Fearful Symmetries, edited by Ellen Datlow – review

31d7b11e4a2d1afb04a2f88b6bc8764c_largeFearful Symmetries

Edited by Ellen Datlow

Chizine Publications

ISBN 978-1-77148-193-9

Ellen Datlow has long been established as one of the premier editors in the horror genre. Her work and awards really speak for themselves. So when she decided to Kickstart an unthemed horror anthology with the backing of Chizine Publications, it’s no surprise that it exceeded its target in short order. The result is one of the best horror anthologies I’ve ever read.

The Table of Contents is a Who’s Who of top notch writers in the genre working today. Twenty short stories are featured and the quality is incredibly high. There’s great variety too, with some stories being all out dark horror and others a more creeping dread or twisted dark fantasy. As with any anthology, not every story will resonate with everyone. For myself, there were two yarns in particular that really didn’t hit the mark, but my taste will differ from others’, so it’s to be expected. The authors in question are very well known and lauded, so not appealing to me is no issue and I’m sure others will love their work.

I won’t review story by story, but I’ll mention the few real stand outs for me. “The Atlas of Hell” by Nathan Ballingrud, an author whose work astounds me every time I read him, was a powerfully visceral story. And it felt like the start of something much bigger. “Mount Chary Galore” by Jeffrey Ford is an amazing twist on the modern fairy tale and incredibly well realised. “Suffer Little Children” by Robert Shearman is a story of almost perfect crafting, with an incredible sense of place. “Bridge of Sighs” by Kaaron Warren is one of the creepiest stories I’ve read in years, with a really horrible cast of characters and a very macabre idea at its heart.”The Worms Crawl In,” by Laird Barron is a story that escalates beyond all expectation very quickly and further cements Barron as a teller of mythic yarns of great proportions. And finally a mention of “Shay Corsham Worsted” by Garth Nix, which was an amazing slice of something much bigger and I’d really love to know more about the monster in that story.

The book is worth the purchase price for those stories alone, in my opinion, but of course that’s not to undermine the general excellence of all the others. I really hope Datlow continues to produce more unthemed anthologies, as she has an eye for curating a dark collection that it utterly compelling. I can’t recommend this book highly enough.


Ellen Datlow news

A few things related to Ellen Datlow’s work have been released in recent days:

The Best Horror of the Year volume four- Table of Contents:

  • The Little Green God of Agony Stephen King
  • Stay Leah Bobet
  • The Moraine Simon Bestwick
  • Blackwood’s Baby Laird Barron
  • Looker David Nickle
  • The Show Priya Sharma
  • Mulberry Boys Margo Lanagan
  • Roots and All Brian Hodge
  • Final Girl Theory A. C. Wise
  • Omphalos Livia Llewellyn
  • Dermot Simon Bestwick
  • Black Feathers Alison Littlewood
  • Final Verse Chet Williamson
  • In the Absence of Murdock Terry Lamsley
  • You Become the Neighborhood Glen Hirshberg
  • In Paris, In the Mouth of Kronos John Langan
  • Little Pig Anna Taborska
  • The Ballad of Ballard and Sandrine Peter Straub

The book is officially out May 1st but is already available for pre-order at the Night Shade website.

Ellen has also released the full list of Honorable Mentions for 2011, which includes 608 stories. That list can be found here: http://ellen-datlow.livejournal.com/tag/honorable%20mentions%202011

And finally, Ellen has put the call out for submissions of published horror for Volume 5. Anything published in 2012 is eligible and she’s reading now. Details here: http://ellen-datlow.livejournal.com/390971.html