Book Review: The Weird

The Weird: A Compendium of Strange and Dark Stories
Edited by Ann and Jeff VanderMeer
Tom Doherty Associates
(c) 2011 by the authors

It’s kind of tricky reviewing an anthology, especially one where multiple authors are involved. What are you reviewing? The individual stories? The editorial choices involved in their selection? The presentation? I’m just going to go with the overall principle of “Should you get this book?” Rather simple, but for an amateur reviewer like myself, it will do.

The Weird is a massive collection of – well, you can’t really call it “horror”, because the stories are generally more unsettling than outright scary. Think “Tales from the Darkside” rather than “Tales from the Crypt”. There are 110 stories in the book’s 1100+ pages, dating from 1908 to 2010. Included are authors you should have heard of (Stephen King, Ray Bradbury, H.P. Lovecraft), authors that horror buffs should know (Clark Ashton Smith, Daphne du Maurier, Algernon Blackwood), and authors that will be new to you (Augusto Monterroso, Stefan Grabinski, Haruki Murakami). There’s an amazing variety; only two authors get to have two stories. Many of the stories are translations; it’s great to see so many “non-English speaking” authors and other cultures being represented

Within the “weird” genre, there are many variations. Science fiction, fantasy, adventure, even light humor all come in to play. This makes for a wondrous diversity in the stories – you could easily read several in one sitting, and not be bored. Though your constitution might not be able to cope with the creepiness. I have to admit that there’s one story in here (“The Hospice” by Robert Aickman) that I find so unsettling that I can’t really bring myself to read it again. Like many of the stories in the collection, there’s no violence suggested or implied in the tale – it’s just that there’s something so very strange and unexplained going on at the titular hospice that your imagination is free to create all manner of evil and horror happening behind the scenes.

That, I suppose, is the true power of “weird” fiction. The author just suggests the horror; you fill in the real scary details. You frighten yourself….

And there’s plenty for you to conjure up your own frights here.

By the way, I don’t normally prefer ebooks over hard copies. But in this case, I have to make an exception. The book is so darn HEAVY (8” x 9.5” x 2”) that it’s uncomfortable to hold while you read it. So maybe get a physical copy for your bookshelves, and an ebook to actually read….

One thought on “Book Review: The Weird

  1. By the way, I don’t normally prefer ebooks over hard copies. But in this case, I have to make an exception.

    Similar thoughts were running through my mind as I read your second para. The same goes for some of those massive Otto Penzler compilations.

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    Reply

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