Poe’s Children: The New Horror edited by Peter Straub

Source: Public Library
Hardcover, 544 pgs.
I am an Amazon Affiliate

Poe’s Children: The New Horror edited by Peter Straub, which was our October book club selection, is billed as an anthology that includes horror stories that can be deemed literary, rather than “formulaic gore.”  Although some of these stories are by turns surreal and unsettling — some may even be literary — they are a far cry from the disturbing and nightmarish tales of Edgar Allan Poe.  Readers may appreciate the nods to Poe or even other authors, like Franz Kafka, but those nods to previous greats on their own do not make a story worthy of note.  “Cleopatra Brimstone” uses the idea of people turning to bugs found in Kafka and turns it into a story about strong female sexual identity, but at the same time, the story lacks verve.

“The Bees” and “The Man on the Ceiling” will leave readers wanting more, particularly in the development of the characters, while “The Great God Pan” offers an interesting premise and a shadow that lurks behind the lives of three friends who underwent a ritual together, but the story fizzles out by the end.  “In Praise of Folly” is a slow moving story in which Roland Turner seeks out the Jorgenson estate in his quest for a folly to be saved, and it’s a tale of watch what you ask for because you just might get it — and then some.  While the story itself is not particularly unique, the anxiety stems from what happens when Turner finally finds the estate and its “Little Italy.”  Although it is not horrifying in the gory sense, it does make readers gulp for air as they consider what happens to him.

Even the stories by Stephen King, Joe Hill, Peter Straub, and Neil Gaiman are lackluster, though Gaiman’s story is the most enjoyable and uses his writing style well.  King’s story was not what readers will expect, Hill’s is unimaginative, and Straub appears to be too bogged down in his own introductory statements about literary horror fiction.  Unfortunately, Poe’s Children: The New Horror edited by Peter Straub does not live up to expectations and is mediocre at best.

What the Book Club Thought:

Many of us were disappointed by the horror collection, with many of the stories only moderately creepy and others were just surreal or odd.  Some stories felt very unfinished, and others had endings that came out of left field.  A few felt that the introduction set us up for disappointment, as many of the stories were lacking in the horror or Poe quality we expected.  The cover of the hardcover edition seems to tell you what the book will not be — it is not about dead babies and other horrors traditionally found in the genre.  One member, however, thought that the introduction helped lower expectations and made the collection more enjoyable.  Overall, the discussion about each of the stories was animated, even though no one really LOVED this one.

About the Author:

Peter Straub was born in Milwaukee, Wisconsin in 1943, the first of three sons of a salesman and a nurse. The salesman wanted him to become an athlete, the nurse thought he would do well as either a doctor or a Lutheran minister, but all he wanted to do was to learn to read.

He went to the University of Wisconsin and, after opening his eyes to the various joys of Henry James, William Carlos Williams, and the Texas blues-rocker Steve Miller, a great & joyous character who lived across the street, passed through essentially unchanged to emerge in 1965 with an honors degree in English, then an MA at Columbia a year later.