Her [Datlow's] various stints assembling annual best-of volumes has given her a deep sense of which stories stand the best chance of meriting the praises of posterity ... And indeed, this volume does not disappoint. It’s the kind of anthology you can hand to a friend who does not know the horror field—or even claims to dislike horror—and be sure that it will convert them into a passionate fan ... all these authors are superb at naturalism. They all prefer to stage their tales in settings that are either 'mundane'—Laird Barron’s low-rent neighborhoods—or, if exotic—Carole Johnstone’s Himalayas—still well-chronicled and familiar. The fusion of the everyday with eruptions of the horrific and unnatural is a potent combo, of course, and the preferred mode these days. But conversely, this means there is less overt surrealism or out-of-this-world horror ... These tales walk the tightrope between enigmas and explicitness. They also represent a fusion of topicality and timelessness, dealing with both eternal concerns of the human soul and spirit and hot-button issues.
Datlow writes in her introduction that...conventions of horror writing 'are not worn out … as long as writers take a fresh look at them.' And they do, bringing readers to very scary places in ways I haven’t experienced before ... There are excellent stories by old guard terror-ists like Neil Gaiman, Dan Chaon and Peter Straub, but my favorites are by women, a group underrepresented in the traditional horror arena ... 'Black and White Sky,' by the masterly Tanith Lee, is a brilliant story ... [that] speaks more powerfully of the danger of isolationism than any political poll or newspaper I’ve read. Another of my favorites was 'Better You Believe,' by Carole Johnstone ... While the story is about survival, it is also about female rivalry, the sacrifices we make for love and what it really means to come out on top ... Bad things do happen. I won’t say what. You should read it and find out.
The horror on offer ranges widely in style and tone, from brief encounters with monsters or the supernatural to apocalypses of cosmic proportion to horrors invented out of the human heart ... This collection is highly recommended for anyone interested in contemporary horror and dark fantasy, as well as anyone looking for a collection of some of the best and most horrifying short fiction currently available.