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The Year's Best Fantasy and Horror: Fourth Annual Collection Paperback – July 1, 1991
The Amazon Book Review
Author interviews, book reviews, editors picks, and more. Read it now
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So the publication of these large volumes of short stories is a regular purchase for me, enabling me to forego the magazines, which--to read in the kind of breadth and width brought to this collection by editors Datlow and Windling--would be ruinously expensive. I tend to like Datlow's picks better than Windling, that is, if the initials on the introductions indicate which woman picked which story for the volume, and I think that's because my tastes have always been more in line with Datlow. While both editors try to break free of the genre for at least a portion of their selections, Windling seems to have a certain stable of writers whom she can't stop from including--Yolen and de Lint come to mind--that I have never found as strong as she does.
The highlights in this volume include Stephen King's "The Man in the Black Suit," a Faulkner-influenced meet the devil tale that benefits from King's ability to write colloquially; Neil Gaiman's "Snow, Glass, Apples" which is like Gregory Maquire's Wicked in its ability to reframe a couple of well-known fairy tales so that the reader discovers that history is written by the winners; William Browning Spencer's "The Ocean and All Its Devices," wherein the Cthulhu mythos is reinvigorated; David Garnett's "A Friend Indeed," one of the best twist-in-the-tail stories that I've read in a while; and "Superman's Diary" by B. Brandon Barker, where Clark Kent finally wins the day. I liked some of the others, which tended to have great beginnings but weren't able to end to my satisfaction, including Bradley Denton's "A Conflagration Artist," Ian McDonald's "Blue Motel" and Jack Womack's "That Old School Tie." While I'm glad the editors include poetry, once again I wasn't impressed with the selections.
This anthology starts off fast with another of Ursula Le Guin's Earthsea stories, but it's the second one, Ian MacLeod's 'The Chop Girl' that starts the anthology off with a bang. MacLeod's story is creepy, eerie, spooky, and thoroughly delightful. The anthology never loses steam. Nearly every story is wonderful.
Excellent stories by Charles de Lint, Gemma Files, Jeffrey Ford (be sure to check out his books here on Amazon. They're fabulous!), Tim Lebbon, Steven Millhauser, Paul McAuley, Michael Marshall Smith, Kim Newman, and on and on.
What makes this anthology so special is the breadth of sources that Datlow and Windling draw from. They have a few stories from the usual suspects, F&SF, Realms of Fantasy, Asimov's and so on, but the amount of stories, really good stories, that they grab from tiny obscure publications that probably less than 3,000 people read is astounding. In my mind this makes this series of anthologies infinitely more valuable than their SF counterparts.
I highly recommend this volume.