Skip to main content

The Restless Dead: Ten Original Stories of the Supernatural

Review

The Restless Dead: Ten Original Stories of the Supernatural

edited by Deborah Noyes

In many ways, horror stories are meant to be short. A good writer can sustain a scary premise throughout the length of a novel, but it takes a really great writer to prod the imagination and stoke fear with a minimum of space. Every word must count for more, and the 10 writers whose stories comprise THE RESTLESS DEAD demonstrate their mastery of the ability to employ every syllable in maxing out the creep factor.

Just as she did in GOTHIC!, editor Deborah Noyes has assembled an A-list cadre of storytellers whose tales work not only to scare but to challenge the reader to, perhaps (scariest of all), think. The styles vary from Marcus Sedgwick's excellent Poe homage ("The Heart of Another") to the Victorian gloom of Chris Wooding's "The House and the Locket" to the very modern, uber-cool, girl-loves-vampire tale with a twist from Annette Curtis Klause ("Kissing Dead Boys"). Some stories go for the laugh, but none really go for the gore, choosing instead to let the reader's fertile imaginations guess at exactly what it is they should fear.

Standout stories include M.T. Anderson's "The Gray Boy's Work," a somber look at a family during the Revolutionary War, haunted by both the deeds they've done and the ones they never did. A father returns home to his family after fighting with General Washington. While the family --- including his son Ezra, who managed the homestead in his father's absence --- is initially happy to see him, the reunion sours when it's discovered that the father actually deserted the army in order to return home. As father and son square off in a war of silence, a gray boy appears on the scene, claiming that he's been charged to do work around the family home. However, it soon becomes apparent that the gray boy's motivations aren't quite what he claims…

I also very much enjoyed the aforementioned "The Heart of Another" by Marcus Sedgwick, about a brilliant young student studying Edgar Allan Poe who undergoes a heart transplant and begins to suspect that the person whose heart was used met an engineered death. The story is juxtaposed with references to Poe's own "The Tell-Tale Heart," and as the mystery around the heart's origin grows, it becomes impossible to tell who to trust…including the narrator.

THE RESTLESS DEAD does exactly what a collection of short horror stories should do: it goes in, offers a scare and slides out again with the precision of a surgeon's scalpel. It's the rare collection that offers "something for everyone," but this one excels at being just that. Perhaps the best thing about this particular anthology is that I've discovered a whole slew of writers I didn't know before, but now I'm desperate to track down their other works and give them a read. With Halloween just a few weeks away, you could do a lot worse than to pick up THE RESTLESS DEAD for a night of chills and thrills…and I doubt you could do much better.

Reviewed by Brian Farrey on July 10, 2007

The Restless Dead: Ten Original Stories of the Supernatural
edited by Deborah Noyes

  • Publication Date: July 14, 2009
  • Genres: Horror, Short Stories
  • Paperback: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Candlewick
  • ISBN-10: 0763636711
  • ISBN-13: 9780763636715