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The Spectral Book of Horror Stories

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19 BRAND NEW TALES TO CHILL YOUR BLOOD AND HAUNT YOUR DREAMS! “The figure crouched over his mother was… taking something from her, sliding some spidery thing that struggled and screamed soundlessly out of her side and into his leathery dark bag…” – THE NIGHT DOCTOR by Steve Rasnic Tem “I saw her skin turn black and erupt in blisters and pustules as in one last mute appea 19 BRAND NEW TALES TO CHILL YOUR BLOOD AND HAUNT YOUR DREAMS! “The figure crouched over his mother was… taking something from her, sliding some spidery thing that struggled and screamed soundlessly out of her side and into his leathery dark bag…” – THE NIGHT DOCTOR by Steve Rasnic Tem “I saw her skin turn black and erupt in blisters and pustules as in one last mute appeal she stretched her hand towards me over the flames…” – THE BOOK AND THE RING by Reggie Oliver “There wasn’t much of a struggle even when Tomas lashed him, limb by limb, to the stakes, although he had plenty to say to Tomas’s back as he walked away. It was when Tomas reappeared, leading the shaggy, horned thing from the barn, that Mr Sunshine really started to squeal…” – CURES FOR A SICKENED WORLD by Brian Hodge Also featuring stories from Ramsey Campbell, Alison Littlewood, Helen Marshall, Gary McMahon, Michael Marshall Smith, Lisa Tuttle, Stephen Volk, Conrad Williams, Tom Fletcher, John Llewellyn Probert, Nicholas Royle, Rio Youers, Alison Moore, Angela Slatter, Stephen Laws, and Robert Shearman,


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19 BRAND NEW TALES TO CHILL YOUR BLOOD AND HAUNT YOUR DREAMS! “The figure crouched over his mother was… taking something from her, sliding some spidery thing that struggled and screamed soundlessly out of her side and into his leathery dark bag…” – THE NIGHT DOCTOR by Steve Rasnic Tem “I saw her skin turn black and erupt in blisters and pustules as in one last mute appea 19 BRAND NEW TALES TO CHILL YOUR BLOOD AND HAUNT YOUR DREAMS! “The figure crouched over his mother was… taking something from her, sliding some spidery thing that struggled and screamed soundlessly out of her side and into his leathery dark bag…” – THE NIGHT DOCTOR by Steve Rasnic Tem “I saw her skin turn black and erupt in blisters and pustules as in one last mute appeal she stretched her hand towards me over the flames…” – THE BOOK AND THE RING by Reggie Oliver “There wasn’t much of a struggle even when Tomas lashed him, limb by limb, to the stakes, although he had plenty to say to Tomas’s back as he walked away. It was when Tomas reappeared, leading the shaggy, horned thing from the barn, that Mr Sunshine really started to squeal…” – CURES FOR A SICKENED WORLD by Brian Hodge Also featuring stories from Ramsey Campbell, Alison Littlewood, Helen Marshall, Gary McMahon, Michael Marshall Smith, Lisa Tuttle, Stephen Volk, Conrad Williams, Tom Fletcher, John Llewellyn Probert, Nicholas Royle, Rio Youers, Alison Moore, Angela Slatter, Stephen Laws, and Robert Shearman,

53 review for The Spectral Book of Horror Stories

  1. 5 out of 5

    Blair

    My enjoyment of the stories in this collection was... sporadic, but it served to clarify something: the horror genre isn't really for me. This might seem like an odd statement for someone who never shuts up about ghost stories, but what I realised when reading The Spectral Book of Horror Stories that they are very distinct genres (or subgenres) with very different qualities. My recurring problems with the tales here were: a) I found them silly and/or implausible; and b) I found parts of them (us My enjoyment of the stories in this collection was... sporadic, but it served to clarify something: the horror genre isn't really for me. This might seem like an odd statement for someone who never shuts up about ghost stories, but what I realised when reading The Spectral Book of Horror Stories that they are very distinct genres (or subgenres) with very different qualities. My recurring problems with the tales here were: a) I found them silly and/or implausible; and b) I found parts of them (usually the climax or the ending) too gory and explicit. I suppose it was a bit idiotic of me to expect the stories in this book to be more geared towards the uncanny than the fantastic. I'm so used to the subtle, slow build of ghost stories that the horror in this collection often felt 'too obvious' to me. Too bold, too ridiculous. I feel, perhaps unfairly, that it's easy to end a story with something disgusting and horrifying that will make the reader gasp or cringe. To create effective tension and atmosphere without blunt scares seems (and again maybe this is an unfair bias on my part) more skilful. Unsurprisingly, then, my favourites were those tales that held back from descending into outright gruesomeness and instead concentrated on character and mood. Curiously, the worst stories mostly seem to be lumped together in the first half of the book, and it went up in my estimations the further I read. In particular, Stephen Volk's 'Newspaper Heart', Rio Youers' 'Outside Heavenly', Lisa Tuttle's 'Something Sinister in Sunlight', Alison Moore's 'Eastmouth', and Brian Hodge's 'Cures for a Sickened World' are worth reading. The following mini-reviews of each story were published as status updates while I was reading the book, but here they all are together for convenience. --- On the Tour by Ramsey Campbell An ageing rocker with a tenuous claim to fame is obsessively delighted to find himself featured on a Beatles bus tour. I found this confusing and poorly edited on first read; then I read it again and liked it a lot more. Good basis for a story, but wasn't keen on some of the structure and the way dialogue was rendered. The Dog's Home by Alison Littlewood A man visits his dying aunt and is compelled to realise her last wish: to see her beloved dog for a final time. Quite effective (and certainly indicative of the fact that this is a horror collection, not a ghost story one) but I found the ending too cheaply gruesome. Funeral Rites by Helen Marshall A Canadian scholar finds lodgings in Oxford, but is increasingly unnerved by her odd landlady. Better than the previous two, this impressed me with a strong portrayal of the protagonist, Nora, who quickly became a character I cared about. Again, not so sure about the ending, though. Slape by Tom Fletcher A really good sense of place and atmosphere in this one, about a milkman spooked by a slippery path, but a grisly ending I skipped over while cringing. My thought at the time was: I hope the rest of these are going to be more ghostly than gory. The Night Doctor by Steve Rasnic Tem An elderly couple fight bad health, with the husband, Sam, remembering a childhood story his mother told him about the 'night doctor' making him better while he slept. It's perhaps a bit silly, and loses its subtlety towards the end, but I enjoyed this. Dull Fire by Gary McMahon A man attempts to embark on a new romance while haunted by his late father. Didn't think much of this. The dialogue was terrible and the story inconclusive. (view spoiler)[What was the meaning of the protagonist seeing the fire, if it was Lisa's doing; was it just supposed to suggest they were meant to be together or something? Lisa was haunted because she'd killed her mother - did this mean the protagonist had also killed his father? It could have used some kind of resolution to these issues. (hide spoiler)] The Book and the Ring by Reggie Oliver Excellent beginning and good idea for a story, more believable/less silly than the ones before it. (Or maybe just more ghost-story-esque...) A scholar finds the testament of an Elizabethan priest and composer, and discovers it to be a confession of dark sins. Unfortunately the majority of the story is written in a faux 'ye olde' style which grates and is often unintentionally (?) funny. Eastmouth by Alison Moore A young woman travels to her boyfriend's home town and is disconcerted by his overbearing mother and the peculiar locals. Excellent atmosphere, a nice dash of dark humour, though the ending is a little abrupt - I'd love to read more about this setting. I loved Moore's story in Poor Souls' Light, too, so not surprised that I enjoyed this. One of the best in the book. Carry Within Some Small Sliver of Me by Robert Shearman A girl finds out she's adopted when sent a letter about her real father's death, and becomes curious about her biological mother. The first half of this has a great build of tension, and felt very compelling; however, yet again I found the ending stupid. The Devil's Interval by Conrad Williams By this point in the book, I'd started feeling that if one of the stories didn't end in gory ridiculousness, that was unusual enough to make it stand out and seem superior. So it was with this tale of a middle-aged wannabe guitar god. One of the highlights. Stolen Kisses by Michael Marshall Smith One of the shortest stories in the collection. Good portrait of a character you're probably supposed to hate (but I loved) with a vicious kick at the end. Cures for a Sickened World by Brian Hodge Another music story (what's with that recurring theme?!) about a heavy metal musician who takes revenge on a vicious critic. Unusually, this one does have disgusting and sickening stuff in it but it doesn't focus on that in detail; the worst trials of the antagonist (?) happen 'off-screen'. The use of a detached narrator helps to make it feel more balanced. Some elements of the style reminded me of F.G. Cottam. Very good. The October Widow by Angela Slatter At Halloween, a woman who calls herself Mrs Morgan correctly assumes herself 'hunted'. She seduces a young boy to fulfil an ancient rite; meanwhile, the father of one of her past victims stalks her. Strong sense of character and a pleasing resolution. At this point, this book started going up in my estimations. The Slista by Stephen Laws Written in an annoying, deliberately misspelt faux-language. Very little to it other than that element of novelty. Shrug. Outside Heavenly by Rio Youers A very well-constructed story with numerous characteristics typical of Southern Gothic. It opens with the townsfolk of Heavenly observing a fire: 'they prayed for the girls but not the man'. A savage murder leads to a woman's confession about the terrible life she and her teenage daughter have endured at the hands of her abusive father. Again, it all gets a bit daft at the end as the horror really kicks in, but it's executed pretty perfectly. Overall, excellent. The Life Inspector by John Llewellyn Probert The patriarch of a privileged, materialistic family is visited by an officious individual from 'HM Life Inspection Department'. Naturally, things quickly take a very sinister turn. Very entertaining, although the final lines lack punch. Something Sinister in Sunlight by Lisa Tuttle An English actor in LA is homesick and consumed with fear that he's been permanently typecast as a pantomime villain after his one successful role (as a serial killer in a popular TV series). He makes the ill-advised decision to go for dinner with a woman who appears to be a slightly obsessive fan of the character... And things unfold as disastrously as you might imagine, although not exactly as you might expect them to. Really, really good. This Video Does Not Exist by Nicholas Royle This was probably my most-anticipated story of the lot, because of a) Nicholas Royle - I loved First Novel , and b) that title, since it sounds like it's basically going to be a creepypasta. In actual fact, the 'video does not exist' part doesn't come into it until the end. Before that, it's the readable but somewhat mundane tale of a middle-aged man who finds something amiss with his reflection. Disappointingly mediocre. Newspaper Heart by Stephen Volk At fifty pages, this is the longest story in the collection, and the best has arguably been saved for last. It's Bonfire Night sometime in the 1970s, and Kelvin and his mum, Iris, are making a guy. This is the story of a dysfunctional family, an unhappy wife and a lonely son as much as it is a horror tale: with more room for exposition, it establishes the characters more effectively than many of the others, and also creates a sense of tension very well. Character, setting and encroaching horror are all evoked skilfully in a setup that leads to an effective conclusion. A powerful way to end the book.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Richard Barber

    This is a solid, well curated collection of original horror short stories and for that reason alone it deserves praise, but Stephen Volk's Newspaper Heart is something else entirely. Without a word of hyperbole it is one of the best pieces of short horror fiction I have read in years and I have no doubt it will haunt my thoughts for months ahead. This is a solid, well curated collection of original horror short stories and for that reason alone it deserves praise, but Stephen Volk's Newspaper Heart is something else entirely. Without a word of hyperbole it is one of the best pieces of short horror fiction I have read in years and I have no doubt it will haunt my thoughts for months ahead.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Matevž

    Again a decent compilation of horror stories. Most of them were of just the right length and also featured quite good growing tension of the story. Won't spoil any of them, but the stories get better towards the end, with the last one being a blast. Again a decent compilation of horror stories. Most of them were of just the right length and also featured quite good growing tension of the story. Won't spoil any of them, but the stories get better towards the end, with the last one being a blast.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Alan Baxter

    This anthology was absolutely outstanding. A true old school book of horror stories just like the ones I used to scare myself silly with as a kid. The quality of writing and the variety of yarn is top notch. I can't recommend this one highly enough. This anthology was absolutely outstanding. A true old school book of horror stories just like the ones I used to scare myself silly with as a kid. The quality of writing and the variety of yarn is top notch. I can't recommend this one highly enough.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Luke Walker

    Great collection of short stories. Personal favourites included pieces from Stephen Volk, Alison Littlewood and Gary McMahon.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Gef

    Review coming soon.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Gareth

    Terrible I really wanted to like this book, I even started reading it twice, but it was difficult. I wouldn't call it horror at all, out of all the stories in it there are only 3-4 that are any good. Most of them are rubbish, as I read through this I was trying to review each one as I went with progress updates but it go so bad I couldn't be bothered. One of them a woman is told she's part of a family, she isn't, an old woman in a train a station tells her she is. The end. Another a bloke can't see Terrible I really wanted to like this book, I even started reading it twice, but it was difficult. I wouldn't call it horror at all, out of all the stories in it there are only 3-4 that are any good. Most of them are rubbish, as I read through this I was trying to review each one as I went with progress updates but it go so bad I couldn't be bothered. One of them a woman is told she's part of a family, she isn't, an old woman in a train a station tells her she is. The end. Another a bloke can't see his head in the mirror, then he watches a snuff video and then he can. The end. Maybe I'm missing something, maybe this is like a modern art version of horror stories where nothing is meant to make sense, or even be a horror story. 90% of these stories just end, its terrible. The only reason I didn't give it one star is that there are a about 2 good stories and 2 OK ones. The rest were rubbish. I don't know if its the editor or what because most of them suffered the same non-horror story leading to a huge anti climax. Either way I will not be reading the next book in a hurry. If you're looking for vague, uninteresting tales read this ! If you're looking four horror short stories , your in the wrong place.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Albert

    The writer is so talented. You can publish you work on NovelStar App and earn big time.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Eric

    An excellent anthology of top-tier horror writers. I’ll buy anything if it features Reggie Oliver and Stephen Volk. Introduced me to Rio Youers, whose work I will now seek.

  10. 4 out of 5

    MG Mason

    There’s something about horror that really works in short story format. Don’t get me wrong, I do like a good horror novel especially at this time of year when the nights are drawing in the temperature slowly creeping down. I think I prefer, in general, horror in short format especially when there’s an interesting twist in the tale. I remember as a kid reading ghost story collections and though my love of sci fi took over, it has always been there. Spectral Press are an independent publishing hous There’s something about horror that really works in short story format. Don’t get me wrong, I do like a good horror novel especially at this time of year when the nights are drawing in the temperature slowly creeping down. I think I prefer, in general, horror in short format especially when there’s an interesting twist in the tale. I remember as a kid reading ghost story collections and though my love of sci fi took over, it has always been there. Spectral Press are an independent publishing house who have had works nominated for British Fantasy Awards. They have published a number of novelettes and collections and this is their first anthology. Does it hold its own against the collections that boast much bigger names? Most of these tales are dark and twisted, quite reminiscent of the 1980s TV series Tales of the Unexpected rather than M.R. James yet they also have a classic and timeless feel about them too. However, I can’t imagine some of these plots ever being commissioned on that show back then. It’s curious and I can’t quite put my finger on why the theme works so well, but work it does and if you like large volumes of short stories then you will almost certainly enjoy this. Some of the subject matter is a bit out there, some of it quite abstract and some of it more about shocks than scares, twisted rather than terrifying. It’s not so much a lazy Bank Holiday read as one you need a quiet, dark room with the lights dimmed – for concentration as much as atmosphere! There are 19 stories here which are varied an interesting. From a nostalgic tour of The Beatles’ Liverpool, a dying woman who desperately wants to see the dog she gave away to her nephew, a woman who desperate needs a place to live rents a room for one week in a house full of weird old women, they present fairly simple premises and that is what is often so engaging about this style of horror. Sadly, I didn’t think all of these stories worked and a handful were not my sort of thing at all. Nothing really stood out as particularly great but none of them stood out as particularly bad either. I would say that my two favourites were The Book and the Ring and Eastmouth(which both had an MR James feel). Most of my complaints are of personal taste, so I give this 4 stars rather than 3 stars. See more book reviews at my blog

  11. 4 out of 5

    Hugo

    Another anthology, another mixed bag. The stories I enjoyed were Alison Littlewood's The Dog's Home, which switches genres to great effect; Alison Moore's Eastmouth, cleverly skirting horror almost completely; and Michael Marshall Smith's very short, and better for it, Stolen Kisses. My favourite story, by some margin, was Rio Youer's dark Southern Gothic Outside Heavenly, a very evocative and absorbing tale. Another anthology, another mixed bag. The stories I enjoyed were Alison Littlewood's The Dog's Home, which switches genres to great effect; Alison Moore's Eastmouth, cleverly skirting horror almost completely; and Michael Marshall Smith's very short, and better for it, Stolen Kisses. My favourite story, by some margin, was Rio Youer's dark Southern Gothic Outside Heavenly, a very evocative and absorbing tale.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Sara Townsend

    This is an excellent collection of genuinely creepy horror stories. As with all short story collections, some stories are better than others but they all have merit, and are deservedly included in this outstanding anthology. It is the last - and the longest story: NEWSPAPER HEART by Stephen Volk - that left the deepest impression on me. Set in the early 1970s it tells the story of a lonely young boy, Kelvin. Concerned about her son's isolation, Kelvin's mother Iris helps him to make a guy, as Bonf This is an excellent collection of genuinely creepy horror stories. As with all short story collections, some stories are better than others but they all have merit, and are deservedly included in this outstanding anthology. It is the last - and the longest story: NEWSPAPER HEART by Stephen Volk - that left the deepest impression on me. Set in the early 1970s it tells the story of a lonely young boy, Kelvin. Concerned about her son's isolation, Kelvin's mother Iris helps him to make a guy, as Bonfire Night approaches. But Kelvin becomes overly attached to the guy, talking to it, bringing it to the dinner table, even taking it to bed with him. It's hard to say much more about this story without giving away the shocking ending, but suffice to say it's one of those stories that leaves you cold. That gives you that 'oh, shit' moment when you, as a reader, realise what's happening. And it stays with you for a long time after you've finished reading it. Possibly giving you nightmares. This is a highly recommended collection of horror stories for those who like their horror dark and disturbing. But probably not a good idea for bedtime reading, as the stories will keep you awake at night.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Cristian Pasat

    Not scary at all, most of the stories were boring and without any sort of capturing the reader feature. Want to read some interesting stories? Read "exurb1a"'s book, there you will find a story that makes you shiver. Very disappointed of this book. Not scary at all, most of the stories were boring and without any sort of capturing the reader feature. Want to read some interesting stories? Read "exurb1a"'s book, there you will find a story that makes you shiver. Very disappointed of this book.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Lostaccount

    Like other reviewers on here I wanted uncanny rather than silly. Most of these stories were silly horror stories that didn't really mean anything or give you a sense of horror/uncanny. Dog's Home was the worst story for me, an effort to finish because it was so boring. Like other reviewers on here I wanted uncanny rather than silly. Most of these stories were silly horror stories that didn't really mean anything or give you a sense of horror/uncanny. Dog's Home was the worst story for me, an effort to finish because it was so boring.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Francisco

    I really wanted to like this book, I love horror stories, and some of them are great. The problem? I hate it when authors don't know the difference between "leaving it to your imagination" and "unresolved", which happens a lot in this book. I really wanted to like this book, I love horror stories, and some of them are great. The problem? I hate it when authors don't know the difference between "leaving it to your imagination" and "unresolved", which happens a lot in this book.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Ted Williams

    An underwhelming collection of stories that failed to impress me at all

  17. 4 out of 5

    Jan

  18. 5 out of 5

    Ramtin

  19. 4 out of 5

    Jenny Barber

  20. 5 out of 5

    Lisa

  21. 4 out of 5

    Bonnie Toenniessen

  22. 5 out of 5

    Carl Barker

  23. 4 out of 5

    Ross Warren

  24. 5 out of 5

    David Clare

  25. 4 out of 5

    James Everington

  26. 4 out of 5

    Pihu Chauhan

  27. 4 out of 5

    Kip

  28. 5 out of 5

    j rees

  29. 5 out of 5

    Stephen Bacon

  30. 5 out of 5

    Gef

  31. 4 out of 5

    Raven

  32. 4 out of 5

    Jeremy

  33. 5 out of 5

    Cory Cone

  34. 4 out of 5

    Sirensongs

  35. 5 out of 5

    Scott

  36. 5 out of 5

    Karl

  37. 5 out of 5

    Nick Gucker

  38. 5 out of 5

    Midnyte Reader

  39. 4 out of 5

    Thura

  40. 4 out of 5

    Crickett

  41. 4 out of 5

    Grace Eileen Bellorini

  42. 5 out of 5

    Yasir Husain

  43. 5 out of 5

    Damian Roache

  44. 5 out of 5

    Daniel Stephens

  45. 5 out of 5

    Paul Bryant

  46. 5 out of 5

    Nika Sergeeva

  47. 5 out of 5

    Flo

  48. 5 out of 5

    Canavan

  49. 4 out of 5

    !

  50. 4 out of 5

    Eldorankin

  51. 5 out of 5

    Shader

  52. 5 out of 5

    Butts Carlton

  53. 4 out of 5

    Francisco Alvarez

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