What’s Best New Horror all about?:
Best New Horror follows the editor of a horror magazine as he tries to track down the author of a short story he has recently read and loved so that he can publish it in the next edition of his magazine.
What did I think?:
I’m familiar with Joe Hill for three reasons, the first two being the most important – his wonderful novels Heart-Shaped Box and Horns. Thirdly, only three words are necessary – Stephen King’s Son. If you’re a die-hard King fan like I am, surely you’re going to be curious about his son’s writing? I was but put off reading him for so long as I specifically didn’t want to compare him directly to his old man and wanted to enjoy him as a brilliant author in his own right. What better way to enjoy some more Joe Hill than to pop his short story collection, 20th Century Ghosts into my Short Stories Challenge when a slot opened up?
So, after the five star rating that I’ve given his previous two novels, I have to admit my expectations were sky high. Overall, I wasn’t disappointed by the first story, Best New Horror although it didn’t initially clamour for my attention like his novels have done. Our main protagonist, Eddie Carroll receives a letter in the post one day from a friend with a short story that he simply has to read, the suggestion being that he could publish it in the next issue of his magazine, Best New Horror. Eddie sits down to read the short story by Peter Kilrue, entitled “Buttonboy,” and although the subject matter is distressing, disturbing and beyond disgusting he can’t help but be entranced by what the author has to say. He is determined to publish the story but wants to contact the author first so sets off on a journey to track him down, becoming embroiled in a horrific situation that encompasses what “Best New Horror,” might actually mean.
This story felt quite different to other pieces of short fiction I’ve enjoyed in the past. For one thing, it’s a story within a story which felt quite unique and exciting. The author actually transcribes the “Buttonboy” story for us as Eddie reads it so we can find out as a reader exactly what makes it such a traumatic but interesting reading experience. It’s every bit as awful as Eddie’s friend has suggested it is, I found the use of buttons especially gruesome and haven’t been able to stop thinking about it, but it is how Joe Hill manages the story afterwards that is the most fascinating part. En route to find and connect with Peter, Eddie ends up in a horror story of his very own and it almost feels like one of those classic horror films where your inner self is screaming to the person on screen: “Don’t go in there! Don’t do that! Get away!” and I loved the eerie sentiment that the author brought to the situation and the characters. It’s not a story for everyone, the “Buttonboy” story might offend a few people if you’re sensitive to the horror genre but I think it was quite a fun look at horror turned on its head and what we classically find frightening in the genre.
Would I recommend it?:
But of course!
Star rating (out of 5):
NEXT SHORT STORY: The Moons Of Jupiter by Alice Munro from the collection Stories To Get You Through The Night.