Book Review: “New Fears” by Mark Morris (ed.) (@MarkMorris10 @TitanBooks @EasterbReguibak)

New Fears: New Horror Stories by Masters of the Genre (Titan Publishing Group, December 2017), edited by Mark Morris

The beauty of reading is that however old a book seems to be, it is always brand new the first time we get to read it. Which is why books never go out of fashion.

Take New Fears – the 19 “brand new horror stories” in this 2017 collection are far from being new in terms of publishing date. Even the 21 stories in the follow-up New Fears 2 are already four years old by now.

But this anthology is still an eye-opening read. For starters, in his introduction to the book, editor Mark Morris highlights the unique quality of short horror stories. “If told well, [short stories] can retain a real sense of dread throughout their twenty- or thirty-page length, and pack a real punch.” More importantly:

“All too often horror novels – perhaps because their authors feel a need to reward readers for the time they’ve invested in their work – end on a note of hope or redemption: the evil vanquished, the status quo restored. In short stories, however, there are no such restrictions, which is why short horror fiction tends to be darker and less reassuring, not to mention generally more ambiguous and experimental, than lengthier, more conventional works.”

Indeed, via New Fears, Morris wants to demonstrate how wide – how almost limitless – the parameters of the horror genre can be, with the stories gathered here showcasing an eclectic mix of styles and approaches. To this English author, known for his novels based on the BBC TV series Doctor Who, the “fearful anticipation of reading an anthology and not knowing what is coming up next” can be a thrill itself.

The horror stories selected for this anthology are unsettling in new and innovative ways It is surprising how subtle they are, even when traditional elements such as monsters, ghosts, ancient folklore and living myths are enlisted to cause distress and dread. Unexpectedly, what haunts readers long after the reading is done is not fear but other complex emotions conveyed through the pages – sadness, regret, grief, loss, missed opportunities, and diminished hope.

Some of the more attractive stories in New Fears include “The Boggle Hole”, “Departures”, “The Abduction Door” and “The Swan Dive”, which, in their own unique ways, explore the choices (un)intentionally made and their unexpected consequences. Another outstanding story is “Dollies”, which is incredibly sad.

But this reviewer’s absolutely favourite is “The House of the Head”, an original and refreshing story featuring a family of dolls living in a dollhouse. “They were being haunted… A dead doll was haunting a family of living ones. A broken figurine had come back, somehow, got into the house, and wouldn’t leave.”

As for who observes the haunting, who may or may not have done something about it and is now facing the consequences… well, you will just have to read the book to find out.

New Fears 2
Brand New Horror Stories from Masters of the Macabre
(Titan Publishing Group, December 2018), edited by Mark Morris

Note: This book review, originally titled “Subtle, short horror stories”, was published under the title “Unsettling, new and innovative horrors” by Ranges Trader Star Mail, February 7, 2023, P.17.


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