The Mammoth Book of the Mummy, edited by genre stalwart Paula Guran, collects together 19 stories (in which we get a decent variation on the book’s theme) about mummies – Egyptian and otherwise – including three new tales. There is a mouth-watering array of authors on display, including Karen Joy Fowler, Kim Newman, Stephen Graham Jones, Joe Lansdale, John Langan, Helen Marshall, and Angela Slatter.
Of all the genre tropes – or themes to base an anthology on – mummies is probably the one that I have the least interest in. Much as I’m interested in history, the Egyptian era feels a little too distant to appeal, and I’ve never found the mummy films particularly frightening or engaging. So I went into the book with low expectations and not a great deal of enthusiasm. And to its credit, the book was a pleasant surprise, containing several great stories and wide enough variation to prevent them theme from becoming boring.
The book opens with a very interesting introduction from the editor. Guran sets out her intentions and gives us a fascinating overview of the history of the mummy, both in fact and fiction. She even illustrates how the transition occurred from fact to fiction, and what triggered the public’s interest in Egyptian mummies. The introduction also sets out Guran’s justification for choosing the stories, and her attempts to offer tales not just focused on Egyptian mummies, and she also generously provides an overview of other mummy anthologies and offers recommendations for further reading. However it’s fair to say that there is a rather uneven quality to the stories. Some simply did not work for me at all. But I’d put that down to my tastes, rather than the stories themselves, because there was nothing particular wrong with them, and they were originally published in auspicious magazines and anthologies. My favourites were from John Langan, Stephen Graham Jones, Helen Marshall, Joe Lansdale, Kim Newman, Norman Partridge, and Steve Duffy. The book is worth it for the SGJ story alone. It’s difficult to say that this collection is an essential entry into the already extensive genre anthologies that are published each year, but the stories that really worked for me really worked, and there were only one or two that I had previously read, so you may enjoy this is you’re looking for something quite different to the usual fare.