With copies seemingly hard to come by on this side of the pond, I was fortunate to be offered an ARC of Best British Horror 2014 for review. I'm always up for discovering some new horror, and there's something about the British flavor of the genre that always appeals to me, so I was eager to see what kind of authors and stories Johnny Mains pulled together.
Much to my surprise, the more recognizable authors who drew me into the anthology were actually some of the weakest reads for me. Maybe it's a case of being too familiar with their work, I don't know, but it was the authors who were new to me whom I seemed to enjoy the most.
Ian Hunter got things off to a great start with Exploding Raphaelesque Heads, a story of life imitating art, and the sacrifices we're willing to make in the name of perfection. John Llewellyn Probert offers up a creepy tale of parasitic infections and Cthulhu inspired horrors in The Secondary Host, with an ending that's as gruesome as it is cruelly enjoyable. Gary Fry, the one recognizable author to stand out for me, distinguishes himself with Biofeedback, a story that's exceedingly simple on the surface, requiring you to read between the lines, but which is told in a novel sort of manner.
Adam Nevill offers up a tale called Doll Hands that revisits familiar tropes, but which manages to keep post-apocalyptic cannibalism interesting. Thana Niveau was a definite favorite for me, with Guinea Pig Girl offering an interesting look at Japanese torture porn, personal obsession, and unexpected consequences. Elizabeth Stott was another favorite, inviting us to Touch Me With Your Cold, Hard Fingers, a story that puts a fantastic twist on jealousy, sex dolls, and revenge.
The Arse-Licker by Stephen Volk is a complete gross-out that exploits the darkest side of office politics to make the corporate arse-licking truly earn his brand. Someone To Watch Over You was an old fashioned sort of ghost story, creepy and unsettling, with Marie O'Regan mixing a little sorrow in with her horror. With characters named Cecelia J. Burden and Andrew Blithe, Namesake was an interesting tale from V.H. Leslie that indulges in its own word-play. Wrapping things up for me, The Magician Kelso Dennett by Stephen Volk was a great story about a small town that's seen better days, until a Criss Angel type magician returns home to film the greatest stunt ever . . . one that ends 40 days later with a great twist.
Johnny Mains has done a great job here of mixing authors, genres, and styles, offering up a Best British Horror 2014 anthology that has a little bit to offer for every fan of the genre.
Paperback, 432 pages
Published April 15th 2014 by Salt Publishing