cover image Years Best Fant & Hor 12

Years Best Fant & Hor 12

. St. Martin's Griffin, $17.95 (624pp) ISBN 978-0-312-20686-4

Twelve years of taking the pulse of literary horror and fantasy fiction haven't dulled Datlow and Windling's discrimination. The latest volume in their acclaimed series is a cornucopia of treats harvested from a wide assortment of trade and specialty press publications (including e-zines) issued in the U.S. and abroad. Though the editors split space evenly, Datlow's 11 solo horror picks run long, the better to accommodate their atmospherics and meticulously orchestrated chills. Peter Straub's ""Mr. Clubb and Mr. Cuff,"" an arch revenge thriller of Dickensian style and scope, is one of several stories that give old-fashioned horrors a contemporary twist. Modern terrors get their due in Dennis Etchison's ""Inside the Cackle Factory,"" a flicker of Hollywood noir, and John Kessel's brilliant ""Every Angel Is Terrifying,"" a sequel to Flannery O'Connor's ""A Good Man Is Hard to Find"" that stands on its own as a haunting meditation on failed redemption. Windling's 32 fantasy selections include eight poems and 24 stories that span a variety of story types: dark fantasy in Stephen King's unsettling dream tale ""That Feeling, You Can Only Say What It Is in French""; magic realism in Kurahashi Yumiko's man-to-animal fable ""The House of the Black Cat""; parable in Jorge Luis Borges's brief ""The Rose of Paracelsus."" Kelly Link, in her wry metafiction ""Travels with the Snow Queen,"" and A.S. Byatt, in her exquisite romance ""Cold,"" show the traditional fairy tale to be alive and well. In addition, three stories were chosen by both editors. Notwithstanding the very different paths horror and fantasy fiction have taken in recent years, this indispensable anthology proves that a well-told tale can enthrall readers regardless of genre preference. (July)