Monday, October 4, 2010

Stabbed in Stanzas Book Review: Haunted Legends Edited by Ellen Datlow and Nick Mamatas

Reviewed by Karen L. Newman

Just in time for Halloween Tor releases the much anticipated anthology, Haunted Legends. Twenty authors, most well-known, contributed chilling tales to this excellent collection. Most were memorable. Some didn’t quite fit the parameters expected from the reader.
My personal favorites are “Tin Cans” by Ekaterina Sedia and “That Girl” by Kaaron Warren. Both compare human horrors against the horror of ghosts, humanity being scarier than the legend itself. The book is a treat for those not having read the work of notable writers such as Joe R. Lansdale, Ramsey Campbell, John Mantooth, and Gary Braunbeck, as well as for fans of those authors. Several up-and-coming writers appear as well, including Carrie Laben and Steven Pirie. The use of legends from around the world as well as some obscure ones in the U.S. made the book an interesting read. All were quality pieces of fiction. Several stories have wonderful twists at the end. The book is a prime example of professional horror writers at their best.
Unfortunately, not all included the theme of haunted legend, which infers ghosts. Even the introduction written by Mamatas focuses on ghost stories. This misleads the reader and can lead to disappointment. The introduction, in my view, has too much negativity and detracts from the book. I wonder why Datlow didn’t write the introduction, or at least had written a second one to offset the Mamatas one. Campbell’s story about the Chucky movies stretches the theme too much. Also the outstanding story by Catherynne M. Valente is about a fantastic creature from Japan, not a ghost. Laben writes about a bird. Perhaps the title should have been Urban Legends and Ghostly Tales, with Datlow discussing the urban legends.
Still, this book is well worth purchasing and should appear in every serious horror enthusiast’s bookshelf.

--Karen L. Newman