Monday, October 10, 2011

Supernatural Noir, edited by Ellen Datlow

Published June 28, 2011.

A hit man who kills with coincidence... A detective caught in a war between two worlds... A man whose terrible appetites hide an even darker secret...

Dark Horse once again teams up with Hugo and Bram Stoker award-winning editor Ellen Datlow (Lovecraft Unbound) to bring you this masterful marriage of the darkness without and the darkness within. Supernatural Noir is an anthology of original tales of the dark fantastic from twenty modern masters of suspense, including Brian Evenson, Joe R. Lansdale, Caitlin R. Kiernan, Nick Mamatas, Gregory Frost, and Jeffrey Ford.

I've got a short line-up of anthologies lately. First and foremost, the formatting on this digital galley was absolutely atrocious. To the point where I couldn't even read it on my eReader, atrocious. There were a few pages a story section that I could read but then the pages would double up and snap to microscopic print that I couldn't enlarge. I tried reading it but I ended up giving myself a migraine. So I ended up tethered to a computer to read this one and had the stories been bad, I would have dropped it like a bad habit. Not only did this take me longer to read but, as I said, I was tied to a computer to read it and since I don't have a laptop, it was a major inconvenience. But I kept reading it because I really liked what I was reading.

So putting the formatting issue aside, I really did like these stories. Trust. For how put out I was reading SUPERNATURAL NOIR, I would have stopped REALLY quickly if I didn't like it. Even if I somewhat liked it, I would have stopped because the format was an issue. But I didn't. I kept reading. Had I had this book in a normal print version, I would have flown through it, I liked it that much.

And now I'm back to reviewing an anthology of stories; an issue for me as I stated in my review of FEAR last week. Well, with SUPERNATURAL NOIR, each story was distinct enough to showcase the uniqueness of each author but at the same time all of their themes blended together seamlessly, each complementing the last as the book went on. Datlow did an amazing job of compiling such similar yet vastly different stories into one book.

What you have to understand with noir is that it's a bit over the top. Normally it's not really my thing but seeing as this was of the supernatural variety, I wanted to see what it was all about. And I really liked it. Yes, some of the stories read a bit like DICK TRACEY meets SUPERNATURAL but all of the stories had personality and I certainly can't deny them that. They stood out against the rest of the "normal" supernatural stories out there because of that noir effect, and I think it made them all the better.

My favorites were 'The Getaway' by Paul G. Tremblay (about a guy driving with a semi-prostitute that ends up at an inn, stalked by wooden gnomes), 'Comfortable in Her Skin' by Lee Thomas (about two women escaping battered pasts only to be sucked into a whole new world thanks to a wayward wolf hide) and 'The Maltese Unicorn' by Caitlin R. Kiernan (about a post-WWII female detective working for the wrong side trying to make a run for a crazy whore house owner). There's just this overwhelming grit to all of them that will leave you a little uncomfortable when you're done. I like it when my stories do that. It means they've actually moved me.

I wouldn't say the stories are inherently scary but there is some level of horror aspect to all of them (although the one with the gnomes was pretty freaky). The noir is more underlying, existing more in the personalities of the characters than in the overall story itself so if you're not big on it, you'll still probably get a kick out of them anyway as they're not dripping in it. But they definitely should be read for the supernatural aspect. They're different kinds of horror stories, playing into all manner of horror, not just your standard spooks. For that I can greatly appreciate what SUPERNATURAL NOIR has to offer, as would any genuine horror fan. It's a deviation from all of the other regular horror out there and will certainly leave a lasting impression even after you close the cover.

Ban Factor: High - Between the gratuitous sex, swearing and godlessness in the supernatural, the banners would be wetting themselves to get their nasty little claws into this one.
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