I am so excited to be able to finally share my love of this incredible anthology!
When Things Get Dark is easily one of the best, and most consistent anthologies I’ve read in years. Each writer has brought their A-Game in Shirley’s name. Comparisons to Jackson’s work are a dime-a-dozen, and often completely unwarranted. But the stories in this collection expertly capture the unease, the discomfort, and the uncanny, unplaceable horrors, we often find in Jackson’s phenomenal work.
For me, there are so many highlights in this collection, and some wonderful surprises. The always-reliable Elizabeth Hand delivers unspeakable terrors at an adult sleepover in For Sale by Owner. Josh Malerman’s story, Special Meal, has the feeling of a vintage Twilight Zone episode, complete with terrifying authority figures and forbidden knowledge. Seanan McGuire spins a beautiful revenge tale, with a folkloric twist.
The most disturbing things within these stories are merely hinted at; the “things that lived in Mr. Richardson’s farm” in Cassandra Khaw’s outstanding Quiet Dead Things; the screams from Gerald’s apartment in Karen Heuler’s Money of the Dead. The mere passing mention of these things is likely to leave more of an imprint than a full-on, visual horror.
But not all the stories are out-and-out horror. The seemingly mundane, but somehow wrong, is addressed incredibly well in M. Rickert’s Funeral Birds. The everyday horror women face when they drive alone is captured so well in Sooner or Later, Your Wife Will Drive Home by Genevieve Valentine.
The most terrifying story in this collection, and one of the scariest stories I’ve ever read, is Tiptoe by Laird Barron. A young man reminisces about family trips to the lake, and his father’s mysterious behavior. I am not exaggerating when I say I nearly didn’t read the last paragraph. Barron built the tension so incredibly well, and I guessed what was coming, but it didn’t make it any less scary. It’s a masterpiece. I imagine Jackson would be thrilled that she inspired such a horrific tale.
I could write a lengthy love letter to almost every story in this anthology. It really is that impressive. If you are looking for an overview of what the current literary horror world looks like, this is a fantastic example. Again, Ellen Datlow shows us why she is the queen of the horror anthology. Long may she reign.
HUGE thanks to Titan Books for providing me with this ARC.