Length: 320 pages
Rating: 4 stars
Publication Date: December 6th 2016
One house, five hauntings, five chilling stories.
Five Stories High is a collection of five novellas each set in the same house – Irongrove Lodge. This five storey Georgian mansion, once a grand detached property, has now been split into five apartments. This is a building with history, the very bricks and grounds imbued with the pasts of those who have walked these corridors, lived in these rooms.
Five extraordinary writers open the doors, revealing ghosts both past and present in a collection that promises to be as intriguing as it is terrifying.
Five Stories High is an anthology edited by Jonathan Oliver that features five horror novellas written by five different authors all set in the same house, a huge mansion called Irongrove Lodge. The stories are loosely linked together by interludes written by Jonathan Oliver. However, since it took me several weeks to read this, I didn’t really pay attention to the interludes and I read the stories as standalones.
I am not a huge horror fan, I don’t especially like horror movies but oddly, I like horror short stories quite a bit and I would like to read more of them so when I saw that Solaris was coming out with this anthology, I was very intrigued. I was especially looking forward reading Tade Thompson and Nina Allan’s stories.
As usual with anthologies, not every single story is going to work for you but, as anthologies go, this one was very strong. Two of the stories were outstanding, one was really good and the other two were interesting enough to be worth a read. My two favorite were Gnaw by Tade Thompson and Skin Deep by Sarah Lotz and I would highly recommend this anthology for those two alone.
Maggots by Nina Allan 4*
Willy Randle is a happy young man raised by a loving family, he has a wonderful and caring girlfriend, he is studying at university. He’s promised to a great future.. until the day his aunt, Claire, vanishes for a few instants. When she comes back, Willy is persuaded that something is wrong with her somehow, but he’s the only one who seems to see it. He then starts a quest to find who or what his aunt really is.
It was fascinating little story, extremely well paced and hard to put down. It felt very different from The Harlequin, another novella written by Nina Allan that I read and reviewed last year, the writing was as good but the tone was completely different. It was slow paced but it never was boring, on the contrary. Subtle and eerie, it is definitely one of the best novella I read this year.
Priest’s Hole by K.J. Parker 3*
Following a character who can shapeshift and whose work is to pretend to be other people providing them with alibi when they need them, this story was my least favorite of the collection. Mind you, I wasn’t expecting much from it after reading two other novellas by Parker and I think that I enjoyed this novella the most out of his other works.
Parker is just “not my style”, I find that all his main characters tend to look the same and I am not necesseraly a fan of his writing style. I find it a bit all over the place and his pacing is definitely odd to say the least. Also I think the plot of this story was reminisent of The Last Witness in the sense that both main characters seems to loose their own identity toward the end. If you enjoyed The Last Witness, Priest’s Hole is going to a good read, if you didn’t well, don’t go into this story expecting a lot from it.
Gnaw by Tade Thompson 5*
Tara and Larry decide to buy and move in the house of their dream, Irongrove Lodge, with their two children. However, they soon realize that something really weird is happening in their house and that they might not be the only ones living here.
Sounds like déjà-vu ? However, what could have been a “I read that a hundred times before” story was so very well done that it really managed to grab my attention. Tade Thompson is a terrific writer, the writing, the pacing and the characters were on point. The relationships between all the family members felt real and I could identify with all the characters, including the “bad guys” which is pretty rare for me with this genre. This story is definitely one of the highlights of this collection.
The Best Story I Can Manage Under the Circumstances by Robert Shearman 3*
I don’t even know how to explain this one actually because it is pretty messed up. I will just say that it begins with a woman giving birth to a head.
Do I really need to say more? This story is insane, maybe a bit too much for me but at least, I can’t say that I ever read a similar story before. However, it didn’t grab me as much as the other stories and it is probably because it is a bit all over the place pacing-wise. I would still recommend it because as I said, it surprised me quite a bit, it’s the first time I read a Shearman story, but I definitely want to read other things by him now.
Skin Deep by Sarah Lotz 5*
This story has a very interesting structure because it is told from the perspective of many side characters and it is mainly following the aftermath of a crime committed in Irongrove Lodge. Malika and Robin just moved there when Robin started to get a bit too obsessed with it, so much so in fact, that it just got under his skin. Literally.
Another great story, I read this one very quickly because I really wanted to know what was going to happen next and, even if, in a way it was very predictable, the execution was so good that I didn’t mind at all!
So overall, I was pleasantly surprised by the collection, even if the stories were all set in the same place, they were all very different form one another and I definitely think that it is worth a read even if you don’t usually read horror stories! 🙂