This book was sent to me by Titan Books in exchange for an honest review.
09.10.18 / Titan Books / Ghost Stories / Paperback / 400pp / 978-1785657948
Target Audience: Readers who appreciate the incredible nuances that occupy the ghost story genre. Those who can stomach plenty of dark themes and creepy imagery.
The brightest names in horror showcase a ghastly collection of eighteen ghost stories that will have you watching over your shoulder, heart racing at every bump in the night. In “My Life in Politics” by M.R. Carey the spirits of those without a voice refuse to let a politician keep them silent. In “The Adjoining Room” by A.K. Benedict a woman finds her hotel neighbour trapped and screaming behind a door that doesn’t exist. George Mann’s “The Restoration” sees a young artist become obsessed with returning a forgotten painting to its former glory, even if it kills her. And Laura Purcell’s “Cameo” shows that the parting gift of a loved one can have far darker consequences than ever imagined…
These unsettling tales from the some of the best modern horror writers will send a chill down your spine like someone has walked over your grave… or perhaps just woken up in their own.
Full List Of Authors: Joe Hill, M. R. Carey, Paul Tremblay, Josh Malerman, John Connolly, A.K. Benedict, Alison Littlewood, Mark A. Latham, Catriona Ward, Robert Shearman, George Mann, Muriel Gray, Kelley Armstrong, Gemma Files, Angela, Slatter, Tim Lebbon, Laura Purcell, Helen Grant
I have really missed short story collections. Phantoms has just showed me how much. What a collection! 18 writers of pure talent sharing their latest and greatest ghost stories. After a succinct intro by editor Marie O’Regan we get straight into the good stuff. Marie did a top notch job editing these into a fluid, chilling and harmonious collection. Stories that are connected through reincarnation, replication, replacement and companionship. United by death, grief, illness, memories, fear, identity and love. I do appreciate a good ghost story but these authors are the kind of writers who craft serious depth into their work. Adding extra dimensions into each tale, leaving you unsettled, inspired or shocked to the core.
Here we have Phantoms, new and old, cherished and feared, violent and peaceful. The narratives bleed into each other perfectly going from dreamy uncertainty followed by gripping clarity that evolves into eerie beauty and so on. Its pretty funny to re-read my notes on this book, every entry evolving and details developing. The incredible amount of depth and variety in atmosphere and tone that the writers have managed to include in such a short amount of words was impressive. There are plenty of names on this list who stick out and make this a very worthy read. For me it was Joe Hill, George Mann, Paul Tremblay and Laura Purcell. They all delivered stand out reads. I was hoping to see a new story from JH but it was a familiar one, still good though. A classic ghost story that feels so real and drags the reader into its nostalgic theatre setting for chills and thrills.
It is certainly a tough choice for my favourite entry. George Mann gave us a stunningly vivid and engrossing tale about an art restoration of pure beauty. Paul Tremblay blew my mind with a narrative where you decide which rooms the character visits and what pasts she ultimately confronts. Laura Purcell writes for stories like her entry Cameo, delivering a Dorian Gray influenced tale (in my opinion, probably wrong), that is true to her unique and vivid writing style which had me up out my chair pacing the room. M. R. Carey also had a great entry with a politically charged yet haunting tale. Still gives me that pit in my stomach when I think about it.
There are also plenty of first time reads for me here with a quite a few I would like to follow up on. Muriel Gray’s Front Row Rider was a fantastic surprise and her delivery was quality, surprising and moving. A. K. Bennett’s The Adjoining Room was another unsuspecting yet welcome treat. Escalating the atmosphere and the horror right until the last seconds. Catriona Ward’s Lula-Belle was probably the hardest to stomach as it deals with hate crimes, psychological abuse and horrific ghosts, still an impressive entry into the mix though. Each story in this collection belongs here, not once was I bored, unconvinced or unsatisfied.
Don’t believe me?
How could I possibly enjoy all 18 stories?
If you take the time to read it you will understand. These stories are, at the same time, new and familiar. All the stories are fluent in horror and creepiness yet they all bring a different tone to the story and it feels complete by the end. All the authors involved in this project are the pinnacle of the genre in the past and moving forward. Its rare that I don’t have a bad word to say about a book but here we are. My TBR has just tripled now thanks to Phantoms introducing me to many new authors and their impressive bibliographies. Though I am hugely grateful for its window into a chilling mindset within story-telling that many strive for but only a few can truly pull off.
Phantoms comes highly recommended from me. Put your fears to the test and plunge into the many creepy atmospheres that inhabit this book. Phantoms is a testament to the nuance of ghost stories and how much we still can depend on them to make us feel alive.
About Marie O’Regan
Marie O’Regan is a British Fantasy Award-nominated writer and editor of horror and dark fantasy fiction. Her anthologies include Mirror Mere, Hellbound Hearts, The Mammoth Book of Body Horror, Carnivale: Dark Tales From the Fairground and The Mammoth Book of Ghost Stories by Women. She is Co-Chair of the UK chapter of the Horror Writers’ Association.