My average comes out to 2.5, but I'll round up to three stars for a cool concept.
I've been wanting to read this book since it came out, and finally got it through interlibrary loan. Yay ILL!
The idea here is that all the authors (a solid roster of respected and well-known horror writers) contributed stories inspired by the surreal and horrific photomontages of J.K. Potter.
*** Michael Marshall Smith - Night Falls, Again.
Key West. A bar. Tourists. A guy that goes in for a drink, and a girl sitting at the sidewalk cafe. And a mood that shifts from sunny and bright to dark and violent, in just the way an alcoholic's mood turns evil. Well done.
*** Graham Joyce - First, Catch Your Demon.
A solitary, bitter man kills two of three scorpions that turn up in his cabin. Then, a naked woman turns up, who gluts him with sex and drugs. Bizarre things happen, that may or may not be hallucinations. OK, but not nearly as good as Joyce's more recent writings, from what I've read.
*** Ramsey Campbell - No End of Fun.
A man visits his young niece and her mother, at the seaside boarding house they run. Memories of a dead woman haunt him, and undercurrents of nastiness out of proportion to the mild events described flow through the story.
* John Crowley – The War Between the Objects and the Subjects.
Just the other day, I was thinking that I probably shouldn’t have embraced my hatred of diagramming sentences quite so strongly, considering my current field of work. None the less, I really do hate sentence diagramming. If I loved it, I might love this story. But I don’t.
** Dennis Etchison – In a Silent Way.
Sneaky manipulation and murder in an insane asylum. It was OK, but felt a little typical. Might’ve fit in well, with a little tweaking, as an episode in the last season of American Horror Story.
**** Elizabeth Hand – Pavane for a Prince of the Air
Unlike most of these stories, not horror at all, but a story of grief. A friend of the narrator (author? It feels very, very autobiographical), an old hippie, passes away, and the narrator participates in his widow’s neo-pagan death ritual.
* Michael Bishop – Help Me, Rondo.
A monologue written in the form of a screenplay. I really can’t stand reading screenplays, so that probably affected my feelings. But I also just wasn’t won over by the slight plot. A boy with acromegaly shows up at the door of the widow of a B-movie horror actor who also had acromegaly. Apparently, the boy thinks the actor might have been his father, but the old lady says so – and seems to have a bit of the hots for him. But nothing much really happens, and the theme of Hollywood prejudice didn’t really wow me.
*** Poppy Z. Brite – The Goose Girl.
Here, Poppy Brite makes the salient point that goths are not the type of outcasts who become school shooters. As a matter of fact, they might be the victims. It’s true, but I think Id’ve liked this story a lot more when I was in highschool.
**** Lucius Shepard – Radiant Green Star.
I really liked this tale of a low-budget Vietnamese circus troupe. The characterization and setting were vividly realized and fascinating, making me want to seek out more of Shepard’s writing. The only thing keeping it from 5 stars is that I wished the two elements of the plot tied together more strongly at the end: there’s the ‘circus attraction’ who may or may not be a genetically modified American prisoner-of-war, kept alive beyond his time, struggling to recall his past – and then there’s the convoluted murder plot of a boy encouraged from a young age to kill his father, whom, he is told, is a murderer himself, and out to steal a rightful inheritance. I just wanted a stronger conclusion. (Locus Award Winner for Novella)
** Kim Newman – Egyptian Avenue.
Set in the same world as many of Newman’s novels (featuring the Diogenes Club.) This quick horror story deals with an ancient Egyptian (or is it?) curse on a nasty Victorian industrialist’s tomb – and ties it in to his even nastier descendant. These have just never really won me over. They’re OK.
* James Morrow – The Cat’s Pajamas.
You would think that I would like the writing of a “self-described "scientific humanist".” But I don’t. I read his ‘Only Begotten Daughter,’ really disliked it, and I dislike this too. I just don’t enjoy his flavor of satire. A self-described “sane scientist” creates grotesque human-animal hybrids with an agenda of small-scale social improvement.
*** Peter Crowther - Breathing in Faces.
This could totally be a sequel / companion piece to Ray Bradbury's 'Something Wicked This Way Comes.' Evil carnivals, storms, small towns, 'innocent' children... it's pretty spooky, too.
** Norman Partridge - And What Did You See in the World?
A guy drives around with his girlfriend locked in the trunk of his car. But the situation isn't quite - not quite - what you might guess. OK.