The Dark Descent: Book Review

Hey folks, February’s been a busy month for me and, I’m sure, for you too! My Call of Cthulhu campaign has been wonderful (although, since I am writing a homebrew, it is a lot of work), I participated in that amazing HWA Bloody Valentine event, and I have been writing a lot!

On top of all that, I spent any free time I had reading a new anthology. I love a good anthology and The Dark Descent, edited by David G Hartwell, is a great one. This massive anthology is 1,011 pages long and contains 56 stories, divided into three themes: The Color of Evil, The Medusa in the Shield, and A Fabulous Formless Darkness.

One thing I love about anthologies is that they feature a variety of authors so I have a chance of discovering someone new that I hadn’t read before. Plus, it’s like having a sampler plate of food, or a flight of beers, to try. You get to read a bunch of different writing styles, techniques, and voices.


The Authors

I won’t be going in-depth about each author’s background since there are so many of them. This anthology included Edgar Allan Poe, D.H. Lawrence, Edith Wharton, Flannery O’Connor, Henry James, Ambrose Bierce, Shirley Jackson, Stephen King, Clive Barker, Ray Bradbury, John Collier, H.P. Lovecraft, Harlan Ellison, Robert Bloch, Richard Matheson, Philip K. Dick, Joyce Carol Oates, and more.

The editor, Mr. Hartwell, was an American critic, publisher, and editor, best known for his work with Signet, Pocket, and Tor Books publishers.


The Anthology

This anthology seeks to examine horror’s history, in all its various forms, and trace its evolution through time. And it does so, excellently, touching upon classic Gothic, sci-fi, cosmic, and psychological horror – and so much more.


The Review

Of course, there were quite a few stories I’d read already, like the Lovecraft tales, and I can’t claim to have loved every story in this anthology, there were a couple I just skipped over for lack of interest, but overall I really loved it.

A couple of standout stories were “The Whimper of Whipped Dogs” by Harlan Ellison, “The Autopsy” by Michael Shea, “The Roaches” by Thomas M. Disch, “Three Days” by Tanith Lee, and “A Little Something for Us Tempunauts” by Philip K. Dick.

The anthology also contain several of my existing favourites like “The Damned Thing” by Ambrose Bierce, “Smoke Ghost” by Fritz Leiber, “The Yellow Wallpaper” by Charlotte Perkins Gilman, “The Willows” by Algernon Blackwood, “Sticks” by Karl Edward Wagner, and my all time favourite Shirley Jackson story: “The Summer People”.

The cherry on top of this excellent anthology is the fact that Mr. Hartwell included a small introduction to every story, revealing a little bit of background into it and the author, including its influences and how it influences the evolution of horror.

 Score: 9/10

Just an amazing and thorough examination of the genre and I would highly recommend that you add it to your shelves!

Also, if you’re a horror writer who’d like your novel read and reviewed, or you just have a novel you think I should check out, comment it below! I am always looking for new suggestions and things to read! Cheers!

x P.L. McMillan

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