FIVE STORIES HIGH edited by Jonathan Oliver

I’ve been reading the anthologies of Jonathan Oliver for several years. He has a great eye for talent and his books usually have a diverse and fascinating array of contributors. Five Stories High breaks from the standard format to include five novellas from some of the best speculative authors of today, all loosely set within the framing story of being linked to the same building.

As a ‘theme’ it’s quite a relaxed one. It’s obvious that the stories contained within the book are from the genre of ‘weird’ fiction, but the theme allows enough variation as to prevent the novellas feeling restricted by this. There’s a nice range of writing on offer – Maggots by Nina Allan, Priest’s Hole by KJ Parker, Gnaw by Tade Thompson, The Best Story I Can Manage in the Circumstances by Robert Shearman, and Skin Deep by Sarah Lotz.

The building, Irongrove Lodge, is mentioned in the interspersed notes, which offers some insight and background into the history of the dwelling. These snippets, too, help to create a rather unnerving foundation upon which the stories sit. The novella has always felt the perfect length for a horror tale, and the stories in this anthology maximise their potential. Whilst it’s fair to say that not every contribution worked for me, there’s still plenty here to enjoy. Nothing too outright scary, these are tales that probe around in the recesses of the subconscious, and I found myself thinking about them long after I had put the book down. Recommended.

Rating: 4 out of 5.
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