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The Doll Collection
Edited by Ellen Datlow
Tor, $27.99, 351pp
Published: March 2015

Seventeen odd and creepy tales of dolls – the most freaking awesome anthology ever!  Warning:  This is not a collection of stories revolving around the cliché of the evil doll.  These stories often highlight the malevolence that lurks not in dolls, but in the human beings who interact with them.   This is an intriguing collection of stories by great authors with original ideas – each tale is well and strongly written and quite unique. 

Skin and Bone (Tim Lebbon):  Two buddies on an adventure in Antarctica discover a tent with two mannequin-like frozen people inside.  This is an excellent story of nightmares, hallucinations and madness. 

Heroes and Villains (Stephen Gallagher):  A professional ventriloquist arrives for a job interview at a local museum.  His job is to give a voice to a historic dummy that was found in the museum’s basement.  But who’s really being interviewed? 

The Doll-Master (Joyce Carol Oates):  A boy who collects dolls.  One of my favorites and oh so creepy!

Gaze (Gemma Files):  An antique dealer has an inlaid eye miniature with a slight flaw.  She’s contacted by a man who has the mate to hers.  In learning its history, she begins to see more than she expects. 

In Case of Zebras (Pat Cadigan):  The teenage girl, who was picked up for possession of pot, tells the story of her sentence to community service in the Tri-County emergency room.   An unconscious victim of a car accident is admitted and in his pocket is a perfect replica of a tiny man.  Although no one will admit it, the doll has a special purpose.  Can the girl find out its secret? 

There Is No Place for Sorrow in the Kingdom of the Cold (Seanan McGuire):  In this story, doll-making hobbyists call their dolls their “kids”.  If that doesn’t make you shudder, what happens to a controlling boyfriend who steals and ransoms this doll maker’s most treasured dolls will.  

Goodness and Kindness (Carrie Vaughn):  A reporter looking for a sensational story loses his girlfriend, starts drinking, loses his job, learns a life lesson.  And there are Kewpie dolls. Everywhere. 

Daniel’s Theory of Dolls (Stephen Graham Jones):  A lifetime of horror in 25 pages.  When Daniel was four years old, his mother miscarried his baby sister Janine.  A doll was buried in her grave.  Nearly 30 years later, Daniel’s dying brother discovers just how much the loss of Janine scarred his little brother (and himself).  I will have a lifetime of nightmares after reading this.
After and Back Before (Miranda Siemienowicz):  Children in a post-Apocalyptic world.  Clean Born fraternal twins born from a pregnant woman who lived through the blast, only to die in childbirth are resented by those born after the event. All are young survivors who work together while expecting to die.  Nasty, shocker ending. 

Doctor Faustus (Mary Robinette Kowal):  Preparing the stage for tomorrow’s marionette performance of Orson Welles, two set designers learn a disturbing and bloody lesson.   When painting an archaic banishing sigil, one misplaced dot and some spilled paint can mean the difference between life and death.  A mesmerizing tale where puppets can be used for defense.

Doll Court (Richard Bowes):  A dealer in antiquities picks up one of his sister’s old Debbie the Doll Detective Mystery books from childhood.  He starts to have dreams in which he is on trial for his crimes against dolls.  When one of his colleagues starts talking about Doll court, dreams and reality begin to converge. 

Visit Lovely Cornwall on the Western Railway Line (Genevieve Valentine):  The girl in the train car is all alone, except for her doll.  A series of random travelers see her, try to engage her: a professor’s new wife, a successful door-to-door War Bonds man, and you.   This is beautifully and vividly written.  It felt real.

Ambitious Boys Like You (Richard Kadrey):  This is a particularly nasty horror tale guaranteed to give you the shivers.  Two not-too-bright Texas boys think breaking into the nice home of a reclusive old hoarder will be easy pickings for some fast money.  The house itself is nice, but outside are hundreds of dolls nailed to the trees.  Are they watching?  Amazingly written imagery.

The Permanent Collection (Veronica Schanoes):  What happens to dolls after their owners pass on?  You take them to Nathan Coppelius at the doll hospital for care and refurbishment.  Unknown to his clientele, Nathan likes to perform weird experiments and surgeries on dolls – he appears to be the Josef Mengele of dolls.  This painful story is told by a well-loved Shirley Temple doll who has outlived her two girls and becomes part of his permanent collection.

Homemade Monsters (John Langan): A boy (and his active imagination) modifies an action figure to make his own improvised firing-breathing Godzilla doll.  Evil bully who’s terrorized the boy all his life finds the doll and destroys it.  Rage and grief make the boy assert himself.  Awesome story!  

Word Doll (Jeffrey Ford):  The author himself has the starring role in this tale of a strange little doll museum on the side of the road where he is the first visitor in 20 years.  The Word Doll Museum proprietress is an elderly woman anthropologist who tells him the strange and interesting cultural history of the Word Doll.  

Miss Sibyl-Cassandra (Lucy Sussex):  A rare and unique 200-year-old fortune-telling doll is up for auction by Sotheby’s.  The story is written through the letters (included as provenance with the auction item) between the original doll’s owner and her godmother.  A compelling story of how the fortunes told by the doll played out.  ~~  Marie Davis

For more collections edited by Ellen Datlow click here

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