100 years. 100 stories. It’s been quite the adventure, making my way through these two volumes, and I’m glad you came along with me. I hope you met a bunch of writers you would have never encountered without this anthology, and I hope you became more familiar with a few old acquaintances.
Such a journey would be incomplete without a list of favorites, so here are my top five tales from this anthology. Please don’t ask me to put them in order. It would be a hard task to truly pick my favorite. But if you’re still thinking about stories you’d like to try out, here’s where you can start:
--“Sardonicus” by Ray Russell (1961) (If you really, truly hard-pressed me for a favorite, this one might be it.)
--“The Crawling Horror” by Thorp McClusky (1936)
--“The Night They Missed the Horror Show” by Joe R. Lansdale (1988) (Shit, maybe this one’s my favorite. It’s hard to say. Lansdale is my favorite writer, after all.)
--“I Am Nothing” by Eric Frank Russell (1952)
--“The Box” by Jack Ketchum (1994)
And because I couldn’t stand just leaving it at that, here’s a few more that I really wanted to put in my top five, but the other stories just kicked too much ass:
--“The Whistling Room” by William Hope Hodgson (1910)
--“The Testament of Magdalen Blair” by Aleister Crowley (1913)
--“The Spider” by Hanns Heinz Ewers (1914)
--“The Black Pool” by Frederick Stuart Greene (1917)
--“The Loved Dead” by C.M. Eddy, Jr. (1924)
--“The Outsider” by H.P. Lovecraft (1926)
--“The Red Brain” by Donald Wandrei (1927)
--“Pigeons from Hell” by Robert E. Howard (1938)
--“The Jar” by Ray Bradbury (1944)
--“Shonokin Town” by Manly Wade Wellman (1946)
--“Born of Man and Woman” by Richard Matheson (1950)
--“That Hell-Bound Train” by Robert Bloch (1958)
--“Carcinoma Angels” by Norman Spinrad (1967)
--“Sticks” by Karl Edward Wagner (1974)
--“Within the Walls of Tyre” by Michael Bishop (1978)
--“The Autopsy” by Michael Shea (1980)
--“The Pilgrimage of Clifford M.” by Bob Leman (1984)
--“Stephen” by Elizabeth Massie (1990)
--“The Crawl” by Stephen Laws (1997)
You can’t go wrong with any of those stories. I’m half-tempted to list the worst five, but it’s really not worth it. When I review things, I tend to not mention the stuff that didn’t impress me. I want to introduce people to the good stuff. Besides, if you’ve come with me this far, you probably know the stories I liked the least, anyway.
John Pelan took on a titanic task when he conceived of this anthology, and it is a testament to his knowledge of the genre (and, in a few instances, of other genres). Though he made a misstep here and there, I am overall pleased with the result. While a few editors in the past MIGHT have been able to pull this off, I think he’s the only LIVING editor who could do it, and do it right, no less.
It’s not perfect, but it’s as close to perfect as we can get. If you consider yourself a horror fan, these two volumes need to be in your library. Or hell, if you’re new to the genre and want a primer on its history, this is a good place to start.