- The Trentino Kid by Jeffrey Ford ★★☆☆☆
- The Ghost of the Clock by Tanith Lee ★★★☆☆
- One Thing About the Night by Terry Dowling ★★★☆☆
- The Silence of the Falling Stars by Mike O’Driscoll ★★☆☆☆
- The Dead Ghost by Gahan Wilson ★★★☆☆
- Seven Sisters by Jack Cady ★★☆☆☆
- Subway by Joyce Carol Oates ★★★★☆
- Doctor Hood by Stephen Gallagher ★★☆☆☆
- An Amicable Divorce by Daniel Abraham ★★★☆☆
- Feeling Remains by Ramsey Campbell ★★★☆☆
- The Gallows Necklace by Sharyn McCrumb ★★☆☆☆
- Brownie, and Me by Charles L. Grant ★★★★☆
- Velocity by Kathe Koja ★★★★★
- Limbo by Lucius Shepard ★★★★★
- The Hortlak by Kelly Link ★★☆☆☆
- Dancing Men by Glen Hirshberg ★★★☆☆
I am not going to waste my time reviewing a bunch of mediocre stories. These are a variety of tales of mostly mundane life with hints of ghosts, at times, in only the tiniest of bits. I have read the first 3 stories, and I have a strong urge to drop this. These stories aren’t good. The goodreads reviews often put the first few among the better stories, so is it really worth continuing?
Fearful Symmetries had some lows, but in general, it was giving me what I wanted. Here, I just find these stories dull and uninteresting. If I read a story more than 3 stars, I’ll go more in depth. The fact that I gave 3 stars to some of these does speak to a small aspect of the story peaking my interest. It just wasn’t enough to save the entire story. It doesn’t help that the narrators are terrible. The female is slightly better than the monotone male, but it is still horrible to listen to (I’ve grown to like the female narrator more). There have been at least two instances where I noticed they start to say one thing and they correct themselves. It is quick but noticeable.
I finally read a story I liked. I really want to believe there have to be more stories in here I can enjoy. I think a big problem her is the mindset of the writers. Many of these read like ghost hunting stories in the sense that the story is too much about the supernatural or the wishy washy rhetoric ghost hunters put towards ghosts. I don’t want to hear a bunch of bullshit about the philosophy of ghosts. I want interesting stories with ghosts. Maybe I would have been better suited to read Haunted Legends, also edited by Ellen Datlow. The title suggests it is composed of stories more in line with my taste (i.e. stories about ghosts haunting you, frightening you, etc.).
End of day update
I am roughly 2/3rds through this book, so I am going to push through. There are only 3 stories left, each are basically a novella in length (especially Limbo). Hopefully they stand out like a couple of my most recent listens.
Success! I managed to finish a book that I had considered DNFing pretty much since the first story. However, I forced myself to read to at least halfway because I was sure that I couldn’t possibly dislike every story in the collection just as I wouldn’t expect to love every story. That proved true with Subway by Joyce Carol Oates, and I am glad. Granted, I can’t, in good conscience, recommend this book as a great collection, but there are a few that you might consider reading if you can get your hand on the collection (e.g. maybe a library copy, or borrow my copy 😉). In all, there were 5 stories that peaked my interest, and you can read about these below! 3/5 stars on average.
2. The Ghost of the Clock by Tanith lee ★★★☆☆
I didn’t love this story, but I decided to discuss it because it resonated with me more than the others did. The story is kind of long and dragged out. It is about a woman who visits her wealthy aunt. The aunt does not like her niece. She does everything in her power to make her niece’s visit terrible. Specifically, she tells her a story about a haunted clock. The story is contrived and untrue, or rather, it is about a clock of which she does not own. However, in telling the story, it becomes true. I did not particularly love the story even though the concept is interesting. What stood out to me in this story was the dynamic between the aunt and her niece. Family drama is always a great device in story telling. I just wish the ghost story was more effective. 3.5/5 stars, rounding down.
7. Subway by Joyce Carol Oates ★★★★☆
This is the first story I really enjoyed. It was short, but it was effective at being creepy and unsettling. This isn’t exactly a ghost story. It feels more like the making of a ghost story as we detail a young woman who is discussing her interactions with various people on the train. All the while, she remissness about relationships passed wondering who is the love of her life. While avoiding any specifics, the ending is dark and disturbing, but everything I’d like to see with a good ghost story. 4/5 stars.
12. Brownie, and Me by Charles L. Grant ★★★★☆
This story was okay. It was a little basic. In what may be somewhat spoilery description, it was like a take on Sixth Sense in a very mild way. Essentially, a man sees a haunted friend who keeps showing up. Things play out differently than he expects. The story worked better than most of these, but it still felt sort of lackluster. 3.5/5 stars, rounding up
13. Velocity by Kathe Koja ★★★★★
This was my favorite story. I actually stopped and re-listened to the it after it finished to make sure I completely understood what was going on. In the acknowledgments, the author mentions The Yellow Wallpaper and The Haunting of Hill House as their favorite ghost stories. Both of these are favorites of mine, and I think that contributes to the style working so well for me. There is no clear evidence of a ghost. Instead, we are reading the interview with an abstract artist who is disturbed from troubling events with his father before he committed suicide. The artist is angry and aggressive and convinced his father has been haunting him. It has some solid Haunting of Hill House and The Yellow Wallpaper vibes. Is it really haunted, or is this just a disturbed individual? I was thinking 4-4.5 stars, but the ties to my favorite stories pushes me to give it a full 5/5 stars rounding up.
14. Limbo by Lucius Shepard ★★★★★
This might be my favorite story of the collection. Limbo is about a criminal on the run. He makes a stop at a lake in Michigan where he meets a woman that he becomes involved with sexually. He soon comes to find this lake is the home to certain spirits and a weird house of sorts that is basically a form of limbo–somewhere where spirits exist after death. The man tries to reconcile with this and his attachment to this woman all the while struggling with the need to continue moving to avoid being caught by whoever is after him. He is forced to make some difficult decisions as he becomes tangled between our world and the “next”.
This story was amazing. It had ghosts, surprises, and a dark view of an afterlife. Limbo isn’t exactly hell. Although, it certainly is a form of it. This was the longest story in the collection (basically a novella with a 3hr+ length), and the other uses this tune very effectively. He gets us invested in a morally ambiguous man before he takes us on a disturbing ride into the afterlife challenging our perception of life and death. I loved the world he built and the story he told. 5/5 stars.