cover image What the #@&% Is That?

What the #@&% Is That?

Edited by John Joseph Adams and Douglas Cohen. Saga, $26.99 (368p) ISBN 978-1-4814-3499-7

Uses of the title in dialogue prove a flimsy peg on which to hang most of the 20 stories in this uneven horror anthology. It perfectly suits Seanan McGuire’s “#Connollyhouse #Weshouldntbehere,” which is related as a succession of ominous tweets posted in real time by a haunted-house investigator, and in Laird Barron’s “Mobility,” it’s the prelude to a series of increasingly surreal horrors that overwhelm its protagonist victim in retribution for a thoughtless act of childhood cruelty. Less successful is John Langan’s “What Is Lost, What Is Given Away,” the tale of a former student’s bizarre encounter with an ex-teacher at his high school reunion, in which the author tosses off the line as nonessential to the story’s plot. The book’s best stories, which include Gemma Files’s “Ghost Pressure” and Christopher Golden’s “The Bad Hour,” would work perfectly well without it. Taken as a compilation of horror tales with no thematic link, the book offers some chills—though perhaps not enough, given the dramatic exclamation of the title. Agent: Seth Fisherman, Gernert Company. (Aug.)