doesn’t want it, she quickly comes to regret it because, as disturbing as it is, the sea is where her father is. I don’t know if that makes sense, but know this. The story was fantastic. I loved it. 5/5 stars.

Update 8/11/2019

I think this story benefited from me reading it before Fodder’s Jig. Both share this basic idea that something around the sea calls people to it and we cannot resist. The Curious Allure of the Sea is great, but I can’t help but think fresh off of Fodder’s Jig, one may have a bit of let down.

04 – The Tryal Attract — Terry Dowling ★★★★

Read 8/10/2019

This was a strange story that was mostly effective. It revolves around this skull of a dead man that supposedly has some strange things about it. The story had a good tone that set up this atmosphere around this skull. Everything had the making of a good story, but in the end, there isn’t much here. Anticlimactic is probably the best way to describe it. 3.5/5 stars rounding up.

05 – The Whalers Song — Ray Cluley ★★★☆☆

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A depiction of whale hunting, as it relates to The Whalers Song.

Read 8/10/2019

This story did not work for me. It follows a group of whale hunters, exploring what life is like for them. There was nothing particularly interesting about the life, nor did the author create much of an ominous tone you’d expect from a horror story. The ending alluded to some hidden level of mystery about the whale songs. Maybe if the author had leaned more into that this story wouldn’t have been so disappointing. There just wasn’t anything to really love about this mediocre story. As a story, it’s fine I suppose just not an interesting topic or type of story telling (to me). 3/5 stars

06 – A Ship of the South Wind — Bradley Denton ★★★☆☆

Image result for kiksuya westworld
In A Ship of the South Wind, A native american boy and his father deal with racists in the wild west. Here is an image from Westworld, of a native american character featured in the story.

Read 8/9/2019

As far as I can tell, there are two main reasons that you would choose to read this anthology. You either have a love for horror or a love for the sea/ocean. To say this story brings either of these to the table is laughable. This is a perfectly fine story that is essentially an old western told from the perspective of two native Americans who come across a couple racists white people. If I am being generous, we can attribute horror to the racism of the story, but there isn’t much horror beyond that. I think about bigotry in horror stories like that of Stephen King, where racism could easily be a theme of the story, but there is more to make it horror themed; he uses the hate to show just how horrible it is. This story doesn’t seem to provide a lot of commentary or self reflection on the racism. So, why then is this story here? Why is an old western (that happens to have a minor character who used to be a captain of the sea) in a horror anthology of the ocean? It just doesn’t belong. The story itself is perfectly fine, but in the context of this anthology it is severely lacking. 3.5/5 stars rounding down.

07 – What My Mother Left Me — Alyssa Wong ★★

Read 8/16/2019

What My Mother Left Me feels like everything I would expect from what this anthology advertises. It is a mix of creepy, disturbing, and down right scary moments coupled with a weird ocean centered premise. The story starts with our main character grieving her mothers recent passing and her break up with her overly controlling boyfriend. She does that by getting away with her friend, to her old town or something connected to her family (I am not entirely sure).

This story works on multiple levels. The tone from the start is on point. I can’t help but think about the recent success of Hereditary or the Haunting of Hill House which centers around family drama. At the core, this is about family drama. From the start with her mothers death, to soon after when we learn about signs of mental (and physical) abuse of her mother by her father. Then the similarities of her father to her current boyfriend whose only goal is to control.

In the end, this becomes a story about independence and freedom. The sea is the freedom. Life on land is just a trap. That, and men can’t stand a woman who isn’t theirs to control. I like what Wong does here. It is ambitious and mostly effective. It is definitely worth reading, but I don’t think its highs are as high as some of the others in this anthology. 4.5/5 stars, rounding down.

08 – Broken Record — Stephen Graham Jones ★★★☆☆

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In Broken Record, a man is stranded on an island like Tom Hanks in Cast Away. Needless to say, Jones takes the theme to a much darker place.

Read 8/8/2019

I don’t get it, or maybe I do. I can’t say I love the feeling of not knowing whether the story intended to leave you questioning or if I just dumbly missed something. A man is stranded on an island surrounded by the ocean. I believe this is about his slowly losing his mind, deliriously imagining he has exactly what he wants. That is to say, he has a list of items that he asked for in some contest he did as a kid. One of those things where you say what you would bring with you to an abandoned island. I am 99% sure it is him slowly dying. Still, I don’t quite get it, nor can I say I am very happy with it.

It is creepy. I will give it that. Fairly soon into the story the narrator read the thoughts of the man in the most unnerving and casual way possible. There was something off from the get go. That is why I have to believe it is a story about a man dying and losing his mind. The problem is he survived for 10-20 days (or was that in his head?), and is that possible without food? Without water? He had water, unless he didn’t. I honestly am left wondering what was real and what wasn’t. It is too much. There needs to be some basic foundation for the story to be grounded in, and this does not have that. I enjoyed the style just not the content. 3.5 stars, rounding down.

09 – Saudade — Steve Rasnic Tem

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An image of the creature featured in Spring (2014) about a women who seeks the comfort of a man, but she isn’t exactly what she seems, very similar to Saudade.

Read 8/11/2019

I thoroughly enjoyed this story. I would give it a light to medium level of “horror”. It’s about a man whose children send him on a dating cruise to spark a new relationship after several years of being a single man. While there, he meets an odd Brazilian woman. The tone of the story is very depressing, and that definitely lends itself to being a more effective horror story. It reminds me of the 2014 film, Spring which wasn’t very heavy in the horror. It featured a similarly exotic woman who is some kind of Lovecraftian monster. That’s basically whats happening here.

Overall, it was a great story, maybe not strictly horror, but its a great weird and out there story. 4.5/5 stars, rounding up.

10 – A Moment Before Breaking — A.C.Wise ★★★★

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Lovecraftian monsters like the one you see here are featured in, A Moment Before Breaking.

Read 8/8/2019

This is the first story I read. That is a big task to ask of the story. It is responsible to get me interested. Perhaps I should trust the editors judgment in the order, but either way I didn’t. The story begins (and is told) from the perspective of a young immigrant girl on a ship. I get the impression it is set in the past, but I later learn it is modern day (or near to it). I tend to prefer it that way. As the first story, I was skeptical coming in. I am happy to say it was pretty quick at gaining my interest. I became intrigued at what was going on. A sea “monster” or creature posses the young girl and she and it are one. This isn’t the exorcist. It is more of a collaborative relationship (either willingly on the monsters part or not it is unclear).

Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed the story, but I don’t know if it was exactly as horrific as I would like. It was much more dark fantasy. I suppose that is a special classification of Horror, but not exactly what I am looking for. Perhaps I am being unfair. It isn’t a bad story. It is creepy and disturbing. I debated giving it 4.5 half stars, but if I am being honest, I will be sorely disappointed if this is the best this horror anthology has to offer. It is a solid read, but I want better. 4.5/5 stars rounding down.

11 – Sister, Dearest Sister, Let Me Show to You the Sea — Seanan McGuire ★★★★★

In Sister, Dearest Sister, a deal with the devil of the sea must be made if our protagonist has any hope at survival in what is undeniably a twisted tale of the Little Mermaid .

Read 8/16/2019

This story was great. I intentionally saved it to listen to it with my sister because I knew it was a story that revolved around a sibling relationship. Needless to say, this story takes sibling river to a new level. The story starts with the older sibling submerged in water, dazed and confused. She realizes shes submerged unable to breathe or move. As the waves recede, she learns shes in a tide pool, able to breathe for now, the tide is rising. Her sister stands watching, explaining how she has drugged her sister. She wants her to die, and apparently as terrifyingly as possible.

I’m sure anyone with siblings can understand why a sibling may have a little animosity toward their kin, but the level of hatred our main antagonist has is dark and deliciously horrific. The story then becomes one of survival. Will she escape? Can she escape? All of these question rise and fall with the tide. It is very effective. I mentioned before in What My Mother Left Me, about how family drama makes for the best kind of horror drama.

Like, What My Mother Left Me, Sister Dearest Sister changes directions part way through, morphing from a chilling horror story into a weird dark ocean fantasy. Without spoiling it too much, the story becomes like a twisted Little Mermaid, where, like Arial, our protagonist is desperate to return to land. To do so, she has to make a deal with the monsters of the sea, but everything comes with a cost.

I loved this story. It is one of my favorites. 5/5 Stars.

12 – The Deep Sea Swell — John Langan ★★★★

Image result for scuba diver scooby doo
Lost souls haunt the small island featured in The Deep Sea Swell.

Read 8/12/2019 (unsure if this is the exact date)

We find ourselves on a small island with a couple visiting friends. The ferry ride over introduces us to our main characters, and with it we learn about some of their sea related fears. It also acts as clear foreshadowing of whats to come. You see, a large region of the nearby sea used to be above water, back before glacier melting. Whether the existing villages made it out is unclear. Needless to say, it appears to be a breeding grounds for hauntings.

I’m trying to be consistent in my rating scheme, but as I read more stories, it keeps getting more difficult. This story ticked all the right boxes. It was creepy, had horror elements, and revolved around the ocean. Still, I find myself distracted as I jump between the Devil and the Deep and Datlow’s other anthology, Fearful Symmetries. This story never quite reaches the level of dread that is consistently achieved in those stories. This story s consistent with “A Moment Before Breaking” and “He Sings of Salt and Wormwood,” not a bad story, but not everything I wish it was. 4.5/5 stars rounding down.

13 – He Sings of Salt and Wormwood — Brian Hodge ★★★★

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An image of a scuba diver, like our main character in He Sings of Salt and Wormwood, who finds something that unsettles him.

Read 8/9/2019

This was a well told story. For a large chunk of it I didn’t get a horror vibe. However, it eventually came. For this one I feel as if I need to clarify, the build up was good. It wasn’t the constant dread I hope for. Although, it was still effective. We enter the mind of this surfer/diver, enveloped by this world where one has an intimate relationship with the sea. That doesn’t make it a bad story. It was a great story. I feel as though I am trapping myself, judging each story by the horrors it besets upon me, and it just isn’t that simple. We get the groundwork for an effective conclusion that was full of dread and confusion. In doing so, we once again appreciate the power and mystery of the sea. It works for what it is, but if I am being honest, it doesn’t deliver everything I want from a horror story. 4.5 stars, rounding down.

14 – Shit Happens — Michael Marshall Smith ★★★★★

A large portion of, Shit Happens, takes place in the room where it happens.

Read 8/15/2019, and again 8/16/2019

I absolutely loved this story. I think a large part of that was the surprise, so I’m not going to spoil the main reveal which is built up to for a large portion of the story. The story begins by introducing us to our protagonist. We learn he has a work conference he has to go to, and it is being held on a cruise ship this year (yay). Except, he has no interest at feigning interest in the lives of  people he barley knows, nor does he have any interest in telling the entire company that the long awaited project he is responsible for still is not completed. On the bright side, its a chance for him to get drunk on the company dime. A large portion of the story is dedicated to setting up the story and helping us connect and relate to our protagonist.

Soon, our protagonist is on the ship, and enjoying happy hour as he gets progressively drunk. As is natural, this inevitably leads him to the bathroom to relieve himself. While there, he hears load, grotesque and disturbing noises from a man in the stall. It turns out he has a bad case of the shits. Our protagonist can’t believe how horrendous the smell is; all he wants to do is finish and leave. Except, the decency within him forces him to ask the man if hes okay. As the story progresses, you can’t help but wonder where its going.

I thought the reveal was well done and surprising. I can understand why Datlow would put this so late in the anthology; this collection highlights the variety of monstrosities that can be thought up within the sea (even if I don’t care for all of them). What’s more, many of these stories have had questionable ties to horror, and part of me wonders if this is going to be an entirely mundane story. You’ll have to read it to find out if that is the case, but I assure you no matter what it is, its worth reading. This story is brilliantly charming and funny while also disturbing and grotesque–everything I could want from a horror story.

Lastly, you may read this and find the theme here isn’t all that original, but this story still stands out for two reasons. First, the writing is captivating and enjoyable. Two, the lack in originality around the theme is compensated by an original take on this type of story. There could have been so much more to this nearly 1hr long short story. The narrative we got could easily be a novel unto itself (I wish it was!), but it also drops off at what some people might call a cliff hanger. I don’t see it that way. This isn’t the story we usually associate with this type of theme. It is more of a prequel to the traditional type of narrative we get here. In that, it is tremendously effective. 5/5 stars, and maybe my favorite story.

15 – Haunt — Siobhan Carroll ★★★★

An artwork of a haunted ship.

Started reading 8/20/2019 (going to start over)

I started listening to this but ultimately stopped because I was in a car and falling asleep. I will have to listen to this when I’m being active. My first impressions aren’t great. For starters, this is probably my least favorite narrator (or this version of his narration). To be fair, I think this set in 18th century, and I am not a big fan of Victorian styled writing. I looked up the author, and she is an expert in British literature during this time. It makes sense that this story would have that type of style to it. Which means you should take this review with a grain of salt since it isn’t my cup of tea.

Read 9/4/2019

I am glad I postponed this story. It is not nearly as bad as I originally thought. What it is is different than the last few stories I have read. The style and setting are not my favorite, but with the right mindset, I was able to give it a better assessment.

This story is exactly what I would expect from the marketing blurb for this book: the story of a haunted ship (more or less). The author did a good job setting the story, even if it isn’t my preferred setting. The story itself is slow. I am sure we can all imagine a fast paced horror story upon a haunted ship, but the true horror of the story mirrors the horror of reality. Imagine being stranded in the middle of the sea and left to die. If it weren’t for a few sequences in this book, I might question whether the haunting was even real. That is because it is about the deterioration of hope and the loss of ones ability to control a situation. It is about being forced to know what is to come and having to reckon with that. Then, when all is said and done, it is all destined to happen again. 4/5 stars.