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The Wine-Dark Sea

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4.15  ·  Rating Details  ·  783 Ratings  ·  72 Reviews
From Publishers Weekly
Since his death several years ago, British writer Aickman's reputation has continued to grow among connoisseurs of the horror story. Unlike much of the current form, full of blood, monsters and melodrama, Aickman's stories achieve a quieter, more subtle and, in several ways, more lasting sense of disquiet. His lucid, finely tuned prose moves impercept
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Paperback, 352 pages
Published March 8th 1990 by Mandarin (first published January 1st 1988)
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Blair
The last time I read a Robert Aickman book - his most famous short story collection, Cold Hand in Mine - I felt conflicted. I appreciated and admired the stories, but found the anticlimatic, deliberately ambiguous, and often abrupt endings to be problematic, making several of the stories feel either incomplete or simply disappointing. I think perhaps my more positive reaction to this collection was due to adjusted expectations, knowing more about what I would get; but my assessment of Cold Han ...more
Szplug
Jul 19, 2011 Szplug rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I had read that Aickman possessed a style similar to that of Thomas Ligotti; with my completion of The Wine-Dark Sea I can definitely see certain parallels (but equally as many disparities), especially in the dichotomy between the elegantly placid and nonchalant narrative style and the uncanny, eerie unfolding of strange and spectral events on an Earth that is slightly out-of-tune to our own daily experience. With all of the unearthly unease generated by Aickman's closet-and-attic imagination, t ...more
Kay
Jul 11, 2016 Kay rated it really liked it
Having just written a review of Cold Hand in Mine, a book I read some years back, I realized I had this volume and, oddly enough, had never read it. And so, with the first substantial winter's snow piling up outdoors, I draw my down comforter around me and began.

Curiously, the title story was my least favorite in the book. I didn't read the eight longish stories (averaging 30-40 pages each) in sequence but as the mood took me. The last four tales I found the most intriguing, especially "Never V
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Simon
Jun 01, 2011 Simon rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: short-stories, horror
Another collection of stories that, although not quite of the same consistantly high standard as those in Cold Hand in Mine, was still remarkably good.

You see the thing about Aickman is that even when the stories aren't quite as interesting and gripping as the others (such as "Growing Boys", "The Fetch" and "Never Visit Venice"), they are still a pleasure to read because his prose is so engaging. I whole heartedly agree with S.T. Joshi when he said: "There are few writers who are as purely plea
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Dfordoom
Apr 03, 2008 Dfordoom rated it it was amazing
Shelves: horror-gothic
Robert Aickman was not one of the big names in horror during his lifetime and he remains an unfairly neglected author. He won the World Fantasy Award for his story Pages from a Young Girl’s Journal, which is, ironically, one of his weakest stories (in my opinion, although others seem to like it more than I did). Aickman did not write stories that would make you jump out of your seat in terror. He wrote stories that leave the reader disturbed, with a sense of having had a brush with the uncanny. ...more
Jeannie Sloan
Dec 06, 2009 Jeannie Sloan rated it really liked it
What a fun and thought provoking book.I thought that I would be annoyed because I had heard that many of his stories were left open ended but found the opposite was true.The open endings left room for further thought on the stories that I still coninue to think about even though it's been a while since I read this book.
I would classify his stories,for the most part,as fantasies as well as horror stories.He is very good at descriptions of people and places so that you feel that you are connected
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Ctgt
Jun 23, 2015 Ctgt rated it really liked it
Shelves: weird
She seemed still to be looking up at him, and suddenly he waved to her, though it was not altogether the kind of thing he normally did. She waved back at him. Stephen even fancied she smiled at him. It seemed quite likely. She resumed her task.
He waited for an instant, but she looked up no more. He continued on his way more slowly, and feeling more alive, even if only for moments. For those moments, it had been as if he still belonged to the human race, to the mass of mankind.


These stories from
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Eddie Watkins
May 07, 2008 Eddie Watkins rated it really liked it
The master of the literary weird. No one, not even M. R. James, can create such an atmosphere of elegant unease.
Genevieve
Quick notes: Disquieting, darkly sexual, moody. I haven't read a book that had me so unsettled in quite a while. Like hearing a minor chord of music held too long in the air. Or experiencing deja-vu in the most unexpected of places. Or suddenly sighting your doppelganger on the streets. Aickman explores the uncanny and strange and more in the stories in this collection.

In style and approach, the stories are far removed from contemporary modes of horror. The Wine-Dark Sea is more in the vein of T
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Tina
Despite my rather brazen personality and outspoken views, I have a deep love affair with things that are subtle: the under-flavor in a dish, faint perfume, a concept lingering on the cusp of being unexplained. The latter is what I really enjoyed about these stories – the plot or paranormal experiences weren’t explained in a black&white fashion like most horror stories. This gave them a more intense draw, as it really forced you to consider the story after finishing it. As it was a small coll ...more
Jane
Jun 21, 2015 Jane rated it really liked it
Dipped into this short story collection as the mood struck me. Each story was 30-40 pp. of horror, called more exactly supernatural or "strange". Each concerns a character or characters who meet with a strange, otherworldly person, thing or events and their reactions to what they come upon. Endings are open-ended, not neatly tied up. The horror is subtle and creeps up on you. Aickman is a master in this genre; not for him the bloodfests of recent horror literature and movies. The writing conveys ...more
Amanda
Oct 01, 2010 Amanda rated it really liked it
Unsettlingly creepy stories, not exactly ghost stories in the classic sense of the genre (except for one or two), but many with the inexplicable atmosphere of a nightmare: very odd, scary things happen, for no obvious reason and they're not explained away. Many of them have echoes of the darker side of Greco-Roman or other mythology, most obviously the title story (I spent most of it trying to decide whether the three "sorceresses" the main character encounters on a decidedly weird Greek island ...more
Matthew Hunter
"Aickman at his best was this century's most profound writer of what we call horror stories and he, with greater accuracy, called strange stories." -- Peter Straub, "Introduction" to The Wine-Dark Sea

This is my first exposure to Robert Aickman's work, so I can't corroborate the truth of Straub's claim. But I can say the man's good, really good. Sure, the quality of these eight stories is uneven. "Into the Wood" is perfection. "The Trains", "Your Tiny Hand Is Frozen", and "The Inner Room" aren't
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Ann Schwader
Mar 22, 2013 Ann Schwader rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Ann by: Literary Darkness group read
Shelves: horror
This was my first experience with Robert Aickman. Nearly every story in this collection was a mind-altering substance, though I can't claim to have enjoyed every single one of them -- or even to have understood every one!

Several did not feel like horror to me, but all were deeply strange in a very British manner. The overall effect was something like reading an updated M.R. James. There are hauntings, both rural and urban. There are family secrets hinted at, though never divulged. In a very few
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Bibliophile
Aug 24, 2013 Bibliophile rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
Another wonderful collection of Aickman's inimitable, surreal tales. It really doesn't get any better than this. The title story is fairly straight-forward but oddly enchanting with its mythical creatures. The Trains, with all its possible interpretations, may be the best ghost story I've ever read. While Your Tiny Hand Is Frozen is an eerie and pessimistic examination of isolation, Into The Wood contains some measure of hope and release from the constraints of the modern society. I've loved eac ...more
Mark McLaughlin
Nov 03, 2012 Mark McLaughlin rated it it was amazing
Robert Aickman wrote long, leisurely, surreal, brilliant horror stories that are absolutely mesmerizing. He was a master of subtle but vital details that come back to haunt you long after you've finished the story.
Sean
I picked this up because of the strong, repeated recommendations Neil Gaiman has written of Aickman's work over the past little while. This is not the first time that Gaiman has steered me wrong; despite my great love for his writing, he and I evidently have very different tastes.

Aickman is very good at creating an atmosphere of unease, but his language is so proper and restrained even when he is describing sex or murder that it effectively created a wall that kept me from being fully immersed.
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Jonathan Oliver
Nov 22, 2012 Jonathan Oliver rated it really liked it

Aickman bridges the stylistic gap between classic horror, as written by practitioners such as M.R. James, Algernon Blackwood, Arthur Machen etc and the new wave of horror, as represented by such writers as Ramsey Campbell, Peter Straub and Fritz Leiber. His stories are unique and if you haven't had the chance to check him out, then you really must. The Wine Dark Sea displays Aickman at his very best. From the sensuality of the title story, to the nightmarish rural surreality of the Trains, from
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Heidi Ward
Read over the long weekend I spent with a cold. I'll need some time to digest, but off the top of my head I can say I very much enjoyed Aickman's uncanny sensibility. On the other hand, he does tend to go on -- particularly in descriptions of people interacting with nature -- which in some cases takes the air out of stories that might have been masterpieces had they 20 fewer pages and a bit more punch. The ones that will stick: "The Wine-Dark Sea"; "Never Visit Venice"; "Into the Wood." A more t ...more
Corinna Bechko
Apr 12, 2013 Corinna Bechko rated it it was amazing
By turns dark, atmospheric, wryly funny, banal, and brutal, these stories twist what at first seems to be ordinary life into something both frightening and exhilarating. Aickman's use of language is a palpable pleasure, more something you allow to wash over you than something that you actively read.
Alice
Apr 13, 2010 Alice rated it really liked it
Wonderfully strange and quietly weird stories. Surprised that Aickman was not on my radar earlier in my life, when I was weirder. Appreciated the English tone of oppressive civility mixed with implied perversity and terror. Who wouldn't love a story about an island that BLEEDS?
Jennifer
Jun 05, 2015 Jennifer rated it it was amazing
After hearing about his work for years, this was my first time reading Aickman, and it's still haunting me. In addition to being beautifully written, these stories are some of the most unsettling things I've encountered--the closest I've come to reading what a particularly disorienting dream actually feels like. I was especially fascinated with the title story and the absolutely chilling The Trains.

I'm so excited to have finally started working through my little pile of Aickmans, and that I have
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Sophie Carsenat
Jan 13, 2011 Sophie Carsenat rated it it was amazing
Aickman is a god.
Andy
Apr 24, 2015 Andy rated it it was amazing
This is the third Aickman collection I've read, and like the others, this gets 5 stars.

The stories here seem longer than the other two collections I've read and I think that works well for Aickman's style. You can really "settle into" these stories.

Aickman's anti-modernist views came through in this collection more clearly than in the previous two I've read. These build throughout and are released poignantly in the final story "Into the Wood."

The Wine-Dark Sea - This has a rather familiar theme
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Leniw
Dec 09, 2014 Leniw rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
3.5
This is the first time that I read a book of Robert Aickman.
Although he seems a very notable and unique writer, some of his stories didn't appeal to me at all.

Aickman uses the English language beautifully. In lots of parts I was really amazed by the skill and artfulness of his writing style. The stories are really strange and unique. I really liked the "The Inner Room" , "Your Tiny Hand Is Frozen" and "The Fetch". "The Inner Room" is probably my favorite, it made me shiver.

If you are a love
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Nick Fagerlund
Oct 14, 2014 Nick Fagerlund rated it really liked it

Short story collection. May 26, 2014



I left a few of these unread, which is a thing I often do with short story collections. Squirreling morsels away for later.



I put a library hold on this book a very long time ago, and by the time they gave up on their hypothetical wandering copy and got a new one, I'd totally forgotten why I wanted it. I must have had some reason; maybe someone quoted a story on Tumblr, or I read an essay about Aickman's work, or someone at work told me to read it. But function

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Cathy Douglas
These horror stories reminded me of Alfred Hitchcock movies, with subtlety and psychology in place of anything overtly monstrous. As far as I remember, they mostly involve some English person traveling somewhere, coming across something creepy, being unable to resist exploring it, and coming to a bad end. I can see why some readers consider Aickman a master of this type of horror, and I generally liked the stories, though this genre isn't really my thing. I only found them a bit longwinded.
Tyson
Jul 01, 2016 Tyson rated it liked it
Working my way though this collection of ghost stories, I was taken with the author's measured tone and narrative. At no point did the otherworldly or ghostly provoke a fright or spook. In each story, the ghostly is revealed almost a-matter-of-factly, so there was virtually no tension. That, in itself, added a dimension of strangeness to the stories. I wish the stories were more taut though.
Patrick
Oct 05, 2014 Patrick rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Until recently it was quite hard to get hold of Robert Aickman’s work, but happily at least some of his fiction is now back in print. I read this in one of the fine new Faber paperbacks, having enjoyed ‘Cold Hand in Mine’ via Kindle a couple of years ago; back then I had such a strong reaction to his work that I counted myself a fan afterwards, and I’m still keen to read all his stuff I can get my hands on. This particular book is a new edition of an anthology originally released in 1988, and de ...more
David Rush
Sep 24, 2014 David Rush rated it really liked it
If you Google Robert Aickman you find him quoted saying his stories are not horror, rather “strange”. I agree.

He stories here often revolve around a middle aged male and some mysterious or magical woman. Sometimes nymph like, or simply other worldly. So his women are not cliched and central to or as strange as other parts his stories. They are usually strong but also dangerous if not deadly.

One exception was the beleaguered mother of “Growing Boys” who finally breaks free of her monstrously larg
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Author of: close to 50 "strange stories" in the weird-tale and ghost-story traditions, two novels (The Late Breakfasters and The Model), two volumes of memoir (The Attempted Rescue and The River Runs Uphill), and two books on the canals of England (Know Your Waterways and The Story of Our Inland Waterways).

Co-founder and longtime president of the Inland Waterways Association, an organization that
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