Stories – All New Tales Edited by Neil Gaiman and Al Sarrantonio

Sometimes I like to get to know a book backwards. Just turn to its last pages and see what I can find. And at the end of this one, I found the following:

“I meant to put my hands on her shoulders to hold her still but when I reached for her they found her smooth neck instead.”

First impression may not be the most accurate but it is the most powerful. I had one of those feelings of- I need to get this now– that happens every now and then but not too often. And in this case I was glad to see my first impression was also accurate.

And so, it wasn’t until later on when I got home and read the words again, that I noticed the author of the story that got my attention was none other than Joe Hill, and his little weird story was called “The Devil on the Staircase”.

Stories brings together 27 short horror tales into a beautiful collection. It starts with Roddy Doyle’s “Blood”, a rather funny and chilling story that’s a very strong first step on this horror journey.

Neil Gaiman contributes with “The Truth Is a Cave in the Black Mountains”, a story that builds up slowly in an odd folk-tale like fashion until the unexpected conclusion at the end.

Catch and Release” is another one of my favorites. It is a seemingly normal tale and I was deceptively lulled into complacency as I began to care about the main character and at the end it delivered such a turn as to send tendrils of fear down into my very soul. It made me think a chilling thought: yes, this could very well be true.

Juvenal Nyx” is quite a nice twist on a vampire story whose end left me wanting more.

Jodi Picoult’s “Weights and Measures” was an amazing story of grief and loss and how it can transform people and not just in the psychological sense.

Unwell” and “Parallel Lines” are about the relationships between two sisters and how those blood ties become thick ropes of bitter emotions.

Human Intelligence” started out rather slowly but the end was so unexpected and funny, it made me smile.

There were a few stories I didn’t care much about but they made me appreciate the ones I liked even more.

A very entertaining book with gripping tales and unexpected endings and a just below the surface feeling of the surreal which makes one wonder, for a fraction of a second, if they couldn’t very well be real.

Read in April 2011.

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