This latest anthology published by Subterranean Press proved to be an interesting read. Contrary to what the title implies, however, not all short stories are dark fantasy. Then again, the line which separates the various fantasy subgenres has become so blurred in recent years that all the short fiction contained within the pages of Subterranean: Tales of Dark Fantasy might just be dark fantasy after all.
The short stories showcased in this anthology are as disparate in style and tone as the authors who wrote them. Poppy Z. Brite, Mike Resnick, Joe R. Lansdale, Tim Powers, Rachel Swirsky, Darren Speegle, Caitlin R. Kiernan, William Browning Spencer, Kage Baker, Mike Carey, and Patrick Rothfuss have vastly different and discordant voices, which ensures that every single piece has its own "flavor." And it's this wide variety that makes Subterranean: Tales of Dark Fantasy an enjoyable reading experience.
As is the case with any SFF anthology, some short stories are more memorable than others. Though I didn't dislike any piece per se, "It Washed Up" by Joe R. Lansdale is the only one which completely failed to make an impression on me.
While I felt that Brite's "The Gulf," Swirsky's "Monstrous Embrace," and Resnick's "Alastair Baffle's Emporium of Wonders" were less inspired and thus left a little to be desired, I fully enjoyed Power's time-traveling "The Hour of Babel," Speegle's "The Lunatic Miss Teak," Kiernan's "The Steam Dancer (1896), and Baker's "Caverns of Mystery." Spencer's "Penguins of the Apocalypse" just might be the weirdest thing I've read in quite a while. The clash between the Muslim religion and Western culture appears to have been the inspiration behind Carey's "Face," which I liked quite a bit.
As a matter of course, the anthology's pièce de résistance is Patrick Rothfuss' "The Road to Levinshir," a portion of which will appear in the forthcoming The Wise Man's Fear. It shows an older, more mature Kvothe, and is a totally self-contained tale. Needless to say, it should whet your appetite for the sequel to The Name of the Wind!
All in all, the contrasting writing styles of the various contributors guarantee that there is something for everyone in Subterranean: Tales of Dark Fantasy.
The final verdict: 7.25/10