The fifth in an award-winning series of speculative fiction anthologies from Tartarus Press, Strange Tales V contains some outstanding instances of dark, strange, bizarre, and disturbing writing. No surprise when you see that they were chosen by Rosalie Parker, who, as her Wikipedia entry states, is an “author, scriptwriter and editor who runs the Tartarus Press” with Ray Russell, and who “jointly won the World Fantasy Award ‘Special Award: Non-Professional’ for publishing in 2002, 2004 and 2012.” The first volume in the series, Strange Tales, won the 2004 World Fantasy Award in the Anthology category, and this one is a worthy successor.
You might expect that a collection from an independent English publisher that specializes in high-quality hardback publications would be both parochial and pedestrian. You’d be completely wrong. Not only does Strange Tales V include “seventeen new stories by eight British and nine North American authors,” but it also seems that Rosalie Parker has gone out of her way to select the most unorthodox and least generic narratives she can find. She also seems to have found some of the best written. I’m not sure how much of the sheer excellence of some of the prose in Strange Tales V is due to her deft editorial hand, but it certainly is remarkable.
And to revisit this whole issue of parochial… Want Japanese body horror? Try “A Life in Plastic,” by Andrew Hook. Extremely disturbing cyber-horror? There’s “Bardo Thodol Backup File” by the unique Jacurutu:23. Unhinged Southern Gothic? “The Grave House,” by Steve Rasnic Tem. Demented Ligottiesque small-town horror? “The Man Who Loved Flies,” by Andrew Apter. Fairytale whimsy? “Beatrice Faraway’s Christmas Tale,” by Paul Bradley. And so on through the twisted geographies and stranger imaginations of all the contributors. I think you get the idea. This is one of the best, and certainly best-written, story anthologies I have read in a few past years of often superb collections. I only hope that Tartarus Press releases an ebook soon and grows its audience beyond the planned limited edition of 350 copies, because these stories so deserve wider readership. Unhesitatingly recommended.