This anthology, as one would expect, is very focused on Lovecraft lore. Themes of horror and the supernatural emerge repeatedly. The best of the inclusions built on that lore, and even updated the canon, without feeling fettered. Less excitingly, some stories merely felt like fan fiction–perhaps staying true to tradition to a fault.
In my rating and reviewing each story included, I gave one 5-star rating and six 4-star ratings. My average for the 19 tales and novellas was just over 3 stars. My favorite of the bunch was Caitlin R. Kiernan’s heart-breaking “The Transition of Elizabeth Haskings”. The dysmorphia inherent in Lovecraft’s Innsmouth urban legend is treated tenderly like a slow battle against cancer.
In the batch of 4-stars, two fantastic novellas stood out. Equoid by Charles Stross is a Hugo Award-winning detective noir hunt for other-dimensional carnivorous unicorns that reads like a British Harry Dresden crossed with Men in Black. In complete contrast, “The Wreck of the Charles Dexter Ward“ by Sarah Monette and Elizabeth Bear updates the Frankenstein myth with an off-Earth tale at the outer fringes of humanity. The four short stories touched on issues of race [Marc Laidlaw’s “The Boy Who Followed Lovecraft”], generational relationships [Helen Marshall’s “All My Love, A Fishhook”], social morality [Carrie Vaughn’s “Fishwife”], and life after a concentration camp in Ruthanna Emrys’ “The Litany of Earth”.
The rest of the stories are:
Barron, Laird–“Mysterium Tremendum”–3 stars
Langan, John–“Bloom”–3 stars
Shea, Michael–“Momma Durtt”–3 stars
Shirley, John–“At Home With Azathoth”–3 stars
Strantzas, Simon–“On Ice”–3 stars
Ward, Kyla–“Who Looks Back?”–3 stars
Gresh, Lois H.–“Necrotic Cove”–2 stars
Hodge, Brian–“The Same Deep Waters As You”–2 stars
Moreno-Garcia, Silvia–“In the House of the Hummingbirds”–2 stars
Pugmire, W. H.–“They Smell of Thunder”–2 stars
Slatter, Angela–“The Song of Sighs”–2 stars
Webb, Don–“The Doom that Came to Devil’s Reef”–2 stars
I’m consistently impressed with the anthology compiling done by editor Paula Guran. I’ve read five others of hers previously:
After the End: Recent Apocalypses–4 stars
Extreme Zombies–4 stars
Mermaids and Other Mysteries of the Deep–4 stars
The Year’s Best Dark Fantasy and Horror: 2015-4 stars
The Year’s Best Science Fiction & Fantasy Novellas: 2015–4 stars
[Check out my other reviews here.]