“Paula Guran has curated an anthology that could do more for mummy fiction than anything in the past decade, and is sure to bind and capture the imaginations of readers.”
Paula Guran is one of the best editors working today in the field of genre fiction, particularly in dark fantasy and horror. Her themed and Year’s Best anthologies showcase some of the best fiction available, and in The Mammoth Book of the Mummy: 19 Tales of the Immortal Dead, Guran goes outside the box of the traditional spook-show Universal mummy and includes stories of every facet of fiction, including quite a few tales that blur the lines between genres, delving into full-fledged mash-ups.
Guran welcomes readers in with a well-researched introduction to the mummy, ‘My Mouth Has Been Given to Me That I May Speak’, that clearly shows her passion for this subject. With a goal of providing ‘a breath of fresh air in the mummy genre’ with this anthology, Guran has curated a strong Table of Contents to do just that.
In ‘Private Grave 9’, author Karen Joy Fowler pulls readers into the anthology by delivering a story that sets the stage for this non-traditional anthology. Haunted by their discovery of an entombed princess and badgered by an upstart young murder mystery writer, the archaeologists feel pressures mount as Howard Carter starts pulling gold from the ground at nearby Tut’s tomb. With exquisite prose and pacing, Fowler unspools tension as a true master of the short story.
Nominated for a Shirley Jackson Award, Robert Sharp’s ‘The Good Shabti’ takes readers from a slave’s experiences in the court of King Mentuhotep to a Crichton-esque sci-fi future where science is being used to give new life to the dead. Fascinating in story and tone, Sharp carries readers through two fascinating worlds to an unexpected and deeply satisfying conclusion.
Angela Slatter’s ‘Egyptian Revival’ is a great private eye story, flipping the gender of the detective and engaging the reader in a 1950s world where Egyptian gods are back in fashion, and resurrection is something that can be traded … or stolen. With tight prose, a great set of characters, and a knack for blending the fantastic with the intriguing, Slatter’s story is a whole lot of fun.
‘The Queen in Yellow’ uses the time-traveling science fiction characters of author Kage Bakers The Company series. This one plays with a lot of the more traditional mummy tropes, and using a tomb-raiding, 1920s Egypt as setting and flavor for a story of cyborgs and time-travelers feels a little like a Star Trek:TNG holodeck episode. It’s a great introduction to Baker’s larger body of work, but not one of the strongest stories in the anthology.
John Langan is a horror writer who’s made a career of taking traditional monsters and turning them on their heads. With his response to the mummy genre, ‘On Skua Island,’ Langan knocks it out of the park with a deeply unsettling tale of a cursed body buried in a bog on an island outside the Shetlands, and its impact on one man who still carries the fear of that experience. A great story, and one that works as a palate cleanser for a reader between tales of Egypt.
‘Ramesses on the Frontier’ is a strange genre smash-up from author Paul Cornell, with a mummy’s waking in a tourist attraction museum and his journey across a surreal United States towards an afterlife. Cornell was a writer of Dr. Who, and this story shares a similar vibe. Funny, bizarre, and sweet, this addition to the anthology is charming and unexpected.
In one of the creepier tales of the anthology, Australian horror author and fantasist Terry Dowling’s ‘The Shaddowwes Box’ is steeped in the intrigues and morals of Egyptologists, and upsetting clockwork. Dowling’s dark imagination fills this story with strangeness, and has a wonderfully ghoulish ending that will make horror fans grin.
In ‘Egyptian Avenue’ by author Kim Newman, a tomb leaking sand and beetles sends Richard Jeperson, agent of Newman’s entertaining Diogenes Club, on a supernatural adventure. Long time readers of Newman’s world will enjoy this entry, and new readers might go running for Newman’s backlist if they’ve never heard of the occult mystery series. A solid entry, and a fun read.
Gail Carriger, author of the Parasol Protectorate series of Victorian-era urban fantasy stories, offers up an amusing story with the amazing title of ‘The Curious Case of the Werewolf That Wasn’t, the Mummy that Was, and the Cat in the Jar.’ Carriger’s characters can seem cartoony at times, but with monsters and mayhem in the heyday of the British Empire, all of it seems to work. Another fun read, if a little lighter than the others.
‘The Night Comes On’ by Steve Duffy is an interesting take on the idea of cursed objects and academics with no regard for those curses. Duffy’s prose can be a little dense, but it is filled with ideas and concrete elements that really bring the history to life … and the thing in the crate.
Stephen Graham Jones tells a story of dark deeds and dark revenge in ‘American Mummy.’ Like an episode of Tales from the Crypt, Jones delivers a solidly creepy story with just the right twist of the knife at the end. Great build-up of suspense, and filled with great reveals, Jones is a master of short fiction.
Outrageous and darkly hilarious, ‘Bubba Ho-Tep’ is one of Joe R. Lansdale’s more notorious stories that crackles from the page. It starts off like a story you’d overhear in a bar–So, Elvis is in this nursing home in Texas, right? And his buddy’s this old guy who thinks he’s JFK and his brain is running on batteries at the White House. Then there’s Egyptian hieroglyphs of dirty jokes, and a sassy nurse, and a mummy … and gets crazier and crazier. Lansdale is a brilliant writer, fearless and utterly unique, and this mummy story is unlike any other.
‘Fruit of the Tomb: A Midnight Louie Past Life Adventure’ by Carole Nelson Douglas is quirky, and kind of a hard sell to This Is Horror readers. If the concept of a cat detective dealing with the supernatural is your thing, you’ve come to the right place, but you’d better have a high tolerance for puns. Could be charming to the right audience, though.
In ‘The Chapter of Coming Forth by Night,’ authors Lois Tilton & Noreen Doyle explain a forgotten epilogue to the Book of the Dead–new instructions for what comes after. This is a darkly delightful tale, expanding upon myth and legend to shed new light on the secrets of the mummy.
Norman Partridge, a master of horror, comes in swinging with ‘The Mummy’s Heart.’ This one is genuinely scary, a Halloween nightmare come to life. Partridge is always worth a read, and if this anthology gets him more followers, they won’t be disappointed.
‘The Emerald Scarab’ by Keith Taylor blends the mystery and mysticism of mummification with the enchantment of ancient Egypt. It follows Archpriest Kamose, follower of Anubis, and a stolen jeweled scarab. An entertaining story, filled with rich details.
In Helen Marshall’s ‘The Embalmer,’ a kid with an interest in embalming–not the modern-day techniques involving chemicals, but the ancient Egyptian techniques he learned from a museum–goes a little too far in this creepy, modern horror story. Marshall is one of the recent stars of weird fiction and horror, and this story shines like a dark jewel.
‘Tolland’ by Adam Roberts is an alternative-history monster story. It’s strange, imaginative, and a wild ride. Roberts is great at pacing his story, but there’s a learning curve to get into the world the author has created. A very interesting take on the mummy, for sure.
With ‘Three Memories of Death’, author Will Hill wraps up the anthology with a beautifully-written story of the relationship between a pharaoh and the man who will finish the burial rites. Fascinating, and filled with details about mummification, it’s a strong story to complete a strong anthology.
The Mammoth Book of the Mummy is an impressive tome, full of writers that may or may not be familiar names, and a good sampling of their work. Paula Guran has curated an anthology that could do more for mummy fiction than anything in the past decade, and is sure to bind and capture the imaginations of readers.
Publisher: Prime Books
Paperback (480 pp)
Release Date: 21 March 2017
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