Uneven collection--the three star rating is on writing skill alone. I myself rarely venture into horror fiction, so my personal taste is a two star "it was okay." If you are looking for true sci-fi/fantasy and dislike horror, this is probably not the best collection. "Speculative" is a much better description, since a couple of these stories have neither fantasy nor science fiction. One way unique aspect is that many take on issues of race/nationality, somewhat unusual in the alternative fiction fields. Most of the time the horror/discomfort is built slowly, building on an uncomfortable and eerie tone. A couple involve abuse and violence. It's clear why Ellen Datlow is a horror editor and that she is gifted at finding talented horror writers."The Elephant Ironclads" an interesting revision of American West history; it appears elephants have taken on the role of horses in opening the west."Ardent Clouds" pure fiction. Volcano chasing camerawoman flies to a vulcanists' conference."Gather" an alternative world fiction of a fundamentalist like society. The main character seems to be somewhat simple--a "Lennie" in Of Mice and Men."Sonny Liston Takes the Fall" an alternative re-imaging of a great boxing match. Again, not really fantasy or sci-fi, but it was a very interesting story. A rare focus on African-Americans."North American Lake Monsters" a troubled family goes on a vacation and discovers a carcass on the beach."All Washed Up While Looking For a Better World" a woman washes up an an island and hopes for rescue, but the island is populated by non-humans. Things change when a human man is marooned as well."Special Economics" a Chinese girl looks for a job in the big city. Unfortunately, the job she takes is in a factory where it's easier to become indentured than earn money."Aka St. Mark's Place" another odd one, with more of a horror twist. A street boy, a girl with protective parents and another runaway cross paths."The Goosle" a horrific re-imagining of Hansel and Gretel. Well done and creepy."Shira" a graduate student at the University of Damascus searches for works by a poet who described "The Small Holocaust" before it happened, and has an unusual encounter. Sweet and enjoyable."The Passion of Azazel" a golem comes to life. Layered with many Jewish and Kabbalist cultural and religious references that would resonate more if I understood them. Felt like I was missing a lot of this story."The Lagerstatte" another fiction/horror story about a woman who is forgetting."Gladiolus Exposed" interesting, subtle fiction that bridges on horror. Pure fiction. A urologist and his wife take a weekend retreat where he finds a gladiolus."Daltharee" a very interesting sci-fi tale about worlds created in bottles, and the scientists that develop them. One of the most interesting concepts of the bunch."Jimmy" reminded me a little of "All Summer In a Day;" an outcast boy goes missing, and the only one who seems to be able to find him is his only friend."Prisoners of the Action" Guantanamo Bay for a type of alien being post-"hostile action.". One of the central plot points of the story is ripped from real-life POW photos. A lawyer attempts to investigate.