★★★★★ 4.5 Stars
This monstrous beauty compiles Poe’s entire (dead) body of work – a lasting piece of written silver and obsidian, still as dark and haunting as it was over a century ago. We all know Poe. Poe’s influence is as far-reaching as that of the thematically similar Grimms or even Carroll’s Alice. The ghosts and creatures of his imagination still float powerfully through the culture, and continues to earn respect for horror and poetry as literature.
His stories explore primal and preternatural fears with wit and eloquence. Being trapped, being driven to insanity and not knowing if the horror you see is real or hallucination, being face to face with the grim reaper. They are not necessarily formulaic – some begin as an average event and descend so gradually into madness. Some begin on an already dark note and only get creepier.
Personal favourite is “Masque of the Red Death”, about a group of influential and wealthy people sheltering themselves in a ballroom while the town below dies of plague, that is, until the plague himself arrives in person.
Some other favourites, “The Black Cat”, “The Tell Tale Heart”, “Fall of the House of Usher”, and “The Conqueror Worm”.
These are in public domain, but in my opinion is well-worth having a beautiful bound copy of. I also highly recommend the illustrated editions by Gris Grimly (under the title “Tales of Mystery and Madness”).