Best in Class – 2015

Text of a post that appeared on the Case Notes blog at ttapress.com yesterday (they got first dibs because people send me books in my role as reviewer for Black Static magazine):-

I’m carrying on with the “tradition” of handing out a few bouquets to those whose literary endeavours impressed me the most in the preceding twelve months.

To repeat what I said before:-

I should emphasise that, given how far behind I am with actually reviewing books and other demands on my time, I haven’t read everything that was published in the horror genre in 2015, in fact only a fraction of it. If you’re looking for a more comprehensive summary, check out the introductions given by Ellen Datlow and Stephen Jones in their respective Year Best anthologies. The works named here are simply those I consider the best of what I personally have read – Pete’s picks are not meant to be definitive.

Okay, same categories as in the past, and the three or four people who have been following my personal blog throughout the year, will have guessed most of the winners already.

Best Novel – The Death House by Sarah Pinborough

Sarah Pinborough’s heartfelt and moving tale of young love set against a dystopian backdrop outshone everything else I read this year in the novel category. The list of close contenders would include Simon Kurt Unsworth’s marvellously inventive The Devil’s Detective, the fast paced and convoluted A Cold Silence by Alison Littlewood, Marko Hautala’s wonderfully creepy The Black Tongue (first published in the author’s native Finland in 2014, but with an English language translation in September 2015), Angela Slatter’s beautifully textured short novel (some might say a novella) Of Sorrow and Such, Signal to Noise by Silvia Moreno-Garcia, Mr. Suicide by Nicole Cushing, and Hell’s Ditch by Simon Bestwick.

Best Novella – Albion Fay by Mark Morris

My favourite novella out of all those I read in 2015 was Oasis of the Damned by Greg F. Gifune, but that appeared a month too early to be in contention here. Of the rest, Mark Morris’ beautifully written and evocative Albion Fay just pipped Steve Volk’s excellent Leytonstone for the top spot. And an honourable mention to Alison Littlewood for One Nameless Thing.

Best Short Story – ‘The Woman Who Lived in a Restaurant’ by Leone Ross

It was a good year for short stories, and if this Nightjar Press chapbook hadn’t arrived in my Inbox the crown could have gone to any one of half a dozen stories, but Ross’ sumptuous prose and the strand of wisdom running through her work simply blew me away. As to those half dozen other contenders – ‘The Visible Filth’ by Nathan Ballingrud, ‘Within the Wind, Beneath the Snow’ by Ray Cluley, ‘The Home’ by Tom Fletcher, ‘The Lone and Level Sands Stretch Far Away’ by Brian Hodge, ‘Everything You’ve Always Wanted’ by Mick Garris, ‘Gaze’ by Gemma Files, and ‘Homemade Monsters’ by John Langan. Yes, that is seven stories, and not six, and on another day it could be ten or even twelve. It’s an inexact science.

Best Collection – Probably Monsters by Ray Cluley

Ray Cluley is the writer with the most Black Static credits under his belt, so it shouldn’t really come as any surprise that the magazine’s book reviewer found Cluley’s debut collection more to his taste than any other read in 2015. It is a superb compendium of quality horror fiction from a writer whose vision is matched by his technical skill and ability to get inside the head of others. Shout outs also to Blood 20: 20 Tales of Vampire Horror by the wonderful Tanith Lee, Give Me These Moments Back by Mike Chinn, The Mirrors by Nicole Cushing, The Anniversary of Never by Joel Lane, Night Music: Nocturnes Volume 2 by John Connolly.

Best Anthology – The Best Horror of the Year Volume Seven edited by Ellen Datlow

One anthology to rule them all – Ellen Datlow’s selection of the best stories from 2014 beat out all the other anthologies I read in 2015 for the top spot, or at least those first published in 2015. It also happened to be the last book I read in 2015, and if I hadn’t read it then the first place would have gone to the almost equally worthy The Doll Collection, which was also edited by Ellen Datlow. Check this category for last year, and you will notice a pattern emerging.

Best UK & Ireland Small Press – No Favourite

Last year’s #1 Swan River Press continue to publish some beautiful books, but although they sent me quite a bit in 2015 as yet I’ve only managed to read the Joel Lane collection The Anniversary of Never, so other than appearance I can’t really comment on their output. Kudos to all the usual suspects – Tartarus, Spectral, Alchemy, Gray Friar, and Telos, who all had good years. I’m extremely reluctant to declare any one better than all the others, and so I won’t (a career in diplomacy beckons).

NB: No stories or novellas published by TTA Press were considered in the writing of this blog post.

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One Response to Best in Class – 2015

  1. Pingback: Probably Monsters as a favourite | probablymonsters

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