I recently won a copy of Inferno: New Tales of Terror and the Supernatural, a horror anthology edited by Ellen Datlow. I’ve been interested in reading this anthology since the World Fantasy convention in Calgary where I was lucky enough to be sitting with someone with an anthology on the ballot for best anthology (which is not the official title for the category, but you get the idea). He was a wonderful guy who was hopeful for a win, but not optimistic. He figured Inferno would win and had nothing but good things to say about it. If Ellen’s competition only had good things to say about the book (which did win), how could I not want to read it?
The only catch to winning the book was that I had to blog about it — whether I liked it or not. This caused me a bit of stress because I’m not very good at writing book reviews and so I don’t like doing them. I was also concerned that I wouldn’t like it and then would be in the somewhat awkward position of writing bad things about a book I didn’t pay for.
I needn’t have worried.
While every story in Inferno wasn’t to my liking, the majority were and they spanned a vast spectrum of subjects. It was an unthemed anthology, in order to be included a story had to “provide the reader with a frisson of shock, or a moment of dead so powerful it might cause the reader outright physical discomfort; or a sensation of fear so palpable that the reader feels impelled to turn up the lights very bright and play music or seek the company of others to dispel the fear; or to linger in the reader’s consciousness for a long, long time after the final word is read.”
I have yet to ever find a book that affected me in the first two ways and the stories in this collection were no exception, however, there were a great many which lingered in my consciousness for a very long time. Many times after reading a story I would need to close the book and walk away, to savor the piece I’d just read before going on to the next. Sometimes pieces of the text itself would be stuck in my mind, a line here or there, or a snippet of description so evocative it wouldn’t leave me alone.
I think my favorite story from the collection is The Keeper by P.D. Cacek. It’s a beautifully-written piece about the child survivor of a real-life horror. It is well worth reading and has tear-stained pages in my copy of the book. Hushabye by Simon Bestwick teased my imagination. What I originally thought was simply going to be a simple story taking an abstract idea and making it literal, turned out to be that and so much more. Very much a page-turner and a story I enjoyed immensely. An Apiary of White Bees by Lee Thomas is, in my opinion, one of the most unique stories in the collection and certainly lingered (and lingers still) in the corner of my mind long after I finished it. Pat Cadigan’s Stilled Life is another story I won’t soon forget and which was told with a finesse I greatly admire and envy.
In short, if you love scary short stories Inferno: New Tales of Terror and the Supernatural is a book you should consider picking up. You may not be blown away by every story within its covers, but it’s a pretty safe bet that you’ll find more than enough to make it worth your investment of both time and money. I know my copy is going to get read over and over again.