The Doll Collection by Ellen Datlow

Synopsis: The Doll Collection is exactly what it sounds like: a treasured toy box of all-original dark stories about dolls of all types, including everything from puppets and poppets to mannequins and baby dolls. Featuring everything from life-sized clockwork dolls to all-too-human Betsy Wetsy-type baby dolls, these stories play into the true creepiness of the doll trope, but avoid the clichés that often show up in stories of this type.Master anthologist Ellen Datlow has assembled a list of beautiful and terrifying stories from bestselling and critically acclaimed authors such as Joyce Carol Oates, Seanan McGuire, Carrie Vaughn, Pat Cadigan, Tim Lebbon, Richard Kadrey, Genevieve Valentine, and Jeffrey Ford. The collection is illustrated with photographs of dolls taken by Datlow and other devoted doll collectors from the science fiction and fantasy field. The result is a star-studded collection exploring one of the most primal fears of readers of dark fiction everywhere, and one that every reader will want to add to their own collection.

Review: How not to be attracted to this anthology? I think it is impossible. The dolls can represent so many things, especially when the subject matter remains horror. I was so eager to get into the book to read and discover how each author was able to stage these very intriguing objects. Moreover, each image in the beginning of the stories allows us to have a little insight and to put us in the mood for the next writer.

Skin and bone – Tim Lebbon
I did not know the author but I admit that I was curious to discover his history. From the beginning, placing the characters in the desolate world of ice immediately put us in the mood and shows us dolls as we never have seen them. Without knowing if everything is real or not. A good story. 4/5

Heroes and Villains – Stephen Gallagher
Here we have a much sinister atmosphere, much less horror but yet a different doll, a puppet that is more than she seems to appear and a ventriloquist who is not really one. 3/5

The Doll Master – Joyce Carol Oates
Here is another strange story, starring a young sick boy and who does not realize the harm he does around him. The author plays on two perfect psychological tables, leaving us with many questions. 3.5 / 5

Gaze – Gemma Files
Gemma Files presents dolls in a different form. The glass eyes used, old eyes now have much value. But while our heroine is interested in all this, she will dive back into the past and discover more than what she thought. 3.5 / 5

In Case of Zebras – Pat Cadigan
This time we follow a story about effigies and more specifically about a woman who discovers the existence of voodoo dolls in a hospital. It was interesting to see exactly the interest of the young woman for these objects. 4/5

There is no place for sorrow in the kingdom of the cold – Seanan McGuire
I love Seanan McGuire. Her stories are always a real treat to follow so I was curious to discover this little novella. I admit that I loved her idea, a person who can create dolls so she can put her emotions into the hosts she creates. It was a truly original story and I was easily carried away by all. 4.5 / 5

Goodness and Kindness – Carrie Vaughn
Here is another author that I like and another story that I enjoyed. Something dark, a man, a reporter who will understand that his actions are not always the best to follow. And with dolls, he will realize that he needs to change something. 4.5 / 5

Daniel’s Theory about Dolls – Stephen Graham Jones
Here is a dark and sad story of two brothers, dolls and death. The author has managed to create a really strange atmosphere throughout history while we try to understand what is happening. 4/5

After Before and Back – Miranda Siemienowicz
I had a little trouble to get into the story and to really understand what was happening so I admit I wasn’t really interested this time … 2/5

Doctor Faustus – Mary Robinette Kowal
I think that we find here the shortest story in the anthology. Everything is pretty fast and suddenly it’s true that I had trouble placing the universe, but it was pretty cool to read it. 3/5

Doll Court – Richard Bowes
What would happen if we were judged for the actions that we had in relation to dolls realized in the past? If a court were assembled to choose what we would deserve? And if all this was happening in our dreams with repercussions in real life? A very interesting story. 4/5

Lovely Visit Cornwall on the Western Railway Line – Genevieve Valentine
Here we follow a young girl with her doll … a person making a train journey with her puppet and all those with whom she interacts. 3/5

Ambitious boys like you – Richard Kadrey
Here’s a pretty dark story involving two people who decide to rob a supposed old haunted house and which contains hundreds of dolls … Unfortunately they do not expect to find someone stronger than them. 3.5 / 5

Miss Sybil Cassandra – Lucy Sussex
The novel is presented in a very different form. I think this is the first time that I find a novella in the form of emails and letters. It is quite rare and not very used and so an interesting format. 3/5

The permanent collection – Veronica Schanoes
We discover a different hospital, yes because it contains dolls and here we follow a particular doll that finally presents a bit of her life. 3/5

Homemade Monsters – John Langan
We follow a young boy with an undeniable talent for creating things, including his favorite Godzilla monster. But it is also a story of boys, friendship and revenge. 3.5 / 5

Word Doll – Jeffrey Ford
And that’s the last story, a very nice indeed. A former museum of dolls, a man who visits after 20 years of inattention and interesting myths that we discover the words of the owner. 4/5




25 thoughts on “The Doll Collection by Ellen Datlow

  1. I rarely read anthologies because it takes a lot for me to get emotionally invested, but aren’t dolls just incredibly creepy? There was a YA book years ago, I think it was called Bad Girls Don’t Cry, with possessed dolls and I never really forgot them.

  2. That cover is so creepy! Every time I see it is gives me the chills. *shudders*

    It sounds like though, that you really liked this collection of stories, some better than others like it always goes but that it wasn’t a bad collection.

  3. Hm, the stories sound good, but I don’t really like dolls. *Shivers* I didn’t even like them as a kid, my mother tells me I was hiding them out of sight, lol :)) But as protagonists in books, yes, there’s definitely potential there. Another great post!

  4. I hate dolls! Especially the antique porcelein ones with real hair *goosebumps*.

    This is too creepy for me, I love horror but dolls are my clowns, if you know what I mean.

    P.S. Sorry I’ve been MIA, I had techincal difficulties.

  5. I have this one and I’m still planning to get to it one of these days! I think dolls are like the scariest things ever and I can’t stand them, which will probably make this one a real creepy read for me (and I like that!)

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