House of Fear
edited by Jonathan Oliver
Solaris Books (2011)
Ghosts are one of my three faves in genre, so an anthology featuring stories by Joe R. Lansdale, Sarah Pinborough, Tim Lebbon, and a host of others sounded too good to resist. After I snagged a copy from the aptly named Spooky-Reads.com, I sat down to be enthralled.
Things kick off with a really chilling tale by Lisa Tuttle called "Objects in Dreams may be Closer than they Appear," about a woman who is roped into a road trip with her ex-husband through back roads in search of a home they tried to find when they were married, but never could. It set the pace for the book really well, by showing how the atmosphere and tones of the stories were likely going to be anything but conventional.
"Florrie" by Adam G. Nevill had to be one of the creepiest stories of the bunch, as a guy moves into a fixer-upper and goes madder and madder the longer he lives under its roof. Adam is apparently an accomplished novelist with more than one haunted house novel under his belt. I need to find one of those novels.
Weston Ochse may have written my favorite story from the whole book with "Driving the Milky Way." It's about a group of kids spending the summer hanging out together in the Arizona outback. It's usual boy shit until they meet a girl and the rusted-out RV on her grandparents' property. It basically becomes their clubhouse, but when they go wandering into the desert one night for an adventure, it becomes a whole lot more. Loved. This. Story.
For what I considered a wonderful and all-round disturbing Twilight Zone vibe, there were stories like Rebecca Levene's "The Windmill" about a prisoner and his growing torment behind bars, and Christopher Priest's "Widow's Weeds." The style of the writing might not carry notes of Rod Serling, but the subject matter certainly does.
There's nineteen stories in all, and I can't say there was a bad one in the bunch. I'm a sucker for ghost stories, mind you. Plus, I'm a fan of quite a few of these authors already, and several more of whom I've heard nothing but the highest praise, so it should be no surprise as to how good this anthology should be. Jonathan Oliver prefaces each story with a brief introduction, which is a nice touch, but I admit I was hoping for a little extra by way of author's notes on the inspiration for each story. That's just something I'm partial to though, and I can't begrudge any book that doesn't include them.
House of Fear is about as wonderfully rich as you could ask for from a garland of ghost stories, and it seems Jonathan Oliver is one more anthologist I need to watch for down the line.