Monday, November 2, 2009

Not one bit scary

I really had high expectations when I started this anthology of horror stories, as it was edited by Peter Straub, one of my all-time favorite horror writers. I can still recall the satisfying creepiness of Ghost Story and the dark wonders of Shadowland every time I come across Straub. There was a certain old world, Gothic feel to his stories, which I assumed would be somewhat felt in this collection.

Poe's Children: The New Horror tries to veer away from the standard formula of horror stories. There are no black-and-white monsters, all-out gore fests, and dreadful ghosts and demons in these stories. What readers are exposed to are the psychological and disturbing elements of the genre. In that aspect, the anthology succeeds as it presents what the misunderstood genre of horror and dark fantasy can transcend. But in terms of that horrifying, scared-out-of-your-wits factor, the collection fails. None of these stories can make you curl up in your bed and make you sleep with the lights on. None of them have bite.

This collection features the supposed "New Wave" of horror fiction. The 20 or so stories have been written by big names such as Stephen King, Don Chaon, Ramsey Campbell, Joe Hill, Graham Joyce, and Neil Gaiman, just to name a few. Perhaps, their aim of writing a horror story that would appear "literary" is the culprit. What is "literary" horror by the way? Wouldn't it hurt to come up with a well-written story that is also very terrifying?

A friend bought me this book just before Halloween, and I figured that it would be the perfect read for the season. I guess I should've reread Dracula or sampled H.P. Lovecraft's works which I've always found weird. Come to think of it, I haven't read a really good scary book lately. The last really good novel that creeped me out was Elizabeth Kostova's The Historian, which I've read more than 4 years ago.

Read this book if:
  1. You're curious about "literary" and New Wave horror fiction.
  2. You're a big fan of Peter Straub.
  3. You like weird short stories.

19 comments:

Krista said...

Oh, sorry it wasn't scary for you! Man, I haven't read anything scary since I was a little kid reading Ghost story books, haha. They were always fun... I wonder if they'd be scary now, though? LOL! It seems to be hard nowadays to scare people and even in the case of moives.

Thank you for the great review, and I hope the next one will scare your pants off, hehe :)

Vivienne said...

That is so disappointing when you expect it to be scary and it isn't. I am wondering if this is the book I have heard about that upset a lot of book bloggers. Does this have a lot of stories that include horrific acts on women?

Peter S. said...

@Krista: I hope you can recommend some really scary reads.

@Vivienne: I'm not sure about this book being the one discussed about by bloggers. I didn't find anything offensive in its content. It just wasn't scary, that's all.

Krista said...

Peter, if I come across one you'll be the first person I inform! :)

Peter S. said...

Thanks again, Krista!

theliterarystew said...

Too bad it wasn't scary. I think my scariest reads are the Turn of the Screw by Henry James and Rosemary's Baby by Ira Levin. Scary because I could not be home alone while I read them! Both have also been made into great movies, both from the 60s.

josbookshelf said...

Hi, Peter! What is New Wave horror? I didn't know a subgenre like this existed.

Logan said...

You'd think that with a cover like that there would be something in there to get one's skin crawling...

Krista said...

Yeah, I agree with Logan, that cover is pretty creepy... :O

Charlie said...

Horror, as far as gross-outs and gore-fests, appears to be dead. Psychological horror seems like a return to Lovecraft, who bores me to death.

I miss the good old slicer-and-dicers like you do, Peter.

Suko said...

"None of them have bite." That says a lot.

I really wanted to watch Stephen King's Nightmares and Dreamscapes for Halloween, but couldn't find the DVD.

Peter said...

@theliterarystew: I would have to read "The Turn of the Screw." I've heard that it's very creepy.

@josbookshelf: I also didn't know that there's such a thing as "New Wave" horror. It probably has to do with the scary bits focusing on the pyschological elements.

@Logan: Yes, the cover is indeed very scary. Too bad it didn't translate well in the content.

@Krista: That's precisely why it got my attention.

@Charlie: Hmmm... I haven't read Lovecraft yet, but your comment intrigued me. Lovecraft did have a reputation for writing weird stories.

@Suko: Thanks for dropping by again! Oh, I didn't know that that book was made into a movie. I read that years ago.

savidgereads said...

I have been intrigued by this book every time that I have seen it but am now quite glad that I havent picked it up! Shall make do with the Virago book of Ghost Stories instead!

Peter said...

Hi, savidgereads! Thanks for dropping by! Hmmmm... I guess I'll look for that Virago book.

A Buckeye Girl Reads said...

There's nothing worse then being disappointed by a book you thought would be great. You might want to try the Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield. I'm in the minority as I didn't care for it, but most people found it to a page turner and loved the mystery.

Peter said...

Hi, ABGR! I've been curious about that book. It seems very polarizing. Anyway, I hope I can find a copy.

SariJ said...

Peter, I have not read a truly scary book in years. This would have appealed to me as I liked Joe Hill's Heart Shape Box and have been told his short stories are even better, but after reading your review I will pass on the book.

Peter S. said...

Hi, SariJ! I love Heart-shaped Box! Have you read 20th Century Ghosts by Joe Hill?

Indigo said...

The cover drew me in to this post. Then I realized I have the book (Just brought it actually) and why the hell didn't it have THAT cover.

In any case I was hoping for the old style gore horror, but I can be placated with the new stuff for the time being. No book goes unread. Unless of course it's Austen. I might try understanding that venure purely through, "Pride and Prejustice and Zombies." *winks*(Hugs)Indigo