Book review: Year’s Best Hardcore Horror – Anthology

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Comet Press’ anthology of hardcore horror features some of today’s brightest (or should that be darkest?) stars currently operating within the genre. I have read a great deal of work by many of the authors featured here and although there are a few gems, sadly there are some duds too. The title is a little misleading in that quite a few of the stories weren’t in fact very hardcore at all. That’s not to say they weren’t good stories, but the suggestion is that these tales would turn the stomach and this was rarely the case. I am perhaps being a little harsh on this book but 2016 has seen some exceptional anthologies and for me this one fell a bit short in comparison.

Anthologies are usually hit and miss, though if you enjoy the majority of stories on offer then the editors have done a good job. There were a few tales that I really did dig. David James Keaton’s ‘What’s worst’ is hardcore, out there, weird. Some people will love it, some will hate it. I was still thinking about it long after I finished the book, so bravo, sir. The Behrg’s ‘Reborn’ was another very cool story featuring a baby on a doorstep! I’m not saying any more about this story except that it’s a good one. Jeff Strand does what he does best with ‘Awakening’ in the shortest story in the collection. It’s filled with Strand’s trademark wit and guts and though I’m not usually a huge fan of humour in horror, this one is great. ‘Dead End’ by Kristopher Triana was pretty damn good and a new take on a familiar tale. Of the duds, the two stories featuring G.G. Allin I definitely would’ve done without. I’m not a fan of the guy at all and particularly the story by M.P. Johnson (a writer who I usually enjoy reading) was a bit too bonkers and felt really out-of-place to me. Similarly with the tale by Charles Austin Muir, another writer that has impressed in the past didn’t excite me at all with ‘King Shits’. A couple of the later stories just sort of passed me by and I struggled to remember much about them at all. Things pick up with Monica J. O’Rourke’s tale. It’s really quite disturbing and very well done and I also really enjoyed Pete Kahle’s story, though it did remind me a little of Nick Cutter’s ‘The Troop’. Still, it was gory, fun and kinda made my skin crawl, so job done! The best story, for me was Jason Parent’s ‘Eleanor’. Very dark, a little kinky and the ending was top-notch. I’ve read this one before somewhere but it is an absolute doozy. Great stuff! The final story ‘Blackbird Lullaby’ was also cool. Macabre, short but sweet.

The other stories weren’t bad, just not very memorable. Whenever I finish anthologies I take a look back at all the titles and try to remember what they were about, delivering a brief synopsis inside my head. Unfortunately there were a few stories where I couldn’t remember anything about them. Your mileage always varies with anthologies. Also, there have been some excellent ones released this year as I mentioned earlier. For me, this one was pretty good, but not great.

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