Ellen Datlow &
Terri Windling, editors,
The Year's Best
Fantasy & Horror,
14th annual collection

(St. Martin's Press, 2001)

This collection of 52 stories and poems is one of the best volumes of all, presenting a stunning balance of fantasy, horror, humor and heartbreak.

As always, the volume begins with summations of the previous year in fantasy, horror, media and comics. I can always rely on these bibliographic essays to supplement my already mountainous "to read" pile. A section of obituaries pays tribute to those who have passed on, and an honor roll rounds out the volume at the end.

It would be impossible to write about each story, much as I would like to do so. There are writers such as Harlan Ellison, Charles de Lint, Jonathan Carroll and John Crowley, all authors well know to science fiction and fantasy as well as mainstream readers. Other authors cross the mainstream border, such as Louise Erdrich, whose contribution is the riotous and magical "Le Mooz," about a bickering couple, a moose and the power of love, vengeance -- and legumes.

De Lint's contribution is "Granny Weather" and features Sophie Etoile, who is drawn back into the part of her dream world where those nocturnal adventures began. Carroll's "The Heidelberg Cylinder" is at once eerie, surreal and credible while Tanith Lee's "The Abortionist's Horse (A Nightmare)" is a quietly blood-freezing tale. Ian Rodwell and Steve Duffy offer "The Penny Drops," a delightful tale told in an old-fashioned vein.

One by one, the stories drift by to be savored and released with the happy knowledge that the volume can be reopened. Only one of the stories failed to capture my attention and imagination: Greer Gilman's "Jack Daw's Pack" was too deliberately obscure for my taste, although that isn't to say that it won't appeal to other readers.

My favorite story of them all was the last one, "Hallowmass" by Esther Friesner. This tale of a sculptor and the blind boy he apprentices is exquisitely crafted. It is reminiscent of the works of Oscar Wilde or Hans Christian Andersen although without the archness of the former or the moralistic sentimentality of the latter. Friesner's work has full-bodied substance, and it concludes the collection brilliantly.

This edition of The Year's Best Fantasy and Horror is a marvelously cohesive and engrossing volume that is at once satisfying and whets the reader's appetite for the 15th annual collection.

[ by Donna Scanlon ]
Rambles: 19 April 2002

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