Book Review: The Year’s Best Fantasy and Horror 18th annual collection

I like reading short story anthologies, particularly fantasy ones. It keeps me on my toes as to what makes a great story, and while I like reading them, I also analyze them as to what got them into the book in the first place.

That said, I just finished the 2004 Year’s Best Fantasy and Horror. I was pretty disappointed with this one. Most of the stories didn’t grab me, and the ones I did read were expletive-laden or weird (and in one case, one story, Revenge of the Calico Cat by Stephen Chapman had me curled up in a fetal position. Horrible story about stuffed animals doing some…not so savory things…oh, those poor little dollies….)

But there were a couple of gems. The anthology started off with Gregory Maguire’s Oakthing, which I liked better than his Wicked novel. Speir-Bhan by Tanith Lee, about a female musician taking up a task her uncle failed to do was nice and haunting. Posteretaceous Era by D. Ellis Dickerson, about two dinosaurs meeting in the modern age, was funny and sad at the same time. Clownette, by Terry Dowling, about a moving spot on the wall, was spooky (a nice read for Halloween). Singing my Sister Down by Margo Lanagan, about a woman condemned to death by tar sinking, was surprisingly moving. On the flip side, however, was The Specialist by Alison Smith, about a woman with an unexplained arctic region in her…uh…nether regions…reading that was hilarious.

I think my favorite tale, though, out of the whole anthology was Tales from the City of Seams by Greg Van Eekhout. It actually was a bunch of smaller vignettes about various things: teenage ghosts making out, a customer beguiled by lust and croissaints, tiny mermaids sold like aquarium fish, and an epic balloon war. I think he just wrote a bunch of flash stories and strung them together in a common theme that works very well. It made for an entertaining story.

Earlier this year, I read the 2003 collection. I was far more impressed with that one. The stories in this one pales in comparison. This book gets two oakthings out of five, and the next time someone writes a story about a rampaging godlike Raggedy Ann/Andy reprimanding some very naughty stuffed animals, please let me know so I can put it on my Do-Not-Read list. Excuse me…I’m going to scrub my brain now…