Year’s Best Hardcore Horror Volume 2, by various authors

This anthology of short horror stories comprises 21 tales by 21 authors, with contributor Stephanie M Wytovich being selected for an additional entry of six selected poems from her earlier work, Brothel.

Year's Best Hardcore Horror Volume 2, by various authors, read by Joe HempelThe collection focusses on graphic action and gore more than tension or atmosphere. In fact, there was very few edge-of-your-seat moments but that’s not to discount the fact that they put the gross into engrossing. Highlights include, but are certainly not limited to Tim Miller’s Backne, a disgusting short story about an infectious outbreak; Paolo Di Orazio’s The Contract, a sexually sick peek at fairies, lust and family; Kozmic Blues, a story of cannibalism by Alessandro Manzetti; and the supernatural Redux by Alexandra Renwick, which tells of Peter, a man who discovers just how much he enjoys murdering the same woman over and over again.

Despite the apparent singular aim to be grotesque, Year’s Best Hardcore Horror Volume 2 succeeds in offering a good variety of styles and place, including William Grabowski Out Hunting for Teeth, a sample of bizarro fiction set in Japan.

The opening tale of 55 Ways I’d Prefer Not to Die by Michael A Arnzen was perhaps not the best way to open an anthology but it was curious enough to keep one’s attention. Rather than a narrative, Arnzen offers a shopping list of quirky and bizarre way to die with a sentence about what happens in each scenario.

Some of the tales are extremely short while others help push the length of the collection to over 12 hours of listening.

There’s a rising fad in audiobooks of using multiple narrators to represent the different viewpoints of characters. It works a treat and an anthology series such as this could benefit greatly from different voices to separate out each story, particularly when listening in short bursts. Multiple readers would help break up the contributions, even if only using two alternating readers.

Joe Hempel is a prolific audiobook narrator and one of my current favourites. He is consistently excellent and he is no different here, with my criticism above being a directorial decision rather than a comment on Hempel’s skills. He’s particularly adept in the horror genre and never fails to set the mood and read fantastical text with the sincerity needed to draw you into the moment. As always, he’s absolutely convincing in his narrative, no matter how grotesque or absurd the action becomes.

With so many notable contributors to Year’s Best Hardcore Horror Volume 2, I won’t list all the remaining author’s here. Their names and stories are listed on Audible’s product page, although not in the correct running order. Kudos to editors Randy Chandler and Cheryl Mullenax for putting it all together however.

Year’s Best Hardcore Horror Volume 2 was released as an audiobook at the start of June 2017 through Comet Press and includes a brief author’s note at the end of most entries.

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