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The Dark Descent Hardcover – October, 1987


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 1011 pages
  • Publisher: St Martins Pr; First Edition edition (October 1987)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0312930356
  • ISBN-13: 978-0312930356
  • Product Dimensions: 2 x 6.5 x 9.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 3.4 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (35 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,939,824 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

If you could have only one anthology of dark stories, this would be the one to have. Having observed that "fans of horror fiction most often restrict their reading to books and stories given a horror category label, thus missing some of the finest pleasures in that fictional mode," David G. Hartwell assembles here 56 important tales within an insightful critical framework; his purpose is to "clear the air and broaden future considerations of horror." Several well-known classics are included, but there are also dozens of lesser-known horror tales, including many by science fiction and literary writers. Get one copy for yourself. Get another for that friend or relative who doesn't understand why you like to read horror. --This text refers to the Paperback edition.

Review

"A gigantic, superlatively edited historical overview of horror fiction."--Chicago Sun-Times

"For a sample of the current excellence and variety of horror, one could do no better."--New York Newsday

"An important work which belongs in every library."--The West Coast Review of Books
--This text refers to the Paperback edition.

Customer Reviews

4.8 out of 5 stars
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See all 35 customer reviews
This is one of the best anthologies of horror tales ever compiled.
Charlie Brown
If you're a fan of horror stories, and enjoy the oddities that come from the short stories then this book is highly recommended.
D. Avery
And since you'll be holing up a long time---maybe forever---the tome you choose had better be a good one.
Dark Mechanicus JSG

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

68 of 70 people found the following review helpful By Erik K on October 14, 2000
Format: Paperback
This sprawling collection will keep the fan of weird fiction (and just plain good fiction) happy and spooked for a long time. The stories are broken into three sections, the boundaries between which are not terribly well explained by the editor (in my opinion, anyway). No matter, the quality of the stories is amazing throughout.
This is not just modern gore and sex horror. Victorian stories such as The New Mother show just how frightening a tale told with restraint. Clive Barker's Dread, perhaps his best short work, may have you sleeping with the lights on. The three Stephen King pieces are all career highlights, especially the Lovecraftian Crouch End.
I can't tell you how many marvellous writers I discovered in this collection. Robert Aickman, Oliver Onions, Robert W. Chambers, Russell Kirk. In some cases, this is the best source of fiction by these writers, as most of their work is out of print.
My edition clocks in at just over 1000 pages. That's 1000 pages of pure enjoyment. Not bad for the price.
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49 of 50 people found the following review helpful By Chris McClinch on November 3, 2000
Format: Paperback
One is Great Tales of Terror and the Supernatural, edited by Cerf and Wagner. The other is The Dark Descent. From Poe and J. Sheridan LeFanu to Stephen King and Shirley Jackson, this anthology covers the horror tradition like few others. The selections in The Dark Descent are a bit more in-your-face than the ones in Cerf and Wagner's elegant anthology--an attribute fans of late twentieth century horror will surely appreciate. At the same time, though, Hartwell has certainly not avoided the classic chillers. Even better, Hartwell has chosen to include some lesser-known tales by some heavy hitters within the genre--so while you won't see Jackson's "The Lottery," you will find two tales by her that you likely haven't read a dozen times before: tales that will hit you with the same force "The Lottery" did the first time you read it. Also not to be missed is Hartwell's introduction, which does a nice job of laying down a critical framework within which to read horror. It doesn't take the place of Danse Macabre or Dreadful Pleasures, but it's a nicely written piece that seems aimed toward readers who wouldn't otherwise read literary criticism.
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71 of 80 people found the following review helpful By Dark Mechanicus JSG on October 25, 2004
Format: Paperback
Disaster! That super-secret hush-hush Project the military was supposed to have under control has torn a rift into another dimension just ten miles from town, and maniacal flesh-hungry monsters are pouring through by the score, tearing their shrieking victims apart and turning the world as you know it into a charnel house. You've got to pack up and get outta Dodge quick---but what to take? Clothes, boots, food, hunting knife, guns and ammo, extra fuel cans, chainsaw---oh, and if you're a horror junkie like me, you've gotta have reading material during the Siege, right? And since you'll be holing up a long time---maybe forever---the tome you choose had better be a good one.

Forced to haul one single volume off your horror shelf before you pack everything into the heavily armored civvie Hum-Vee, I would choose David G. Hartwell's masterful compilation "The Dark Descent." This Leviathan of a book is chock-full of more than one-thousand pages of the best horror ever written by some of the Grand-Masters of the genre (H.P. Lovecraft, Poe, Stephen King, M.R. James) and some of their lesser known adepts and apprentices. For such a modest price, having this much shivery, ghoulish goodness stuffed between the covers is nearly an embarrassment of riches.

Anthologies are often treacherous ground, and success hinges on an editor's style and judgment. Hartwell demonstrates his impeccable taste and considerable acuity in the selections he makes; best of all he begins the collection with a remarkably astute, entertaining---and mercifully concise---little essay tracing the evolution of the terror and horror tale.
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12 of 12 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on August 20, 1997
Format: Paperback
As collections go, and horror collections in particular, this might be the best. The editor, David G. Hartwell, is obviously in love with the subject, which makes it so much more than just a collection. Hartwell begins by telling about a discussion of dark fantasy, during which he had the realization that "the good stuff is pretty much all short fiction."
Hartwell then traces the evolution of horror from its origins and into the wave of horror novels, which brought some of the best of all time "as well as a large amount of popular trash rushed into print." Along the way, he peppers his introduction with observations from Sigmund Freud, H.P. Lovecraft, Stephen King, and a slew of literary critics.
One reason this collection is essential is that it is so darn huge (1011 pgs.). Its list of contributors includes King, Lovecraft, Ray Bradbury, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Shirley Jackson, Edgar Allen Poe, Michael Shea, Robert Aickman, Clive Barker, Joyce Carol Oates, D.H. Lawrence, and dozens of others. Enough to make this the most-referenced work in your horror library.
Hartwell's vast knowledge and esteem of horror will captivate even those who are not fans of the genre. I wasn't.
The only reason I didn't give "The Dark Descent" a 10 was that I reserve that rating for works which are entirely the creation of the author
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