The Mammoth Book Of Body Horror REVIEW

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Oozing sores, wandering hands, sticky eyes and legs that fall off are just some of the gory corporeal glories you can expect from Mammoth's latest collection. This 25-story compendium gathers tales of “transformation, mutation and contagion” from genre royalty including Clive Barker, HP Lovecraft, Stephen King, Mary Shelley and Edgar Allen Poe, along with writers who though less familiar are often just as compelling.

The stories offer icky pleasure for those fascinated with a subgenre concerned with the body turning against itself. Some are funny and disgusting (Richard Matheson's nuclear fallout nightmare ‘”Tis The Season To Be Jelly!”, Barbie Wilde's bowel-with-a-brain-of-its-own yuk-fest “Polyp”); some smartly satirical (Neil Gaiman's excellent cure-for-cancer vision “Changes”, Christopher Fowler's fashion industry cautionary tale “The Look”); some depressing and disturbing (Nancy A Collins’ horrific, lingering “Freaktent” and Stephen King's stand-out gross-out “The Survivor Type”).

For horror movie buffs it's a must-have, pulling together the original stories which inspired The Fly , The Thing and Re-Animator . “The Fly”, a far closer blueprint for Kurt Neumann's 1958 version than it was for Cronenberg’s version, is poignant rather than repellent, while John W Campbell's ice station paranoia piece “Who Goes There?” (the longest piece in the collection), is a masterpiece of tension building. Only Lovecraft's “Herbert West – Re-Animator” – a morbidly humorous necromancy myth - jars in its originally serialised format, with each short chapter beginning with a full recap of the previous ones - though Re-Animator director Stuart Gordon sheds further light on this in a warm and fascinating intro.

As with King's resilient amputee, the main problem with this otherwise essential collection is not what's there but what's not. Spanning centuries, societies and styles (with many entries that have cropped up in previous anthologies), The Mammoth Book Of Body Horror leaves you hungry for context. Although not, it must be said, for dinner.

Rosie Fletcher

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