999: New Stories of Horror and Suspense

999: New Stories of Horror and Suspense

by Al Sarrantonio
     
 

The weaving of fictional suspense and terror is as ancient as humankind itself. But where does this age-old tradition stand at the cusp of a new decade, a new century, a new millennium? This mammoth volume seeks to answer that question. Your hold in your hands the state of the art — of fear.

To prepare this groundbreaking anthology, writer and editor Al

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Overview

The weaving of fictional suspense and terror is as ancient as humankind itself. But where does this age-old tradition stand at the cusp of a new decade, a new century, a new millennium? This mammoth volume seeks to answer that question. Your hold in your hands the state of the art — of fear.

To prepare this groundbreaking anthology, writer and editor Al Sarrantonio challenged a distinguished roster of authors to demonstrate with all-new stories the shape of horror/suspense literature as we enter the twenty-first century. As you will read the twenty-nine contributors responded by displaying the infinite variety which is the very hallmark of this field. Some of these stories will startle you or fill you with terror. Some will haunt you long after you finish reading them. There is even an eerily echoing chuckle or two found inside. But together, these weirdest of tales join to form a great literary mosaic, a vivid contemporary portrait of a genre which is proud, potent, and irresistible.

Not only is this the largest anthology of original horror/suspense fiction of all time — not one story in 999 has ever been published before — but it is also the finest. Here is a major publishing event with an attitude: to shake you up and scare you silly.

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Editorial Reviews

Associated Press
For horror fans, 999 is a romp in paradise.
People Magazine
Spine-tingling!
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
FYI: Sarrantonio has just sold Redshift, a companion anthology of millennial SF, to Roc. Copyright 1999 Cahners Business Information.
Library Journal
From Kim Newman's grotesque tale of zombies in Communist Russia ("Amerikanski Dead at the Moscow Morgue") to "Darkness," an eerie new short novel by William Peter Blatty, the 29 tales of horror and suspense that make up this end-of-the-millennium collection illustrate a broad spectrum of new and veteran talent. Including contributions from Stephen King, F. Paul Wilson, Neil Gaiman, Nancy A. Collins, this volume belongs in most libraries. Heavy online promotion may increase demand. Copyright 1999 Cahners Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Following the steps of groundbreaking anthologies such as Harlan Ellison's Dangerous Visions (not reviewed) and Kirby McCauley's Dark Forces (1980), this major publication of supernatural horror and nonsupernatural suspense offers 27 original works (no reprints) by Young Turks and top authors in the field. Stephen King's "The Road Virus Heads North," while suspenseful, is gimmicky and lacks the great warmth of his forthcoming Hearts in Atlantis (p. 988), which has spoiled us for lesser works from the master. Kim Newman's "Amerikanski Dead at the Moscow Morgue," in every way an outstanding tale, finds the ever-fanciful Newman in solemnly hilarious spirits as he speaks with a straight face of captured and shuffling dead American zombies herded into an onion-domed church-turned-morgue in Communist Russia back in the time of the holy zombie healer, Rasputin. Joyce Carol Oates's "The Ruins of Contracoeur" is a tour de force of moody poetics "in the death-stillness of a stonily moonlit night." Thomas Disch's "The Owl and the Pussycat" tells of a church owl brought home from an AA meeting who marries a pussycat and of their putting up with and overcoming an abusive, alcoholic master. Eric van Lustbader's romantic fantasy "An Exaltation of Termagants" takes place in the addled brain of a mescal addict. William Peter Blatty (of The Exorcist) gives a slick, sly novella, "Elsewhere," concerning a haunted house and the truth about its ghosts. Blatty's hackneyed writing falls far below the stylishness of Newman, Oates, and several others in a sheaf that also includes Neil Gaiman, David Morrell, T. E. D. Klein, F. Paul Wilson, Ramsey Campbell, Ed Gorman, Gene Wolfe, and Nancy A. Collins— just towhet your appetite. Perhaps not quite the literary benchmark editor Sarrantonio hopes—nor is its excellence as consistent as some annuals by female editors of erotic suspense and vampire tales—but it will certainly be around for decades. ($200,000 ad/promo)

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780380977406
Publisher:
HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date:
09/07/1999
Pages:
688
Product dimensions:
6.59(w) x 9.59(h) x 1.52(d)

Read an Excerpt

Chapter One

Kim Newman

Amerikanski Dead At The
Moscow Morgue

When I casually contacted Kim Newman by E-mail to ask if he had anything he'd be interested in showing me for 999, he politely wrote back, almost instantly, that most of what he was working on these days was in a longer length than what I seemed to be looking for. When I gently persisted, asking him to show me something longer, I almost instantly received the following tale, about American "invaders" in Communist Russia, by return E-mail.

I was flabbergasted at how good it was -- not because Kim Newman, the vampire-expert author of Anno Dracula and The Bloody Red Baron, wrote it, since I already knew that be's quietly and systematically become one of the best writers in the field, but because I just couldn't believe that something so wonderful could instantly appear on my computer screen just because I asked for it. Ask and ye shall receive, indeed!

Kim Newman is also known as a sometime actor, film critic, and broadcaster; more of his fictive magic can be found in such work as Bad Dreams, The Night Mayor, and, with Eugene Byrne, Back in the USSA.


At the railway station in Borodino, Evgeny Chirkov was separated from his unit. As the locomotive slowed, he hopped from their carriage to the platform, under orders to secure, at any price, cigarettes and chocolate. Another unknown crisis intervened and the steamdriven antique never truly stopped. Tripping over his rifle, he was unable to reach the outstretched hands of his comrades. The rest of the unit,jammed halfway through windows or hanging out of doors, laughed and waved. A jet of steam from a train passing the other way put salt on his tail, and he dodged, tripping again. Sergeant Trauberg found the pratfall hilarious, forgetting he had pressed a thousand rubles on the private. Chirkov ran and ran but the locomotive gained speed.

When he emerged from the canopied platform, seconds after the last carriage, white sky poured down. Looking at the black-shingled trackbed, he saw a flattened outline in what was once a uniform, wrists and ankles wired together, neck against a gleaming rail, head long gone under sharp wheels. The method, known as "making sleepers," was favored along railway lines. Away from stations, twenty or thirty were dealt with at one time. Without heads, Amerikans did no harm.

Legs boiled from steam, face and hands frozen from winter, he wandered through the station. The cavernous space was subdivided by sandbags. Families huddled like pioneers expecting an attack by Red Indians, luggage drawn about in a circle, last bullets saved for women and children. Chirkov spat mentally; America had invaded his imagination, just as his political officers warned. Some refugees were coming from Moscow, others fleeing to the city. There was no rule. A wall-sized poster of the New First Secretary was disfigured with a blotch, red gone to black. The splash of dried blood suggested something had been finished against the wall. There were Amerikans in Borodino. Seventy miles from Moscow, the station was a museum to resisted invasions. Plaques, statues and paintings honored the victories of 1812 and 1944. A poster listed those local officials executed after being implicated in the latest counter-revolution. The air was tangy with ash, a reminder of past scorched earth policies. There were big fires nearby. An army unit was on duty, but no one knew anything about a time-table. An officer told him to queue and wait. More trains were coming from Moscow than going to, which meant the capital would eventually have none left.

He ventured out of the station. The snow cleared from the forecourt was banked a dozen yards away. Sunlight glared off muddy white. It was colder and brighter than he was used to in the Ukraine. A trio of Chinese-featured soldiers, a continent away from home, offered to share cigarettes and tried to practice Russian on him. He understood they were from Amgu; from the highest point in that port, you could see Japan. He asked if they knew where he could find an official. As they chirruped among themselves in an alien tongue, Chirkov saw his first Amerikan. Emerging from between snow banks and limping towards the guard post, the dead man looked as if he might actually be an American. Barefoot, he waded spastically through slush, jeans legs shredded over thin shins. His shirt was a bright picture of a parrot in a jungle. Sunglasses hung around his neck on a thin string. Chirkov made the Amerikan's presence known to the guards. Fascinated, he watched the dead man walk. With every step, the Amerikan crackled: there were deep, ice-threaded rifts in his skin. He was slow and brittle and blind, crystal eyes frozen open, arms stiff by his sides.

Cautiously, the corporal circled around and rammed his rifle-butt into a knee. The guards were under orders not to waste ammunition; there was a shortage. Bone cracked and the Amerikan went down like a devotee before an icon. The corporal prodded a colorful back with his boot-toe and pushed the Amerikan onto his face. As he wriggled, ice shards worked through his flesh. Chirkov had assumed the dead would stink but this one was frozen and odorless. The skin was pink and unperished, the rips in it red and glittery. An arm reached out for the corporal and something snapped in the shoulder. The corporal's boot pinned the Amerikan to the concrete. One of his comrades produced a foot-long spike and worked the point into the back of the dead man's skull. Scalp flaked around the dimple. The other guard took an iron mallet from his belt and struck a professional blow.

999. Copyright � by Al Sarrantonio. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.

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