A Dark and Scary Place
Cthulhu and Other Monsters is a short story collection written by female writer Sam Stone, author of around 15 novels and 2011 winner of the British Fantasy Society Award for Best Novel. This collection is split into two sections: the first nine stories are based around the mythos of H.P. Lovecraft’s Cthulhu and the Elder Gods, and the following seven feature various fantasy beasts. The book is published by Telos across 264 pages on good quality white paper. The front features cover artwork by Martin Baines.
H.P. Lovecraft was a master of his craft. Not only an excellent fantasy/weird fiction writer but, in my opinion, one of the greatest writers ever. Having devoured his entire output several times my opinion has not changed. For this reason it is logical I would want to discover additional Cthulhu tales from other authors now that Lovecraft’s material is in the public domain. The problem is it’s almost impossible to emulate his characters and situations. He came from an earlier time, in terms of scribes. I have yet to come across any new storytelling tribute that has managed to capture his otherworldliness, feelings of frantic panic and madness, and descriptions of creatures which are both vivid and yet vague enough for your own imagination to heighten the tension (and that is clever, whether it was a conscious or sub-conscious process). Have I convinced anyone I like H.P. Lovecraft yet?!
Although there is a constant fear a writer might be accused of plagiarism in these circumstances, the stories offered here in the first section very plainly steer clear of making the presence of Cthulhu or the Ancient Ones too obvious. There is only one close description of an octopus-like being, and none of the nine tales fit into a contemporary setting (or even an American Civil War one). The best of these is probably Fall Out, which involves an agreement with an ancient deity in exchange for good fortune.
The Other Monsters stories work much better, unhindered as they are by a very talented writer and his creations. This section begins with classic monster scenarios, such as the sea as an entity and mermaids, werewolves, and a ghost which isn’t a ghost. But these are inventive to the extent that you wish for less clichéd myths.
The Night Bird has an Island of Lost Souls feel to it. However, the most intriguing tale here is DNA Books; implanted books which can be accessed at any time and which place you in the action may sound like a good idea... until the book begins to assert itself over your own character.
(Review originally written by Ty Power for reviewgraveyard 2017)
Oxford University Press presents the Oxford World’s Classics Gothic Tales, by Arthur Conan Doyle – 34 stories (across 499 pages) set in the order in which they were written, in a listed timeline between his birth in 1859 and his death in 1930. There are ghosts, madmen, people with a powerful influence, evil surgeons, immortals and devil-worshippers. Conan Doyle is undoubtedly best known for his creation of the world’s greatest detective, Sherlock Holmes. However, he is also lauded as one of the most original and articulate writers of classic tales of terror, the occult and spiritualism, using his experiences of wide travel and professional work in the medical field. As well as the aforementioned timeline which includes other significant events, there is also an Introduction. This should really be an Afterward, because it reveals snippets of information about plotlines and characters. There is also a select bibliography. The book is edited by Darryl Jones.
The Explanatory Notes is the most annoying thing about this collection. I realise there is a pedantic attempt to detail every meaning in the book, but frequently seeing an asterisk in the text soon begins to grate. If you don’t understand a phrase or location look it up; that’s what the Internet is for!
Let’s get to the stories themselves. I’m a big fan of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle on the written page. I have the complete Sherlock Holmes collection in hardback and return to it periodically. I’ve come across a number of his Gothic tales before in other collections of period ghost stories or supernatural Egyptian monologues. The Ring of Thoth, and Lot No. 249 make regular appearances, but many of the others are lesser known – even though they’ve materialised as radio stories and audio books. I love this somewhat formal narrative style of writing from the late 1800s and early 1900s, which may explain why I positively covet my leather bound copies of H.P. Lovecraft, Edgar Allan Poe, M.R. James, Bram Stoker and others. I find it exhilarating and absorbing, the Victorian period being so appealing in style and invention. Of course, this won’t be the opinion of many young contemporary readers. They might describe events as agonisingly slow; certainly, there are no modern day whizzes and bangs. Recollections of a personal or relayed experience, sometimes without any conclusive outcome may leave some wanting. However, I think these draw you in slowly, seeping into your consciousness so that – without being outwardly frightened – you are carried along by the mystery, intrigue and outlandish characters.
I’ve read and thoroughly enjoyed the first eight of these stories, and fully intend to continue reading the remainder. It’s very sad that no one writes like this anymore. Material such as this should be much cherished. The only way this paperback could be improved is by presenting it in a leather bound hardback format.
(Review originally written by Ty Power for reviewgraveyard 2018)
“Not fit for children, that book.”
HarperCollins Books publishes In the Night Wood, by Dale Bailey – available in Hardback, eBook and Audio formats. Charles and Erin Hayden are bonded by a deep-felt connection to the Victorian novel In the Night Wood, by one-time author Caedmon Hollow. Erin is his descendent and they move from America to Hollow House in deepest rural England to take over the estate. This is intended as a new beginning after the accidental death of their young daughter Lissa. However, neither of them are able to move on; Erin through grief and recriminations, and Charles because of root-core guilt and his former indiscretion. While Erin sinks into a stupor, seeing their dead daughter at every turn, Charles tries to carry out research into the myths surrounding the nearby ancient oak forest – including the history of the terrifying Cernunnos, the Horned King – supposedly for a proposed book. What he uncovers changes his entire view of the ‘real world’ and risks sending him into a spiral of a repeated past...
This is a ghost story of sorts. In fact, it’s closer to a pagan dark faerie tale, with myths based on reality. I love the references and allusions to literature and lore. In the normal body of the story (rather than at chapter headings) there are snippets of quotes from Dante’s 'Inferno' (from Divine Comedy), Edgar Allan Poe’s famous poem The Raven (Quoth the Raven, “Nevermore.”), Shakespeare’s Macbeth, Tennyson’s The Lady of Shalott, De Quincey’s Confessions of an English Opium-Eater, and Chaucer’s Sir Gawain and the Green Knight (to name but a few). As you would expect, existing myths also raise their heads. Herne the Hunter gets a mention, as does Icarus and Ouroboros, biting its own tail in a perpetual circle. Then there are concepts of science (or philosophy, if you like) such as Shrodinger’s Cat and Occam’s Razor. Rather than come across as pretentious, they offer what is essentially a Brothers Grimm-type tale a certain amount of credence. Graham Masterton has proved himself very adept at this concept of placing a frightening mythical creature in a contemporary setting.
It may be a contradiction in terms, but this story falls short because it is too long. I realise that supernatural tales are notoriously slow-burners; however, there are a number of repeated sequences, wherein the same problem or walk or chat takes on the aforementioned circular concept of the serpent Ouroboros. Erin is practically a superfluous character, spending the entire book sleeping, drinking or staring out of the window. She exists only as a reminder of Charles’s guilt. When writing about occupants of a small village, you are surely limited for scope, although I did find the old man in the pub a bit of a caricature and a cheap way of telling a backstory which could easily have emerged much earlier in the book. Aside from Cillian Harris, the other staff are ciphers, drifting around and not doing very much. There is no sense of any personality.
As you can see, there are good and bad points to this release. I have been sent the hardback book format, which is very nicely put together. The cover showing Hollow House, birds, foliage, skulls and a crown representing the Horned King (or the true wounded King of the Night Wood) is classy, following the format of an older tome. There is a good sketch before the title page of something looking through the leaves of an oak tree; in this manner it’s very reminiscent of the Green Man. Dale Bailey is no slouch, having written seven books. The End of the End of Everything story collection and his contribution to the excellent Masters of Horror TV anthology series perhaps being his most recognisable contributions. It’s competently written but, as the creatures in the wood do virtually nothing, I found it very ordinary in places. For a longwinded tale there is a lack of depth and no real edge-of-the-seat, nail-biting excitement.
(Review originally written by Ty Power for reviewgraveyard 2019)
Marvel: Absolutely Everything You Need To Know is a large format hardback book with a textured cover showing a close-up up the left side of the Hulk’s face, with a speech balloon having him saying the title. The other side of his face is on the rear. Both eyes display gold foil. It contains 235 active full-colour pages depicting all of the most well-known heroes and villains, as well as many of the obscure characters and situations in double-page splashes of art and information. It is published by DK (Dorling Kindersley Limited) of the Strand, London, and retails at £17.99.
The book is divided into the chapters, Characters, Teams, Locations, Science and Magic, and Key Events. The most eye-catching of these is the first; each popular hero and villain gets his/her own double page of artwork from different eras amongst a number of inset fascinating facts. They’re all here: Spider-Man, Captain America, Prince Namor – the Sub-Mariner, Iron Man, Ant Man and Wasp, Thor, Hulk, Daredevil, and many more including Captain Marvel and Doctor Strange. A multitude of bad guys line up for attention, too: Thanos, Loki, the Red Skull, Norman Osborn, Doctor Octopus, Kingpin, and my personal favourite Venom – to mention just a few. Then there are the Teams, like the Avengers, X-Men, Fantastic Four, S.H.I.E.L.D. and Guardians of the Galaxy. Several Classic Clashes, Alternative Worlds, Iconic Artefacts and Locations will have even the most die-hard Marvel fans scrabbling for previously unknown titbits of information about their favourite characters.
The good thing about this book is that it will appeal to followers and casual readers of all ages who are curious about Stan Lee’s ‘babies’ and the plot lines and turning points in their existence. People will love the contrasting styles of artwork from across the years, but also accumulate brief fascinating facts without becoming bogged-down in decades of back story (much of it more than a little crazy). So, all in all a good place to start getting your Marvel general knowledge up to speed, before deciding which superhero path to go down.
(Review originally written by Ty Power for sci-fi-online 2016)
Following the success of Marvel’s Avengers: Assemble film comes the imminent Avengers: Age of Ultron. To tie-in with this much anticipated superhero extravaganza we get Marvel: The Avengers Vault, a hardcover history of the much-loved fighting team, by Peter A. David, a writer with a twenty year connection with superhero books, comics and graphic novels (The Incredible Hulk/Wolverine/Spider-Man/Supergirl/Aquaman). It is released by Aurum Press, an imprint of the Quarto Publishing Group UK, on very good quality full colour paper, at a RRP of £25.00.
I unashamedly love the Marvel live-action films, but I confess to knowing very little of the comic book history since I read them as a kid – and even then it was mainly my favourites Batman (admittedly DC) and Spider-Man. The only Marvel graphic novels I have read in the last decade or two are the Spider-Man tales written by J. Michael Straczynski, as I love his writing and characterisation. Although the movies require no pre-knowledge of the characters and situations, this is certainly where a book like this comes into its own. The Avengers Vault takes us briefly through the main events of the Avengers comic book history, from its origins to shortly before the Avengers: Assemble movie. All the main players get a mention; the different writers and artists and what they did with the storylines and team line-ups. I have to say I had no idea just how many super-powered heroes had served a stint in one variation or another of The Avengers. I think most people would prefer that the main quartet of characters remain stable, with only the peripheral ones coming and going. This is what the next section of the book explores.
It starts with Captain America, a creation I don’t hold much affinity for – although the industrial espionage, intrigue and edge-of-the-seat action made The Winter Soldier a very fine film. Cap was created as a WWII hero to go up against Hitler and the Nazis, but later found himself floundering without a visible enemy in a somewhat sinister cold war setting. Therefore, the character was reinvented and brought into the sixties by (who else but) Stan Lee. Captain America has a most bizarre history, including no less than four versions which turn out to be imposters!
Next we move on to Thor, with a short but useful lesson in Norse mythology, and how this connects to Thor’s comic book origins and that of his hammer, Mjolnir. With Thor, Stan Lee created a different kind of hero. Being a god, he is obliged to answer to Odin and protect Asgard, as well as aid the Earth for the love of a human woman. The arrival of his mischievous half-brother, Loki, tests the patience of the moral, honourable and virtuous Thunder God. With three films following his exploits, weapons industrialist and scientific genius, Tony Stark – otherwise known as Iron Man – is almost certainly better known. Again, we get a description of the rather conceited character’s history and background. Then it’s The Hulk, who is probably the most well-known of these central characters, just because of its beautiful Jekyll and Hyde simplicity.
The last section of the book explores The Avengers on film and TV – particularly the animated series bringing it up-to-date post-Civil War storyline. There is some quite simply gorgeous artwork from different time periods, and plenty of covers shown from ground breaking stories or first time issues. In addition, there are some pockets concealing layouts, artwork and early sketches. So, if you can afford the £25 price, and you’re a fan of Marvel and/or The Avengers – particularly if you’re not aware of the comic timelines – then this is the book for you.
(Review originally written by Ty Power for sci-fi-online 2015)
Well-known comics writers and historians Tom DeFalco, Peter Sanderson, Tom Brevoort and Matthew K. Manning, have come together to produce Marvel Year by Year: A Visual History – a quite staggeringly huge hardback book chronicling all the main events and major storylines at Marvel Comics (originally Timely Comics) over the last 77 years. In monthly order within chronological year all the heroes, villains and storyline major turning points are displayed in full colour and described succinctly. There is a foreword by Stan Lee (the man to whom Marvel owes nearly everything), an introduction by Tom DeFalco, and fantastic newly-commissioned cover artwork by Dan Panosian, which is also reproduced on two superb 10” x 8” art cards. This quality hardback from DK Publishing is updated and expanded, bringing the story so far up to October 2016. It retails for £35...
Aside from everyone’s favourite superheroes (including: Hulk, Iron Man, Spider-Man, Daredevil, Thor, Captain America, Prince Namor and countless others) and Super-Villains (such as Doctor Octopus, Doctor Doom, Loki, the Dread Dormammu, Kingpin and many more), this book explores the many other avenues Marvel has taken across the years, that count Westerns, Comedies, Cartoons, Teens (Millie the Model and Nellie the Nurse!), True Crime, Romance, War Stories and Weird Tales amongst their numbers. Particularly over the last few decades, however, it is super-powered beings that capture our imagination to the extent that Marvel has expanded regularly to the big screen and returning TV serials, such as Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. With over seventy years of storylines to plunder it’s not difficult to reason why.
In order to offer a fair and thorough view of a book I prefer to devour it from cover to cover. Unfortunately (or fortunately, if you look at it the right way), there is so much material here I doubt the review would be ready much before Christmas! That’s just as well, because this is a coffee table book (make sure you have a strong table) properly intended to be dipped into – or at least perused in small chunks, perhaps a year’s timeline at a time. Another massive plus for this tome is the very comprehensive index, so if you wish to follow the exploits of a particular character you can simply follow the page lists. Growing up, my favourite Marvel characters were Spider-Man and Daredevil, so my personal highpoint was discovering what happened to these heroes after I left them. Although I did briefly return to the former when Babylon 5 writer J. Michael Straczynski was writing for Amazing Spider-Man.
In addition to the titles and plotlines, we are also given information on movements behind-the-scenes, the comings and goings of prominent writers and artists, including the heady early days of Stan Lee (did you know he was made Editor-in-Chief at only 18 years of age!), Steve Ditko and Jack Kirby. So there is plenty to enjoy here, for long-time fans of comic books and those coming new to the back-history through the big-budget feature films. I can’t recommend this release enough. The four pedigree contributors here have made this as comprehensive as it’s possible to be, whilst keeping the information brief and concise.
(Review originally written by Ty Power for sci-fi-online 2017)
New Fears is a horror short story anthology, intended to be the first in a series of collections edited by horror writer Mark Morris. There are 19 tales across 400 pages. It is available in both paperback and eBook formats. The full content is as follows: The Boggle Hole, by Alison Littlewood; Shepherd’s Business, by Stephen Gallagher; No Good Deed, by Angela Slatter; The Family Car, by Brady Golden; Four Abstracts, by Nina Allan; Sheltered in Place, by Brian Keene; The Fold in the Heart, by Chaz Brenchley; Departures, by A.K. Benedict; The Salter Collection, by Brian Lillie; Speaking Still, by Ramsey Campbell; The Eyes Are White and Quiet, by Carole Johnstone; The Embarrassment of Dead Grandmothers, by Sarah Lotz; Eumenides (The Benevolent Ladies), by Adam L.G. Nevill; Roundabout, by Muriel Gray; The House of the Head, by Josh Malerman; Dollies, by Kathryn Ptacek; Succulents, by Conrad Williams; The Abduction Door, by Christopher Golden; and The Swan Dive, by Stephen laws.
The Introduction is very entertaining as you might expect from the author of such novels as Toady, Mr Bad Face, and Longbarrow. Mark Morris reminds us of those days growing up with the Armada and Fontana horror and ghost story collections. I seem to remember even Marks and Spencer got in on the action with some hardback anthologies.
No doubt, the big names such as Ramsey (The Nameless) Campbell, Stephen (Valley of Lights/Chimera) Gallagher, Stephen (The Frighteners/Daemonic) Laws, and Conrad (One/The Unblemished) Williams will be the main selling point. The outstanding tales for me here are The House of the Head (in which a decapitated head terrorises the family in a little girl’s dollhouse), The Abduction Door (in which a hatchway appears within the walls of a lift and a man’s daughter is taken), and Shepherd’s Business (in which a new doctor on an island is confronted with a macabre pagan trade).
New horror shorts are always welcome. I have several author collections in my possession from the likes of M.R. James, H.P. Lovecraft and Edgar Allan Poe. Although a couple of examples in New Fears fall short of the mark (what on God’s Earth is The Embarrassment of Dead Grandmothers all about?!) I can confirm that this is truly a diverse set of stories. There is something on offer here to appeal to all followers of the genre – and hopefully a few acolytes.
(Review originally written by Ty Power for reviewgravey 2017)
Nights of Blood Wine is a collection of fifteen short horror fantasy stories from Freda Warrington, author of a number of dark fantasy novels including Dracula the Undead, and Elfland. The first ten tales are set in the world of the Blood Wine novels, and the other five are described as tales of the imagination. The book is printed across 215 pages on good quality white paper, and features cover artwork by Martin Baines. It is published by Telos.
There are a number of positive quotes from reviews, but I feel I’m probably the wrong person to be reviewing this. I’m a huge horror fan, and enjoy some fantasy albeit usually the warrior/heroic fantasy of David Gemmell or Raymond E. Feist. However, I have no liking for the modern sympathetic vampire. Much as the ten stories set in the situations of the Blood Wine novels are pretty much stand-alone and avoid (or even pre-date) the excruciating teen hunk Twilight books, they are very emotional and gothic in the modern dark romance vein. There is nothing wrong with character-driven stories (all the best ones are), but it comes across very heavily that they were penned by a female writer. I’m afraid they just didn’t engage my interest, which is a shame as I have good memories of the book A Blackbird in Silver.
My opinion here is pretty much the same as the review of Cthulhu and Other Monsters, in that the random short stories work better than the themed section of the book. Again, the emotional aspect of a female dark romance writer is very much at the forefront of the atmosphere. Make no mistake, the writing is very good, as you would expect from an accomplished fantasy writer, but I can’t get past the thick, almost cloying honey poured over the whole thing. I’m sure my opinion will be controversial though, particularly by women who enjoy the contemporary vampire tale.
A hand-written signature from the author is a nice touch.
(Review originally written by Ty Power for reviewgraveyard 2017)
Terror Tales of Cornwall is a horror anthology of sixteen short stories invoking various myths and legends surrounding the South West of England. It is edited by Paul Finch, with two-page inserts between each describing the research into individual accounts of strange sightings or experiences. It is published by Telos on good quality paper, incorporates 283 pages and has very nice cover art by Neil Williams.
We Who Sing Beneath the Ground, by Mark Morris: A new teacher at a rural school becomes worried for the welfare of an unusual pupil when he fails to turn up for a few days. Failing to contact the parents, she drives out to the remote farm where they live and makes an astonishing discovery. Mark Morris excels at this type of story. Curiosity is progressively cranked-up throughout the tale by revealing just a little more at each stage. Clever writing.
In the Light of St Ives, by Ray Cluley is a tale which has a young woman visit her sister in hospital after the trauma of a major house fire. Here she will learn about the supernatural qualities of paint seepage.
Trouble at Botathan, by Reggie Oliver sees a man encounter an invisible barrier preventing his entering a certain region. Then in a library he finds a hidden journal.
Mebyon Versus Suna, by John Whitbourn witnesses a born and bred Cornishman being forced to move to Devon when his wife gets a promotion. Red dots appear before his eyes which effectively end his job as a proof reader. But then larger eyes block his way; something is driving him back to Cornwall. Although the main character is rude, his words and actions read as very humorous, making this an enjoyable tale. It’s left ambiguous as to whether the eyes are real or in the protagonist’s head.
The Unseen, by Paul Edwards has a horror fan buy a black market DVD called Black Remote, and strive to track down a finished or uncut version. This is a great premise that becomes rather predictable when the horror buff does something ridiculously foolhardy, which 99 percent of the population wouldn’t even consider without much more information.
Dragon Path, by Jacqueline Simpson sees a man, ridiculed for his ideas, take ‘friends’ to see the Cheesewring Stones, thereby exacting his revengewith devastating force. But he misuses the power of the Druids. It’s always good to have nasty people get their comeuppance.
The Old Traditions Are Best, by editor Paul Finch sees a couple bring a young offender to Padstow to supposedly show him better ways. But when he shows signs of his old urban character, he finds himself running from the ‘Obby Oss’ - Cornish legend defender of Padstow.
The Uncertainty of All Earthly Things, by Mark Valentine has a man take over as curator of a small museum in a remote part of Cornwall, and is shown how to look through the eyes of the Triple Headed King.
His Anger Was Kindled, by Kate Farrell describes an old priest from a decrepit church defending his parish from the developers, and perhaps receiving a little help from a saint. This is one of the best of the bunch.
Four Windows and a Door, by D P Watt has a couple take their two young children on holiday to Cornwall; but after seeing an ancient house on the way to Fowey their little girl is never the same again.
Claws, by Steve Jordan sees students working the holidays in a seaside amusement arcade being plagued by murderous Piskies.
A Beast By Any Other Name, by Adrian Cole has a well-to-do man found torn apart in the grounds of a house on the edge of Bodmin Moor. It is blamed on a black panther, but a stranger believes it to be a cover for murder.
Moon Blood-Red, Tide Turning – by Mark Samuels sees a man attend a low-key theatre play. It is still going on when he leaves… and when he returns to Cornwall twenty years later.
The Memory of Stone, by Sarah Singleton has a man stalking a younger woman to the point that it destroys his life. But who or what is playing with his mind all these years later?
Shelter From the Storm, by Ian Hunter (not the guy from Mott the Hoople, I’m guessing!) sees a group of walkers straying from the track and being forced to take shelter in a half-ruined church. A church which harbours a years old secret.
Losing Its Identity, by Thana Niveau has an elderly woman exploring a cove she and her dead husband had come to love, when freak weather conditions draw away the sea to reveal a mythical old town...
The stories are interspersed with descriptions of Cornish legends such as Piskies, Mermaids, the Bodmin Fetch, Witches, the Hooper, Jamaica Inn and many more. I was particularly pleased to discover the origins of the Cornish Ale name, Doom Bar. Okay, a couple of the tales peter-out before they really get going, but I read this book from cover to cover and enjoyed it immensely. It kind of took me back to much-loved childhood holidays in Cornwall, and those little local books about hauntings and suchlike, which were always available in the local shops. Highly recommended.
(Review originally written by Ty Power for reviewgraveyard 2017)
To tie-in with the new live action feature film comes DC Comics Wonder Woman: The Ultimate Guide to the Amazon Warrior, a 200-page large format hardback book celebrating 75 years of the character. It covers the original Golden Age, the mid-point Silver Age, the new millennium’s Bronze Age, and the recent Rebirth. Incorporating major villains, reluctant allies, and storylines, this is the perfect way to get the background on this newly re-emerging fighter for justice, equality and truth. It is published by DK Books on high quality, full colour paper.
If, like me, you’ve picked-up only a passing knowledge of Wonder Woman, you might be surprised at what you didn’t know. I had no idea the Amazon island from which she originates is called Themyscira. I had no idea her enemies include Cheetah, Giganta, Circe, Doctor Psycho and Ares God of War; or that the Olympian Gods are still so prominent. I also learned about the strengths of the Golden Lasso of Truth, the Royal Tiara (thrown as a weapon), the Sword of Hephaestus, and the Bulletproof Bracelets. Choice quotes are dropped in throughout the book which display the conviction and empathy of Diana.
Let’s be honest; Wonder Woman hasn’t got the appeal or depth of character that Batman (whom I love) and Superman (not so much…) have. Just looking at the timeline in the book shows that Wonder Woman has been relaunched from the beginning not once, but twice, with many of the same events having taken place again. The more recent storylines explored include: Dark Age (which involves other heroes too), Flash Point (which is the Flash’s story), Darkseid (which is a Justice League joint story), and Wonder Girl (not Diana at all, but another young Amazon). So, you see the problem. Hopefully, the new Wonder Woman movie, along with the upcoming Justice League project, will take the character in new and innovative direction.
However, this is about the book. It’s very well laid-out, with some lovely artwork – and I’m not just talking about the more recent examples. People often forget that the early artists had only a handful of colours, whereas nowadays artwork is more commonly done on computer using millions of colours.
(Review originally written by Ty Power for sci-fi-online 2017)
"The Brigadier's going to shoot you, Jo," the Doctor said grimly, "and then he's going to shoot me. Both of us are going to die."
I was excited at the prospect of reviewing a Missing Adventure featuring the third Doctor, Jo Grant and the Brigadier's UNIT. This is my most loved and familiar territory in the programme's history; the period I hold in the highest regard. Perhaps this makes me more likely to criticise anything not adhering to the appropriate format. It's only natural. I remembered the writer, Paul Leonard, who had also penned, in my opinion, the worst of the bunch so far with the first Doctor story, Venusian Lullaby - a tale which possessed no obvious point of interest and little direction. So, it became a meaningful exercise to discover whether my previous disregard had been targeted at the author's style of prose or simply the story itself.
Fortunately, either Paul has improved in leaps and bounds, or it was quite obviously the latter. This book is quite simply excellent. Everything a novel length Doctor Who story should be. Aside from the stilted lines of the Prologue, comparative to the aforementioned Venusian Lullaby, the narrative is straightforward and consistent throughout, avoiding the common pitfall of 'clever' sentence structure. The characterisation of the regular central players is instantly recognisable through both the dialogue and the relevant actions. We are also allowed into their minds; given insight into their feelings in a shown rather than descriptive manner, which is unfortunately so rare in good fiction.
Even the plot is distinctly original, the majority taking place in the Arab country of Kebiria, proving that not every alien infestation takes place in London! A journalist called Catriona Talliser (an assertive Sarah Jane type without the loud mouth) is there to report on the on going war. Whilst with the Giltaz, who are fighting for the independence of their lands, a runaway jeep nears the camp. At the wheel, a dying UNIT soldier who has been half turned into a stone-like creature that smells strongly of roses and cloves. She is told of a legend where their people were aided by stone-like warriors in battle, but were betrayed by one man. Now hundreds of soldiers at a time are vanishing. Both sides are claiming these as victories, although no real fighting has taken place. Catriona manages to get a message about the dead soldier through to UNIT before being arrested and thrown in a cell. Here, she is beaten; a scene which would never have been allowed to be detailed on TV. Jo accompanies Captain Mike Yates, Sergeant Benton and soldiers to the country, where she is immediately arrested.
The intricacies of the plot are gradually unraveled, revealing one danger on top of another: the Doctor's disappearance, the soldiers, the mild scenes of torture, the alien presence itself. Then there is a problem much closer to home. An early scene in the book has the Doctor's Personal Time-line Prognosticator - something similar to the first Doctor's in The Chase - predicting and graphically displaying the future in which the Brigadier coldly shoots Jo and the Doctor. The Doctor decides they should remain apart, communicating only by means of a left recording device. He then leaves in the TARDIS, making the others believe he has abandoned them to their fate. This problem is left hanging over their heads, and it would be cruel-hearted of me to give away the conclusion.
I have to say that based on the releases thus far, the Missing Adventures have proved to be an imaginative broad spectrum of innovative ideas.
(First reviewed by Ty Power for DreamWatch Magazine 1995)
"If I am right, Lethbridge-Stewart, the people of this planet face one of the greatest dangers they have ever encountered."
I'm glad to see this release marketed as a Missing Adventure, rather than the novelisation of the impending radio play, as was the strategy with The Paradise of Death. But the advantage of the radio connection is the lack of preamble in the book. There is no scene setting to hinder its progress from the starting blocks, and essential descriptions are given along the way, which is as it should be.
Mario Verconti, the elderly owner of the Italian island of San Stefano Minore off Sicily, invites his only distant relative, the Brigadier to help him fight off the aspirations of American mobster Max Vilmio. When a number of apparitions appear in and around the ancient castle (the ghostly Lady in White falling from the cliff tops has been done to death - no pun intended), the Brigadier summons the Doctor, and they team up with Sarah and Jeremy who are coincidentally (!) on holiday. A psycho-physical shock has ruptured the barrier to Null Space, which is widening to the point where all the negative energy will flood through into this Space. The Doctor and Sarah find a way to visit N-Space, and travel back in the TARDIS through the history of the castle, where they discover Max as an alchemist seeking spiritual immortality by combining the earthly body with the N-body.
If N-Space is an intermediatory universe between the realms of the living and the dead, why does its inhabitants possess clothing? If they retained the shape of their mortal bodies after death, they would surely be naked. Perhaps Barry Letts considered the concept of the two leading characters in this condition to be extending the bounds of decency. But I still feel that nondescript but naked humanoid forms would have been more appropriate. Letts has Sarah realise the question of clothing, but it is all swept under the carpet with the Doctor's brief and cryptic sentence, "It's all a matter of belief."
Indeed, the plot is riddled with holes, all of which are recognised by the author. However, highlighting the inconsistencies is no explanation for their presence. Better to say nothing and hope no one notices!
Undoubtedly, the most redeeming quality of this book is the working of the players. This is a reminiscent stroll down memory lane, familiar territory for me. I held my breath, but Letts manages to avoid simply stereotyping. The characterisation of the third Doctor is spot on - formal but convivial - as is Sarah Jane and the Brigadier, as you would expect from someone with several year's familiarity of the TV portrayals of Pertwee, Sladen and Courtney. Fortunately, this also extends to the majority of the others. Jeremy, a companion from The Paradise of Death, is an annoying, bumbling adolescent, and the fact that the character manages to irritate the reader - at least this reader - attests to the author's skillful ability of development. Everybody possesses an inherent Dark Side, so purely pleasant characters are simply not realistic. When in N-Space, even Sarah Jane is concerned when she discovers the Doctor can read her mind. The Brigadier's distant uncle Mario Verconti is an endearing energetic old man who seems to have based his English on the childhood books of Lethbridge-Stewart, left behind years ago.
There are a couple of exceptions. Maggie is an unimaginative stereotypical image of a gangster's moll, who turns against the American Max Vilmio. Roberto, an Italian Elvis impersonator is totally superfluous to the plot. Even the final attempt to make him an integral part of the proceedings, fails to justify his presence. Why do so many writers, particularly for TV, find it necessary to include someone overtly stupid? A person can be of low intelligence without outwardly acting imbecilic.
The Ghosts of N-Space is a ghost story with science fiction elements. Letts creates an intelligent myth from established accounts of near-death experiences and spiritual sightings. It is competently written, but I felt at its conclusion that it could have been so much more. There are far too many instant answers and solutions from the Doctor (witness the assembly of the spirit gun, the ruptured barrier detector, and the beds and wires contraption), and I would have preferred the main characters to discover the existence of N-Space together.
(First reviewed by Ty Power for DreamWatch Magazine 1995)
"When the Earth turns over in its sleep and the rain turns to stone, then the Keth shall come again."
When I later realised the reptilian humanoid of the cover has lost an eye and is not in fact winking, it was slightly easier to accept the leather-clad punk rocker reptilian humanoid, who is roasting the Doctor on a spit. It was not a good omen, and nor was the first chapter title of Planet of Death. But I am not very superstitious and seldom judge the book by the cover. Which is fortunate, because this is a cracking good read.
With Ace temporarily left on the neighbouring planet of Massatoris, The Doctor and Bernice check out the ring system of Betrushia. There they find two reptile races, the Ismetch and the Cutch fighting a pointless religious war. They are finally obliged to join forces against the legendry Keth, who devastated their world in the distant past. But the enemy comes from two quarters, and the Doctor discovers that the planet's most famous natural phenomenon has artificial and essential origins.
Mark Gatiss structures the story well, unveiling layers of plot intriguingly, so that there is always something new happening. The threat is progressively increased for the Doctor and Bernice. First there are the Ismetch and the enemy Cutch reptiles; then the earth tremors and rock falls from the ring system; the evil and sadistic Magna from the Chapter, and finally the Keth. He sensibly begins with something we can all grasp: a fruitless First World War style religious battle between two very similar races.
Many of the central characters are believable, and some even possess certain individual qualities which are essential to the familiarisation process. In other words, I cared about them. Ace comes in for some implied nasty mind-bending treatment, but I discovered there was no sympathy here. Like many others, I feel the character of Ace is well past its sell-by date. Roll on the departure. I wonder if my sentiments are shared by Mark; Ace is missing from half of the book. It's ironic really; the only character unreal, that inspires no feelings, is one already established. In fact, this novel is extremely character driven, but in this instance it aids the progressive pace.
The concept of a genetically engineered organism turning malevolent is far from original. However, I did like the dark threat of the Chapter committing religious xenocide, using two artificial suns - the St Anthony's Fire of the title, and the connection with the Earth of the future. There was a tangible similarity of motives between the planet-based battle and the planet-wide death and destruction emotionlessly dished out by the cathedral-like spacecraft of the Chapter. The majority of wars through the ages on our beloved world have been inspired by religious conflict, and I appreciate the fact that the folly of this has been highlighted in the book. Mark implies combining fanatically as a single belief could be far worse.
As an incidental, we are introduced to chameleonic fluctuation, which is described as the TARDIS exterior shape gradually dropping off. This explains the long-time disappearance of the St John's Ambulance badge on the door, which has now returned.
Normally, I prefer to read at a leisurely pace, as it's easier to immerse myself in the plot. But in this case, a 'required by yesterday' deadline made speed reading necessary, so I was grateful the writing style of this offering made comfortable, easy reading.
I must confess I'd almost given up on the New Adventures. There has been so much mediocrity and so little worthy material. St Anthony's Fire falls easily into the latter bracket, standing with such noteworthy material as the two Terrance Dicks contributions, Blood Heat and Gatiss' previous piece, Quatermass ... I mean Nightshade! It's not the best - that is reserved for Birthright - but it has restored my faith in the feasibility of this series of books. It just proves to me that, with the recent introduction of The Missing Adventures, there is still sufficient room for the New Adventures.
(First reviewed by Ty Power for DreamWatch Magazine 1994)
"Like all organics you are unwilling to provide the data I need. You would rather see me destroyed. That is why you must die."
I cringed involuntarily and perhaps inevitably when I noticed on the back cover that this Missing Adventure is set immediately after The Ultimate Foe. A living nightmare leapt unbidden to the forefront of my mind. Yes, Mel. However, although there are a couple of references to undoubtedly the most unsuited character in the programme's history, she thankfully does not make an appearance in the story. I am eternally grateful for Steve Lyons' discretion; it prevented me reaching for the sick bowl! There is nothing wrong with Bonnie Langford, it was the character as portrayed at the time.
Her temporary replacement is Angela Jennings, a citizen of Torrok, a dilapidated planet whose peoples are controlled by perpetual satellite broadcasts to the entire Meson system emanating from the MBS station. Avoiding the clutches of both the Watchers and the Peace Keepers, she escapes its confines with the Doctor, and the two materialise on a seemingly empty ship heading directly for the station. Whilst the Doctor transmats to the satellite, Angela is 'altered' ,adopting the characteristics and memories of Krllxk, another life-form. To even brush-over the many intervening escapades would take an age; suffice to say that Time of your Life borrows heavily from the overused Virtual Reality scenario and futuristic soaps and game shows. A cross between Stephen King's The Running Man, and science fiction writer Larry Niven's Dream Park. It concludes with a battle against a malevolent techno-organism - what was Angela and the Network computer virus.
In early conversation with the Doctor, Angela's humour and mannerisms are so similar to that of Peri, it was difficult to imagine it was anyone else, and I wondered why Peri had not been utilised for the portrayal in the first place. I felt the sixth Doctor was wasted, for much of the time being secondary to the plot. His character read more similar to Bill Baggs' Stranger than Doctor Who, and is terribly underused. He is dispatched on this mission by the Time Lords, but I wondered at the requirement for urgency, especially as he spends much of the time doing nothing in particular. I've always felt that Colin Baker's sixth Doctor wasn't given ample opportunity to shine on TV, so it would have been nice to see his character exploited to the full.
There is an attempt at a certain cleverness, with less than subtle references to events immediately outside the realms of the actual Doctor Who TV storylines. The station secretary, Giselle, is the incarnation of a certain ex-BBC employee with an in-bred dislike for Doctor Who. Cornerstone submits a proposal for a feature to replace the popular money-making Timeriders. She rejects it without consideration. She hates science fiction! And in practically the same breath, she, "considers how the Doctor's termination might best be approached." Ring any bells? Furthermore, Miriam Walker is a persistent and vehement programme critic, a la Mary Whitehouse, and there is a passing reference to a Vulcan nerve grip - albeit occasionally used by the third Doctor - completely out of context. Some individuals might be pleased by the recognition, but I'm afraid they only made me grimace. Steve can be forgiven for trying to make a statement after the fact, but I see little justification for doing so.
The padding in this book is immediately evident. I progressed more than halfway through before recognising any events which might be integral to the plot. There is a considerable amount of excess running around, in addition to many superfluous characters and needless exchanges of dialogue. I received the impression of a six-parter which need not have been elaborated beyond two. I subtract nothing from his writing style and ability; however, the plot is rather long-winded.
Time of Your Life has two saving graces. Firstly, the plot does finally come together, just when you are wondering if there is any purpose to the infernal maze-mouse and cheese game. Secondly, the prose is straightforward and so makes for easy reading. Not one of the better Missing Adventures, but definitely not out of place in amongst the previous releases.
(First reviewed by Ty Power for DreamWatch Magazine 1995)
Susan Randall is a crime reporter for the LA Tribune. Whilst riding along with a police patrol car she becomes mixed-up in a gangland shooting. Both policemen are badly injured, and Susan suffers a minor gunshot injury to a leg. In hospital she witnesses an early morning visit by a friendly man to a woman in the bed opposite, but staff later tell her she must have been mistaken.
Back at work, Susan investigates the serial killings of people living on the street, and learns that the victim's hands are being sliced-up by a sharp utensil. When interviewing one of the relatives she spots the man who was at the hospital, and hears that he helped recover a parent's child from a dangerous religious cult. Raymond confirms a nearby desecrated church conducive with the previous killings. Susan sees Raymond at a victim's funeral - watching from a distance - and gets his I.D. from a car number plate. The address is a P.O. Box, and the owner says that Raymond "helps people" in trouble.
Eventually meeting the man, Raymond tells her he is seeking the killer, who he knows is possessed. Susan believes him a nut, but after the killer attempts to meet with her and she is trumped by a professional rival who is killed for his trouble, Raymond reveals a number of clues unknown to the public - including a theory that having killed five lower class and five middle class, the killer will now move on to upper class victims.
A street dweller reveals to the pair that on the night of the first murder he was nearby. The temperature dropped drastically, thousands of insects appeared and just as quickly disappeared, and there was the sense of an immense shadow. After Raymond is spotted at a victims funeral, a police photo-fit is released and leaked to the public. He is recognised in a supermarket, assumed to be the killer and shot in the arm. Susan takes him to his home where she finds a doctor friend of Raymond's tending to his wife, who has been in a coma since she and their daughter (now dead) were shot by a gunman on a pier.
Via her police contact, Mike Devereaux, she manages to convince the authorities that Raymond Weil is not connected to the killings. However, when Raymond unleashes his unorthodox theories on her about the killer's intentions to strike on a spitual level, she decides to find out more about him. It turns out he worked as a 'for hire' mercenary for some years, but something happened to him in a jungle which left all of his fellow soldiers dead. Afterward, he served with the church and spent time in a psychiatric hospital, talking about the existence of the "Other" in a person. He was reluctantly diagnosed with personality disorder.
Susan reports him to the police, but Raymond gets wind of this and goes into hiding. Later, when Susan is recovering from the death at the hands of the killer of her more 'off' than 'on' partner Larry, she sees an advert in the paper for an interfaith convention. She remembers Raymond's theory of a spiritual attack and races there with Mike. Once they are inside, the venue is sealed-off by the killer, causing a mass panic from the people. Mike spots Raymond and tries to shoot him, but is himself shot in the hip. Now Susan is stuck with Raymond and enough explosive to blow the building sky-high. Is Raymond effectively hunting the killer personality within himself, or is there really another killer, possessed by the "Other"..?
I have to begin by saying this book is badly edited by the publishers. There are countless typos, even though this mass market paperback otherwise looks good. This is horror only in the loosest sense. Being closer to a psychological thriller opens this release up to a more mainstream crime readership - and possibly making it more likely to be optioned as a film (or at least a TV movie).
There is mention of Shadows, though not in the corporeal sense (the Shadows was the name given to the relentlessly warlike race in Straczynski's Babylon 5). The "Other" is a loose link to the writer's excellent novel Othersyde. Although not as compelling or original as Othersyde, it does tiptoe around the supernatural without ever conforming its existence. Nevertheless, it does at time have the feel of a Twilight Zone story about it. More recently, J. Micheal Straczynski has returned to writing books. They are mostly non-fiction, including his own amazing autobiography, but hopefully he will turn his hand to more fiction in book form.
(Original Review Ty Power 2020)
Roger Obst is an intelligent bookworm at Lennox High, the subject of constant taunting, ridicule and physical violence at the hand of the other kids. His uncomplimentary nickname is Horseface. Chris Martins has just moved to California with his mother. It is his first day at Lennox High, and he makes the unfortunate mistake of choosing Roger as his friend. The pair run a regular gauntlet of terror until the fateful day when they meet a street bum pasting up mini posters of seemingly meaningless drivel. However, until a year before the man was Tony Soznick, a telephone engineer.
Whilst working an emergency repair during a storm, he had somehow become connected to someone phoning the Samaritans. Listening, shocked, he hears the woman shoot herself and something speed along the line and enter his consciousness. From that moment on he begins to experience a series of blackouts, sometimes lasting weeks at a time, after which he would wake to find himself in another city, sharing a room with pots of paste and piles of posters describing darkness, hate and Jesus not loving some people.
Susan Warrick and Jordan Cayle are partners on the police force, reassigned to investigate an upsurge of juvenile suicides in the region. All too soon they settle on Lennox High and in particular Roger Obst. Through writing secret letters to each other using lemon juice, Roger and Chris discover that something is trying to communicate with them. Roger assembles a rudimentary telegraph machine connected to nothing at the other end, and they learn the contact is known only as Othersyde.
Chris gets cold feet and goes home, but Roger continues the stilted dialogue. Othersyde asks him what he wants. Initially, it's to be unseen in the girl's locker room, but this soon extends to walking out of shops, visible but unseen, with whatever he wants, and finally to revenge as he realises the possibilities. In the yearbook he circles the faces of those individuals who have beaten on him or ridiculed him in front of others. A writhing blackness, named by Roger as 'Eater in the Dark', exacts his revenge on students, teachers, the police, and even his own father. As the deaths mount up, Chris begins to fear for his own life, but is caught between helping his former friend and stopping the Othersyde. Now Roger thinks he is being given what he wants, but how long will it be before it wants something in return?
There is real mystery and intrigue at the heart of this story. The descent into darkness for Roger Obst comes through powerfully, as he sees a chance to be somebody at last, after an age of taunting, bullying and physical violence. J. Michael Straczynski uses his own experiences as a child to great effect here. In a way he is Chris, the new boy in town, with no in-crowd to protect him. He chooses a friend based on joint association, and that only increases his feeling of isolation. However, whereas Chris knows when to leave well alone, Roger embraces the dangerous and evil influence, risking his mind and soul in exchange for the power he believes he requires to seek vengeance for his treatment.
As Straczynski has written a multitude of material for broadcast on TV, it's perhaps no surprise that Othersyde reads very much like a script or screenplay which motors along at a cracking pace and contains no descriptive padding. Of course, this is a novel, but it's very easy reading and because you don't need to concern yourself with difficult writing styles you can immerse yourself totally in the tale. This is made all the more gratifying with the major strong point in JMS's writing arsenal: characterisation. The characters seem to leap from the page with realism - and when you believe in the protagonist and other main players then the chances are you are going to believe what is happening to them. Or at least suspend your disbelief.
Othersyde is published by ibooks (USA) and is available on import. I thoroughly recommend seeking this out from a specialist shop or via the internet. You won't be disappointed. For readers of mystery, horror or simply character-based drama this book is too good to miss. NB: This was later released in the UK by Headline Books,
(Review originally written by Ty Power for the Typo Literary Site 2005)
Collected together here for the first time we have the horror novels, Night of the Living Dead, and Return of the Living Dead, written by John Russo under the collective title Undead. It is published by Titan Books, who maintain their high standard of well-presented books on good quality paper. There is also an interesting introduction - 'Birth of the Dead' - describing the background to these stories, and then we are straight into the action.
Of course, Night of the Living Dead became a celluloid horror classic; original, daring, and pushing established social boundaries. The script was at first jointly written by Russo and director George A. Romero, but Russo took over the full writing duties whilst Romero’s attention was directed elsewhere. It was Russo who introduced the concept of flesh-eating zombies - the first thing generally associated with this sub-genre. What is little known is that the novel form of his script wasn’t written until 1995, a full 17 years after he wrote the sequel.
This first novel is understandably familiar from the start, but hasn’t lost any of it’s edge-of-the-seat status. The narrative is flying from the start; it wastes no time in telling its tale, and sensibly concentrates on the human characters and their reactions to events, rather than on the monsters, as too many books and films make the mistake of doing these days. It’s telling that the central protagonist, Ben, isn’t there from the very beginning, but that Barbara, who is, spends the majority of the action sitting in a chair staring into space. This is essentially a siege. There is one failed escape attempt, the rest of the story being very claustrophobic, with Harry proving to be as much of a problem inside as the zombies outside. The extreme horror, whilst slightly lessened by time and general acceptability, remains very edgy, aided by a flowing prose which also aids comfortable reading.
Return of the Living Dead was John Russo’s scripted sequel to the first film. Eventually, it was decided not to film the script, and instead go for a totally different and dark humorous piece, not a million miles away from what Sam Raimi did with The Evil Dead. Russo’s follow-up was written in book form in 1978. He, quite rightly I think for the time, went for a serious continuation of the original concept. It is set in the same region, but only Sheriff McClellan returns from the first story. It takes place ten years after the events of Night of the Living Dead, when the virus (hinted at being caused by a returned space exploration satellite) rears its ugly head once more. Interestingly, the central character seems to change as the story progresses. At first, it is a hard-edged farmer and his daughters, one of whom is pregnant; then it is some policemen who are not what they seem; and then some captives, who take over centre stage for the finale. And all the while we flick back to the sheriff and his armed men systematically sweeping the district of the undead.
I highly recommend this release. Both novels motor along at an incredible pace, and are definite page-turners. Oh, and you won’t want to miss the child in the cellar.
(Review originally written by Ty Power for reviewgraveyard 2011)
The Oxford University Press releases Frankenstein or ‘The Modern Prometheus’: The 1818 Text, by Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley – Edited by Nick Groom, Professor of English at the University of Exeter. This new edition includes a 50-page Introduction, Select Bibliography (editions of Frankenstein, works written or edited by Mary Shelley, books on her life and background, literary criticism, medical science, horror and other categories), A Chronology of Mary Shelley 1797 to 1851, and Notes on the Standard 1931 edition. There are also Explanatory Notes throughout the text. For anyone who’s just arrived on holiday from Mars, Frankenstein follows the illicit experiments of a doctor of medicine to defy God and revive the dead using various body parts...
What more is there to say about Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein except that it is a true literary all-time classic. Not only is it believed to be the first proper horror novel, but it is jam-packed full of moral dilemmas – the foremost being who is the true monster here, Frankenstein or his creation? Medical procedures are also put under the spotlight, as this was the time that ‘playing God’ was the accusation against new and inventive processes.
Everyone should have a copy of this novel on their bookshelf. It’s a solid release, with explanatory notes marked by regular asterisks (which I find a little distracting). Every new publication of this ground-breaking work should be celebrated. It could have been improved by binding it in leather and making the cover design more attractive, but you can’t have everything.
(Review originally written by Ty Power for reviewgraveyard 2018)
Oxford World’s Classics publishes Horror Stories – Classic Tales From Hoffman to Hodgson, an anthology of genre short stories from between the period 1816 to 1912. There are 29 tales encompassing ghosts and the supernatural, psychological, medical, colonial, and scientific horror, plus the uncanny, and precognition. It is edited and introduced by Darryl Jones, Professor of English and Dean of the Faculty of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences at Trinity College Dublin – where he teaches 19th Century literature and popular fiction. His previous collections include the recently reviewed Arthur Conan Doyle: Gothic Tales, and M.R. James – Collected Ghost Stories. This book also incorporates Notes on Text, a Select Bibliography, and a Chronology time-line.
A collection of old horror stories is always welcomed with open arms by me, if no one else. For the casual curious reader this is an ideal manner in which to example various writers and differing writing styles. I should point out, however, that because these are from the late 19th century and very early 20th century, they do confirm to a formal retro style. They are invariably told by well-to-do or blasé rich men. The stories are relayed from what one person has told another, rather than the action happening in real time as we read. People born in the 21st century may consider this material stuffy and long-winded, while at the same time enjoying a modern film version of the tales. I for one love this format, and possess leather bound collections of such authors as H.P. Lovecraft, M.R. James, Edgar Allan Poe, Mark Twain, Arthur Conan Doyle, Robert Louis Stevenson, and many others. Consequentially, I have read many of the stories presented here already.
People’s opinions are obviously going to differ, but I often wonder at the choices of stories selected from writings in the public domain. Many anthologies will want to include all of the most popular stories. Indeed, this one has 'Strange Event in the Life of Schalken the Painter' – by Sheridan Le Fanu; 'The Signal-Man' – by Charles Dickens; 'The Body Snatcher' – by Robert Louis Stevenson; 'The Yellow Wallpaper' – by Charlotte Perkins Gilman; 'The Case of Lady Sannox' – by Arthur Conan Doyle; 'The Monkey’s Paw' – by W.W. Jacobs; and 'Count Magnus' – by M.R. James. However, there are also nice examples from those horror writers from the period who are often underrepresented in modern collections: Arthur Machen ('Novel of the White Powder'), Algernon Blackwood ('The Wendigo'), and E.F. Benson ('The Room in the Tower').
Of course, other famous names can’t go without a mention, and these are undoubtedly used to pull in potential readers. We have Bram "Dracula" Stoker’s 'The Squaw', Rudyard "The Jungle Book" Kipling’s 'The Mark of the Beast', and Edgar (too many to mention) Allan Poe’s 'Berenice – A Tale'. There is nothing wrong with selecting any of these classic writers, but often the same stories are chosen in different collections to represent them. Therefore, connoisseurs of this period, such as myself, may well feel cheated by receiving only up to half a dozen titles they haven't already got in other collections. Nevertheless, I look on this release – like many other anthologies – as serving a purpose to show the world how these are, not only examples of early sub-genres copied today, but that they still have an impact in their own right. I am disappointed, however, that H.P. Lovecraft – undoubtedly one of the best horror writers of all time – is not included here.
(Review originally written by Ty Power for reviewgraveyard 2018)
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