Edited by Ann and Jeff VanderMeer
Published by Tor Books
When I received this book to review, I nearly passed out. I’d been told it was a short story collection. Upon seeing it, and LIFTING it, I said no, it’s THE collection of short stories…they’re ALL in here!
Upon opening the tome, however, I discovered I wasn’t entirely wrong.
Subtitled “A Compendium of Strange and Dark Stories”, The Weird is an historical compendium of great and important weird short stories from 1901 to 2010. To say it’s ambitious doesn’t begin to scratch the surface. This massive book contains 110 stories, reaches about 1,300 pages, and admits in its own introduction to being around 750,000 words.
What you get for the rather high price of admission is enough to teach a college course on the history of weird short fiction. Here, “weird” is defined in the Lovecraft way. Strange. Abnormal. This means that the majority of the stories contained could be classified as horror or at least dark fantasy or dark science fiction. There are some odd offshoots of the weird classification, but overall you’re looking at 110 stories of creepy creatures and bizarre occurrences.
Editors Ann and Jeff VanderMeer are clearly experts at the genre, both being award-winning novelists themselves. By crossing over 100 years of weird tales, they have carefully selected rare, important, and otherwise noteworthy stories for inclusion. Every story has a reason to be here. There’s no filler, no “hey, we need one for 1957” kind of knee-jerk inclusions. Each tale has a small introduction detailing the author and why he/she and his/her story are included.
There are many of the usual suspects here. Lovecraft is represented, naturally, along with traditional genre luminaries such as Bloch, King, Ellison, and Barker. In all, I’d say I’d read about 1/3 of these tales prior to this collection. If you’ve read short horror fiction in the last 20 years and not run across “His Mouth Will Taste of Wormwood” by Poppy Z Brite or “In The Hills, The Cities” by Clive Barker, you’re just not paying attention.
However, there are some really special inclusions that add value where some of these common and popularly published tales might detract. Included are several stories that are translated into English for the first time, such as “The Hell Screen” by Ryunosuke Akutagawa. Written in 1918, this work is legendary in Japanese literature but has yet to be digested by Western audiences despite its age. That’s just one example; there are several more first translations or new, definitive translations here.
Another excellent feature of this volume is the international flavor of the selected tales. Stories are included from Japan, Germany, Italy, even Nigeria that I otherwise would never have seen.
While many of the more modern inclusions may be familiar to horror fans of today, the sheer historical scope of the selections will guarantee hours (hell, DAYS) of reading pleasure.
It’s no stretch to say you’ll never find a better, more inclusive collection of weird tales than The Weird. If you enjoy weird tales, this is a must-add edition for your library.
4 1/2 out of 5