Excerpt from the introduction:
Editors Randy Chandler and Cheryl Mullenax put the call out to horror writers and editors of extreme stories, the hardcore stuff that breaks boundaries and trashes taboos, the transgressive tales you can't "unread" (as Chuck Palahniuk says). We staked out our territory and nailed this to the wall to guide us:
Year's Best Hardest Horror
Not your mama's best-of horror annual. This stuff comes from the edge of the abyss, stories you read at your own risk because you feel the abyss looking right back into you through the tainted lens of each twisted tale.
Some of the stories you'll find here are loaded with very graphic descriptions of violence, sex, and depravities, while others may contain only one shocking moment of brutality. In others, the hardcore aspect may be less graphic and subtler than you might expect. Some of these quieter tales offer the listener some time to recover from the more disturbing ones preceding.
Most of the stories collected here are from small and specialty press anthologies, with a few from periodicals, like the prestigious Splatterpunk Zine in the UK and Thuglit here in the US. Bizarro is also represented with a couple of tales from the unlikely anthology Blood for You: A Literary Tribute to GG Allin from Weirdpunk Books. (If you're not familiar with the late GG Allin, you can find snippets from some of his outrageous and obscene punk shows online, which will increase your appreciation of those two tales.)
So for now, forget about that neighbor you suspect is a serial killer, don't worry about the drunk driver that could take you out on your next trip to the store, push those troubling news stories to the back of your mind, and immerse yourself in the imaginary horrors at hand.
But don't be surprised if you sense something dark staring back at you from between the lines. That is to be expected when you enter these forbidding realms. With any luck, you may find something useful to help you survive the approaching Apocalypse.
Full list of authors includes Adam Howe, Robert Essig, Adam Cesare, Clare de Lune, David James Keaton, and Monica J. O'Rourke.
These are truly hardcore, extreme stories that disregard taboos and boundaries
I thought this collection of 19 horror stories would be suitable listening for Halloween week and it did indeed end up to be very captivating and entertaining. I don't actually listen to/read much horror and don't very often pick short stories, so this was quite a change for me. Perhaps because of that, I was only familiar with one of the authors, The Behrg. But since finishing this I had to check out the work of some of the others because I was impressed by their stories.
The marketing blurb for this is actually true for once. These are truly hardcore, extreme stories that disregard taboos and boundaries. I'm not very squeamish and tend to enjoy dark and graphic stories but some of these actually had me screaming "yuck" and "gross" repeatedly. However, they weren't actually as scary and creepy as I was expecting them to be but with a much stronger focus on sex than I had anticipated. So be warned, while I would wholeheartedly recommend this collection, it definitely isn't for everyone.
Nonetheless, some of the stories are actually quite subtle and leave you time for a breather. There is a good range of different themes covered. From serial killers to supernatural occurrences, from strong females and weak priests to zombies, there is a lot of variety. Out of the 19 stories, I can honestly say there were only maybe two that I didn't particularly care for. One of the GG Allin stories? Maybe it's because I'm a mother, but I was glad to get to the end of that one!
The really strong point for me was that all the stories made you feel something, and I don't just mean the obvious terror or disgust. Monica J. O'Rourke's "Exposed" about a woman hunting down child abductors packed a powerful emotional punch. Considering these were short stories, the characters were surprisingly well developed. It wasn't short of humor either. Jeff Strand's "Awakening" had me laughing out loud, and “The Most Important Miracle” by Scott Emerson was pretty funny, too.
The entire anthology is narrated by Joe Hempel and he does a great job. His normal narrating voice was smooth and pleasant to listen to with great pacing, and when he voiced the different characters he used the right amount of acting, different accents, and tones to make this into a vivid, consistent and engaging performance. The production was faultless.
Audiobook was provided for review by the narrator.
Please find this complete review and many others at my review blog
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