- Paperback: 480 pages
- Publisher: Prime Books; 14919th edition (September 13, 2011)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 1607012839
- ISBN-13: 978-1607012832
- Product Dimensions: 5.9 x 1.7 x 8.7 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 18 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,186,497 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Halloween Paperback – September 13, 2011
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“Halloween” stands in at 480 pages. It contains everything from the macabre to the hilarious to the downright depressing. The horror of some stories is driven by supernatural forces; others by the pure evil nature of seemingly ordinary people. Across all of the stories there is a wide array of characters, from the deranged to the just, from the old to the young, from the human to the inhuman. Needless to say, there is something for every Halloween fiction enthusiast here.
Guran begins her collection with a fairly long preface discussing the origins and evolution of Halloween, which likely sprung from the Celtic festival of Samhain. Little is know of the practices and rituals associated with Samhain since the Celts did not write anything down, but it is believed that in their culture faerie-folk were resentful of humans, who slowly were taking over the world. During Samhain, the faerie-folk’s power was enhanced, and thus so was their propensity for mischief. Samhain was eventually adopted by the Christians, who made it into a celebration of the Virgin Mary and martyred saints. October 31 became All Hallows’ Eve (‘hallow’ was synonymous with ‘saint’ during the Middle Ages), though the old ways did not die out so easily. Today, Guran proposes, the holiday is really split in half between adults and children. For grown-ups, Halloween is the third biggest “party day” of the year (New Years and Super Bowl Sunday are first and second, respectively). While the modern celebration of the holiday has mostly been confined to North America, retailers are slowly pushing it into other markets as well, including Japan.
As far as the stories contained in “Halloween,” I found many enjoyable. There’s “The Halloween Man,” which tells the story of a demon that rises once a year to hunt for children’s souls. “Pork Pie Hat,” which I’m still scratching my head over (but in a good way). “Three Doors,” a moving tale also included in Norman Partridge’s Johnny Halloween. “Auntie Elspeth’s Halloween Story, or the Gourd, the Bad, and the Ugly,” a hilarious story within a story told when three grandchildren are unceremoniously dropped off to visit their aunt. The list goes on from there. All told, there are over thirty stories and poems to read.
“Halloween” would have earned a solid four rockets if not for the numerous typos I discovered while reading. Many readers demand perfect spelling and grammar; I am one of them. Some of the errors were simple characters missing. Others were entire words or a repeated word. These sorts of errors jar the reader from the experience and are somewhat easily corrected by employing a good line editor and proofreaders.
That aside, Halloween is such a diverse blend of Halloween stories there’s really something for everyone here. I give it three rockets and a solid recommendation to add it to your Halloween reading list.
Among the stand-outs for me were:
"Monsters" by Stewart O'Nan - Not all hauntings are supernatural, as we see when two boys, best friends, have an accident in the weeks leading up to Halloween. A truly memorable story with a final mental image that will stay with you long after you finish reading it. Even by itself, this one's worth the price of the entire antho.
"Auntie Elsbeth's Halloween Story" by Esther Friesner - A delightful mix of darkly twisted humor and the genuinely macabre by the queen of humorous fantasy. Guaranteed to leave you never looking at Jack O'Lanterns the same way again.
"Hallowe'en in a Suburb" by H.P. Lovecraft - A highly visual and atmospheric poem by one of the greatest writers of the macabre that truly captures the dark foreboding feel of All Hallow's Eve as we both fear and wish it to be.
"On the Reef" by Caitlin R. Kiernan - An omnisciently-narrated tale, appropriately following the above poem, which suggests even older and darker origins for certain Halloween rituals than we were ever aware of. Skin-crawl creepy in true Lovecraft style.
"The Sticks" by Charlee Jacob - Some places have Halloween traditions that are different from the ones we're familiar with. Some quite different. In most towns, children dress up and roam the streets, hoping for treats on Halloween night. In The Sticks, its the adults who dress up and roam the streets. The children stay home and lock the doors, hoping to just stay alive.
"Tricks & Treats: One Night on Halloween Street" by Steve Rasnic Tem - This is actually a string of twelve micro-fictions, twelve tiny but darkly compelling little gems linked only by the setting - a once-a-year night at a place called Halloween Street. Wonderful examples of how a truly gifted writer can capture in a dozen lines what would take lesser writers a dozen pages.
"Pranks" by Nina Kiriki Hoffman - Not everything that walks the streets on Halloween is mortal. And for some, tricks are the whole reason they came.
"Pumpkin Night" by Gary McMahon - Halloween starts when it gets dark, as does this tale. But with each page, it gets darker, and darker, and even darker still, and yet you just can't look away. This is one of those stories that will stick in your mind for a long, long time.
In addition, Guran opens her anthology with a brief but interesting history of Halloween and the various traditions with which it has been observed over the years.
Recommended for any lover of all things Halloween.
Guran has created an interesting mix of tales, some humorous, others - dark and sinister. Bradbury's "October Game" is here, as well as F. Paul Wilson's answer to same, "The November Game" - which makes an interesting companion piece to Bradbury's classic tale.
Nolan's tale "The Halloween Man" was chilly, and Friesner's "Autie Elspeth's Halloween Story" was both amusing and ominous...
Not all the stories had "bite. but overall, an interesting collection.
Of particular interest was Guran's introduction to the development of Halloween as a distinct American holiday.
One notable exception to the overall quality of this collection is the story about Jack Pumpkinhead. It was awful; I couldn't finish it, too graphic and disgusting.