I’ve read a bundle of fantastic short story collections this year and I’ll be reading more before the year is out. Aimee Bender, Manuel Gonzales, Laird Barron, Nathan Ballingrud, Ian Rogers, Lucy Corin, and more have all written stellar, first-rate collections, some of which I’ll blab out in more detail as September rolls along. John Langan’s is my favorite collection of 2013.
I mean, of how many collections can you say, “oh, this book has one of the best zombie stories (‘How the Day Runs Down’) ever written, and yeah, it has one of the best werewolf stories (‘The Revel’) of the past decade, and sure, it has an Iraq War/vampire story (‘The Wide, Carnivorous Sky’) that makes vampires scary all over again, and yeah, and a genius retelling of Poe’s “The Masque of Red Death” (‘Technicolor’) , and an insidiously creepy exorcism novella (“Mother of Stone”)…”
You get the idea. What I admire about John’s fiction is his willingness to explore a conceit to its fullest. He doesn’t back down or shy away from an idea. He big bangs the fucker. Deconstructing horror tropes (and the tropes of literary fiction) and then Frankensteining everything back together so that not only do you remember why you were originally afraid of the monsters of our youth and of our cultural memory, but are terrified at what they can and will do next.