Cover Image: When Things Get Dark

When Things Get Dark

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Member Reviews

Unfortunately I decided to DNF this collection. Whatever the authors of these stories see in Shirley Jackson’s works is different from what I see in them, and what drew me to Jackson’s gorgeous prose, dark plots, and insightful characterizations was not to be found in the first few stories in this collection (Carmen Maria Machado’s story being the one exception). I would still recommend this collection to other readers, particularly as a good summer read perhaps, but unfortunately my expectations were high due to the comparison to Jackson’s works promoted by the publisher and were thus a bit too disappointed to be able to enjoy the stories on their own merits.

Three stars.
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I enjoyed this spooky read! It was exactly what I was expecting. Thank you for the opportunity to read this book for free
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Thank you to Titan Books for providing me with an e-ARC of When Things Get Dark in exchange for an honest review!

I am very hit-or-miss when short story collections/anthologies; I tend to start them then sit them down and never return. However, When Things Get Dark made me want to come back. This is a brilliant collection. There were hits, and of course, a few that didn't really hold my attention. However, even those ones were well-written & are probably loved by hundreds of other readers. When Things Get Dark is a collection that I can easily recommend & think would make great reading material for spooky season!
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WHEN THINGS GET DARK – ‘A collection of [eighteen] new and exclusive short stories inspired by, and in tribute to, Shirley Jackson, Jackson is a seminal writer of horror and mystery fiction, whose legacy resonates globally today.’

‘For this anthology, I did not want stories riffing on Jackson’s own. I did not want stories about her or her life. What I wanted was for the contributors to distill the essence of Jackson’s work into their work, to reflect her sensibility. To embrace the strange and the dark underneath placid exteriors. There’s a comfort in ritual and rules, even while those rules may constrict the self so much that those who must follow them can slip into madness.’ – Editor Ellen Datlow

The following are my favorites:

‘Funeral Birds’ – by M. Rickert – Creepy Good! 

I love this line:

‘She always wanted to be a woman who appeared chic and vaguely kick-*ss in black when, in fact, she looked like a half-plucked crow.’

‘For Sale By Owner’ – by Elizabeth Hand – That Was Good!

‘In the Deep Woods; The Light is Different There’ – by  Seanan McGuire 

I LOVE this story, and the writing is *chef kiss* perfection! No spoilers, but here’s a snippet of McGuire’s writing, in particular, the last line made me laugh: 

‘Surely the house comes with garbage service, one more question she should probably have asked before coming here, one more mystery to unravel. Most of life’s mysteries are boring ones, she’s found, barely worthy of the name. Maybe there was another word for those little, boring enigmas once, but it’s been lost. The English language undergoes constant simplification, words escaping and running home to their root languages with dire tales of their time held captive by the American tongue.’

‘Quiet Dead Things’ – Cassandra Khaw 

‘Something Like Living Creatures’ – by  John Langan

‘Money of the Dead’ – by Karen Heuler – Creepy Good! 

I love the setup and tone in this snippet of the opening paragraph, and of course, the story: 

‘Each floor had a slightly different odor, created—Stella on the fourth floor once told Laura—by the skin cells they each shed every day over the decades. She said that the cells stuck to the walls and produced an odd stippling effect after a fresh paint. There would be the smell of paint for a week, and then the old smells would creep back like spiders repairing their webs.’

‘Hag’ – by  Benjamin Percy – LOVE! 

‘“You can’t go already,” it said. “Not until we’ve played,”….’

[I]t’s in the winter—when the wind sharpened with ice, when the shadows lengthened, and the island was at its most desperate….’

‘Take Me, I Am Free’ – by Joyce Carol Oates –Oh, My! So Very Dark!

‘The mistake must have been, the child woke too soon from her afternoon nap.’

‘Really she knew better….’

‘A Trip to Paris’ – by Richard Kadrey – Whoa—Love This One!

‘How could she possibly have forgotten a date like that, she wondered. But she forgave herself because there had been so much to think about since her husband and children left…And in filling the silence, it felt as if she’d broken a dark spell that h surrounded her for the previous three hundred and sixty-five days. She took a long breath and twirled on the burner under the kettle. There was time for a cup of tea before she had to be at church.’

‘The Party’ – by Paul Tremblay

‘Refinery Road’ – by Stephen Graham Jones – In A Word—WOW! And, My Heart! 

‘Special Meal’ – by Josh Malerman

‘Sooner or Later, Your Wife Will Drive Home’ – by Genevieve Valentine

‘Tiptoe’ – by Laird Barron – Creepy Good! 

‘Skinder’s Veil’ – by Kelly Link – Bizarre, but in a good way. I look forward to a reread of this one! 

Thank you, NetGalley and Titan Books, for providing me with an eBook of WHEN THINGS GET DARK at the request of an honest review.
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Shirley Jackson has inspired a number of authors in a multitude of ways. Ellen Datlow has deliberately gathered 18 stories that tune into one Shirley Jackson vibe or another. "Special Meal" reminds me of "The Lottery" while "For Sale By Owner" just seems to inhabit a space infused with the milieu of Jackson's brand of domestic horror. Now "In the Deep Woods, The Light is Different," Tiptoe," and "Skinder's Veil" embrace her domestic horror infused with fantasy and fairy tales. There is enough choices in this volume to satisfy most readers who are looking for horror that chills rather than splatters.
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Anthologies are tough because inevitably some stories will be stronger than others. That being said, this one has a LOT of strong stories that are definitely going to stick with me. I see myself buying a copy of this one so that I can go back and read my favorites for sure. I really liked the one about the older women camping in the abandoned house but also the story that seemed to have three woven into it all with variations on the name "Elizabeth". There's definitely a lot of creepy stuff in this one, and the more I sit and think about it, the more creepy bits I remember. I think this collection would make Shirley Jackson proud. And math is going to haunt me now. That is all.
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Don't think I've ever requested anything so quickly as I did this collection of short horror stories inspired by Shirley Jackson (my queen) and it did NOT disappoint. With 18 short stories compiled by Ellen Datlow, this is an excellently creepy and unsettling anthology and an absolute must-have for horror fans.

I doubt I'll ever give an anthology five whole stars because there's always gonna be some styles n stories that don't work for you personally, but this was one of the best I've read yet. 

My personal standouts are:

For Sale By Owner - Elizabeth Hand
A Hundred Miles and a Mile - Carmen Maria Machado
Skindler's Veil - Kelly Link
Sooner or Later, Your Wife Will Drive You Home - Genevieve Valentine

Don't think there was any that I actively disliked, and you can see the influence from Jackson throughout the anthology. A very good time.

Huge thanks to NetGalley, Titan Books, and the authors for the e-ARC. Available now and highly recommended!
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TW: Cheating, cutting, suicide, blood, murder, divorce, alcoholism, drug abuse child death, animal death

About the book:A collection of new and exclusive short stories inspired by, and in tribute to, Shirley Jackson.Shirley Jackson is a seminal writer of horror and mystery fiction, whose legacy resonates globally today. Chilling, human, poignant and strange, her stories have inspired a generation of writers and readers.This anthology, edited by legendary horror editor Ellen Datlow, will bring together today’s leading horror writers to offer their own personal tribute to the work of Shirley Jackson.Featuring Joyce Carol Oates, Josh Malerman, Paul Tremblay, Richard Kadrey, Stephen Graham Jones, Elizabeth Hand, Cassandra Khaw, Karen Heuler, Benjamin Percy, John Langan, Laird Barron, M. Rickert, Seanan McGuire, and Genevieve Valentine.
Release Date: 09/21/21
Genre: Horror/thriller short stories
Pages: 382

What I Liked:
• I love Shirley Jackson
• I love how I can hear Shirley Jackson inside the stories
• Some grear writers in this book

What I Didn't Like:
• Some of the authors missed the mark
• Some stories were only a few pages

Overall Thoughts: I am a huge fan of Shirley Jackson. This book is absolutely adorable. There are glasses all over that are a signature look for Shirley Jackson. The stories just flow and the writing for some of them is beautiful. There were definitely some stand out writers that charmed me and I will be reading more or some stuff from them.
1. Joyce Carol Oates
2. Elizabeth Hand
3. John Langan
4. Benjamin Percy
5. Josh Malerman

Paul Tremblay writes this interesting and engaging story only to leave you with this vague ending. Honestly, I have zero idea what he was trying to do here. And now I'll never know if the world is going to end tomorrow or why they were looking at her.

Genevieve Valentine.....uhhhh what? Where did this story even go?

Final Thoughts: Like any short story collection, there is always some hit or misses. I felt like for the most part I liked most of the stories. Some just went no where and I was like "okay.." I'm so happy I read this collection though because I found some authors I had never heard of before that I ended up loving and needing to read more from them.
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The best part of When Things Get Dark: Stories Inspired by Shirley Jackson isn’t that it has Jackson’s name on it. That honor goes to the authors whose stories were selected by Ellen Datlow because they truly showcase Jackson’s inspiration. As an editor who has done much for short-form writing, the care with which Datlow has chosen these pieces is evident. Literature is a conversation, one that transverses time, and these stories add to the discourse. While all of these tales shine, and different readers will appreciate different stories, here are five favorites.

“Funeral Birds” by M. Rickert, “For Sale By Owner” by Elizabeth Hand, “A Hundred Miles and a Mile” by Carmen Maria Machado, “Skinder’s Veil” by Kelly Link,

Other favorites include “In the Deep Woods, the Light is Different There” by Seanan McGuire and “Refinery Road” by Stephen Graham Jones. If you’re new to Shirley Jackson or if you’ve read everything she published, this amalgamation of imaginations is well worth it.
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Great collection of stories! Most kept my attention and are perfect for spooky season. I'll read again around Halloween
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"When Things Get Dark" is an anthology of well written short stories all in tribute to the author Shirley Jackson. As with all anthologies there are some I love, others that entertain and some that don't really work. But this is a collection not to be missed!

I found at most two or three that could have been better but for the vast majority they were fantastic with some really notable mentions:
1. The Door in the Fence - Jeffrey Ford
2. Pear of Anguish - Gemma Files
3. Special Meal - Josh Malerman

If you enjoy your short stories with a touch of dark and deeply imaginative then this is a must read.
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Another reliably wonderful anthology by Ellen Datlow - I've lost count of how many I've read. I didn't uniformly love every story, but many were brilliant, and the collection overall created the dark, unbalancing effect that made it a fittting tribute to Shirley Jackson.
Standouts were: For Sale by Owner by Elizabeth Hand, about three middle-aged women who decide to sleep over in an empty for-sale house. It's subtle, creepy and involves a cohort that is often ignored in dark fiction; Money of the Dead by Karen Heuler, which plays with the horror and hope of having a loved one returned from the dead; and Tiptoe by Laird Barron, who I always love. Also Seanan McGuire's, because I don't think I've ever read a short story by her that I didn't love.
I use these as writing samples to look for more work by the authors, as well as enjoying them in their own right.
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I am genuinely impressed by the way this collection invokes the spirit of Shirley Jackson. So many of the stories read as if they might have come from her pen, so seamlessly do they fit into the dark atmosphere engendered by stories such as <a href="">The Haunting Of Hill House</a>, The Lottery and <a href="">We Have Always Lived In The Castle</a>. This is a book of repressed women with unspeakable secrets; of insular communities with murderous tendencies; of finding both oppression and release in the supernatural -- all hallmarks of that master of quiet, furious dread.

Despite that commonality, the eighteen stories here each stand as distinct entities. While the ones set in the past (or, as in Genevieve Valentine's kaleidoscopic Sooner Or Later, Your Wife Will Drive Home, a number of eras) evoke more closely Ms Jackson's mid-20th-century aesthetic, the modern tales feel like a natural carrying over of her work into the 21st century, where her themes are anything but alien. That said, perhaps my favorite story in this collection -- for non-personal reasons anyway -- is Tiptoe by Laird Barron, about a child of the 60s who tries to grapple with the family secrets that continue to haunt him decades later. One of the most overtly supernatural and creepy offerings here, the image of adult Greg playing the "game" will stay indelibly in my mind.

My personal personal favorite was Gemma Files' Pear Of Anguish. Idk if it's adolescent girls especially who are susceptible to the building of these reality-bending paracosms -- or if it's just that those of us who built them are more open about fictionalizing or even discussing them as adults than our counterparts of other genders -- but I felt the strange, destructive relationship between Imogen and Una in my bones. I also really enjoyed the many stories within the story that is Kelly Link's Skinder's Veil, almost more than the whole itself, which I felt was somewhat let down by its ending: more's the pity as this is the story that also completes the book. 

Elizabeth Hand's For Sale By Owner, in contrast, had a very strong ending, even if I really did want to know more about what Rose saw. The ending of Stephen Graham Jones' Refinery Road was also strong, capping a very satisfying entry: similarly with the almost cheerful resignation that closes Richard Kadrey's A Trip To Paris. Carmen Maria Machado's beautifully constructed A Hundred Miles And A Mile also had the benefit of feeling like a close homage to a famous episode from Eleanor's drive to Hill House. I wonder whether reading more of Ms Jackson's oeuvre would have helped me spot other subtle influences in the rest of the stories here. But even my passing knowledge of her work impressed on me not only how she could inspire an entire aesthetic, but also how deeply influential she continues to be in the horror, speculative fiction and psychological thriller genres.

Kudos as always must go to Ellen Datlow for not only thinking to do an anthology based on Ms Jackson's work, but also for doing such an excellent job curating it. Nearly all the stories are outstanding: I'm sure I would only appreciate them further were I more familiar with the rest of Ms Jackson's bibliography.

When Things Get Dark edited by Ellen Datlow was published September 21 2021 by Titan Books and is available from all good booksellers, including <a href="">Bookshop!</a>
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Thank you NetGalley for this book.

I’m not a short story collection person. I try again and again, but I just can’t get into them. Well, that all changed with this book. Maybe it’s just horror collections that I need to read. I love Stephen King’s. And I’ve been trying to read more thanks to the encouragement of the Books in the Freezer podcast, who has mentioned Ellen Datlow several times. So, when I saw this on NetGalley, I figured it was worth a try. And I’m so glad because there wasn’t a single miss in this entire collection.

From Goodreads: Legendary editor, Ellen Datlow, collects today’s best horror writers in tribute to the genius of Shirley Jackson. Featuring Joyce Carol Oates, Josh Malerman, Paul Tremblay, Richard Kadrey, Stephen Graham Jones, Elizabeth Hand, and more.

A collection of new and exclusive short stories inspired by, and in tribute to, Shirley Jackson.

Shirley Jackson is a seminal writer of horror and mystery fiction, whose legacy resonates globally today. Chilling, human, poignant, and strange, her stories have inspired a generation of writers and readers.

This anthology, edited by legendary horror editor Ellen Datlow, will bring together today’s leading horror writers to offer their own personal tribute to the work of Shirley Jackson.

Featuring Joyce Carol Oates, Josh Malerman, Paul Tremblay, Richard Kadrey, Stephen Graham Jones, Elizabeth Hand, Cassandra Khaw, Karen Heuler, Benjamin Percy, John Langan, Laird Barron, M. Rickert, Seanan McGuire, and Genevieve Valentine.

I’m not well-versed in Shirley Jackson. I love The Lottery (click on the link to read. First published in 1948) and was fortunate enough to teach it, as well. My students LOVED it. And I’ve read The Haunting of Hill House, but that’s about it. I definitely need to branch out. That said, anything inspired by her must be amazing. Every time I started a new story, I thought there was no way this one was going to be as good as the rest. I was wrong. They were all outstanding. Josh Malerman’s was my favorite (not a shock. I love his work). But really, each and every one of them was sufficiently creepy. This collection is a must-read for horror fans.
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Didn't capture my attention and engagement through out the entire book.. Interested in trying it again though and hopefully it will take.
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This collection was ok. I didn’t particularly love it, or hate it. There were a few good stories and then some I didn’t care for. It was slightly disappointing because I expected more horror, especially with the authors listed. My favorite out of the bunch was by Josh Malerman. Overall the book was alright, nothing special, and lacking a lot of horror elements.
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This short story collection scratched all of my spooky season itches in the best possible way. I found every one of them creepy and entertaining. If you enjoy shivering while reading, I highly recommend this book.
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Thank you to NetGalley and Titan Books for this ARC.  I’m deeply grateful.
#NetGalley #TitanBooks #ShirleyJackson

Full disclosure and this will be unpopular…I’m not a huge Shirley Jackson fan.  I definitely respect her skills as a writer and recognize her contribution to horror and the haunted house subgenre, which is my very favorite genre in any media.  I don’t always love the choices she makes in her stories or her very distinctive writing style. Two of my favorite horror writers are featured here.  Paul Tremblay and Stephen Graham Jones were the big draw to this book that Shirley Jackson wasn’t.  Having gotten that out of the way, I absolutely loved that she inspired the stories that went into this anthology.  As I said before, her influence can’t be denied.
Jones and Tremblay were, unsurprisingly, the best parts of the book.  I can’t help it.  “The Party”by Paul Tremblay contains wonderful characters.  This is a feature all of his work has in common and makes him one of my favorites.  Stephen Graham Jones’ writing style is distinctive in a way that I love.  His story bent reality in the best way as always.  Elizabeth Hand's ``For Sale By Owner” was superb and centered around a haunted house.  It was better than Jackson’s iteration on the genre.  
I loved them all.  Even the worst one was disturbing in the best way.
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I just go straight to the point with this one - it was a pleasant surprise to say the least. It's not often that a book makes me feel creeped out or even scared. But this one did. There were few times, that I had to put this book down, just because I started to be afraid. So, as horror/paranormal book it definitely did it's job. To be honest all of this book gave a gothic/ eery feeling and I love books like this.
There were only few stories, that were too strange or too boring for me, that's why I couldn't give it 5 stars. But now I'm intrigued to see what else majority of the authors have written and will be definitely reading more of their work.
What a gem, I'm so glad I have picked it up. Definitely recommend reading it - you won't be dissapointed.
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As with many anthologies, this one had some hits and misses. There were quite a few I really enjoyed, while others left me scratching my head. I love Ellen Datlow's editing. She certainly has a recognizable style. She's the reason I was anticipating this book quite highly. Unfortunately, the theme itself is what got me. I do think the authors did a fair job, overall, of paying stylistic and thematic tribute to Shirley Jackson. Buuuuut (don't kill me, ya'll), I never really got on board with SJ. *hides* I'm one of those people who just did not *get* The Haunting of Hill House. And this did feel like her style, which is why I found myself bored partway through. I took a long break before picking up the anthology again. conclusion, this anthology did precisely what it set out to do. I just didn't love it as much as I hoped I would, because I was only really excited about one of the two important aspects to the anthology (editor, theme).

Thank you Titan Boooks for providing a free advanced e-book in exchange for an honest review.
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