Richard Matheson's stories are seriously weird - and this collection is no exception. He is one writer whose writing effortlessly crosses the boundariRichard Matheson's stories are seriously weird - and this collection is no exception. He is one writer whose writing effortlessly crosses the boundaries of SF, dark fantasy, and horror - often tempered by a strong sense of dark humour. Consequently, it is sometimes very difficult to define the genre he is writing, but what does that matter when the output is so superior?
I found all the thirteen stories in this collection enjoyable to a more or less degree.
1. The Children of Noah - Maybe the only out-and-out horror story in this collection. Small-town America is frightening, especially for outsiders who don't know the rules the local cops play by: so when you are picked up for speeding in the night, things are bound to end badly. I loved this story with its traditional last-line sledgehammer punch.
2. Lemmings - A surreal sketch - not a full-fledged story. I found this one rather indifferent, though not bad.
3. The Splendid Source - A humorous sketch of an eccentric billionaire in search of the origin of dirty jokes. Though well-written, I found the story rather pointless.
4. Long Distance Call - A mildly interesting story of a telephone call from beyond the veil - rather predictable and nothing to write home about.
5. Mantage - What happens when a life spanning years is condensed into eighty-five minutes of movie time? And what if one's life was like that? Extremely interesting analysis on the relativity of time and the way we experience it.
6. One for the Books - This is the most unusual tale in the collection, and the most engaging. The Brain of an uneducated janitor starts mopping up knowledge like a sponge. The denouement was rather trite, however.
7. The Holiday Man - The only story in the book I couldn't make head or tail out of. One gathers that something frightening is happening, and there is a feeling of dread: but it peters out towards the end.
8. The Dance of the Dead - A girl, a high school freshman, loses her innocence while on a date with a rowdy team of seniors, but not in the way one expects. Watching a corpse dance makes one mature very fast! Enjoyable story, though not very frightening.
9. Legion of Plotters - Standard fare of a paranoid man against the world: however, Matheson's presentation raises the tale above the humdrum.
10. The Edge - For me, this was the best story in the collection, using two of fantasy fiction's standard tropes: the parallel universe and the doppelganger. However, exquisite structuring and a truly surprising and ambiguous ending made it stand out.
11. The Creeping Terror - Don't be frightened; this is a dark comedy. The "creeping terror" mentioned in the title is the state of Los Angeles, slowly advancing and swallowing America!
12. Death Ship - A gripping SF story, which totally metamorphoses into something else in the last paragraph. The title is a clue, but it will be a very astute reader who gets it. A gem.
13. The Distributor - Theodore Gordon is a distributor who moves into a new neighbourhood. What he distributes makes up the story. Mildly enjoyable.
Recommended for all connoisseurs of the weird. ...more
One has to make allowances for an author who lived in a generation prior to one's own. Brennan's fiction is old-fashioned; his horror is of the standard variety, mostly using the trope I call "The Bad Place" - a location where some horrific act has been committed leaving a residual miasma, or simply an evil place which affects the protagonists of the story. Canavan's Backyard, The Long Hollow Swamp, The House on Stillcroft Street... they are all such places (eight out of thirteen stories in the volume). It would be incorrect to call these stories frightening; at the most they create a vague sense of unease like Twilight Zone episodes or creepy legends narrated by old ladies. But they are enjoyable.
A couple of stories - The Hunt and Mr. Octbur - were surreal vignettes not falling under the usual definition of the horror genre, and hence felt fresh.
Brennan's poems make up the second part of the book. They are eerie and enjoyable, but nothing extraordinary....more