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The Unsettled Dust

4.16  ·  Rating details ·  455 ratings  ·  47 reviews
Robert Aickman, the supreme master of the supernatural, brings together eight stories where strange things happen that the reader is unable to predict. His characters are often lonely and middle-aged but all have the same thing in common - they are all brought to the brink of an abyss that shows how terrifyingly fragile our peace of mind actually is.

'The Next Glade', 'Bind
Paperback, 304 pages
Published August 21st 2008 by Faber & Faber (first published 1990)
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Average rating 4.16  · 
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Paul Christensen
Feb 01, 2018 rated it it was amazing
The Unsettled Dust (4 stars)
Painfully bleak, dust-enshrouded England.

The Houses of the Russians (5 stars)
Eerie narrative about the buried soul of Russia; an amusing minor character (in the form of an obnoxious leftist called Rort) reinforces the strong anti-Marxist theme of this story.

No Stronger Than a Flower (5 stars)
A blackly humourous satire on the cosmetic industry.

The Cicerones (5 stars)
A short but extremely powerful story about a typical lukewarm modern man exposed to the Inexplicable in
Oct 18, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: a vast luminous sea anemone among weeds
Recommended to S̶e̶a̶n̶ by: the long-drawn-out winter dusk
A stunning set of stories, and easily my favorite of the three Aickman collections I've read. How did he do it? These stories are a wonder to behold. To read Aickman at the height of his powers is an immensely satisfying experience. Of course even as I write this I'm cringing at the shopworn superlatives flowing from the keyboard, but I don't care (though frankly it is a bit embarrassing, given Aickman's own impeccable command of the English language). The only story here that I'd read before wa ...more
After finishing The Wine-Dark Sea, I went straight into The Unsettled Dust without pause, and raced through it so quickly that when I sat down to review it, I was surprised to discover it contains the same number of stories as The Wine-Dark Sea. There's a sort of unevenness about this collection - it contains some of the briefest and the longest stories I've read by Aickman; some of the most conventional and some of the most difficult to define; and throughout the book, the characters seem to be ...more
Steve Payne
Mar 05, 2021 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: horror, short-stories
It’s often difficult giving a mark to a short story collection because the quality of individual stories can be wide ranging. Indeed there are eight stories here, and two of them - although not bad - fall short, for me, of Aickman’s usual excellence (‘The Houses of the Russians’ and ‘Bind Your Hair’). But, such is the sheer brilliance and originality of three others in this collection that I have no hesitation in awarding a 5.

In the title story, ‘The Unsettled Dust,’ a ‘Special Duties Officer fo
Jun 17, 2012 rated it really liked it
As for this excellently entertaining collection—so eerie, imaginative, intense and fluid within such formal and elegant stylistic constraints, and in which Aickman demonstrates to the full the power of less is more, wielding ambiguity and undeclared and/or unresolved events to stir the readers mind to a roil that the author does not explicitly assist in settling; which are possessed of the dexterous ability of provoking strangeness, evoking wonder, and stoking sensuality from within a narrative ...more
May 26, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: horror, short-stories
I know; it's getting boring isn't it. Another Aickman collection again rated five stars. Well, what can I say? He is simply brilliant. Or perhaps it's just that he offers exactly what I'm looking for it a book; Well written prose that both delights an disturbs in equal measure. Stories that stick with you for days afterwards as you turn them over in your mind, wrestling with their meaning and intent.

Thematically varied as usual, this is another quality collection showing that range of Aickman's
Jayaprakash Satyamurthy
Feb 20, 2014 rated it really liked it
Having read a few of Aickman's more anthologised stories - particularly 'Stains', as perfect a weird tale as there ever was - and been impressed by them, I think I at first expected too much from this collection. As you can see, I came around to thinking very highly of it anyway, but with some reservations.

Let's get those reservations out of the way. First of all, Aickman mainly deals with characters who are past their first youth, isolated and somewhat depressed. That's all very well as far as
Nov 21, 2014 rated it it was amazing
WOW, short story collections don't get better than this. Aickman rarely tries to truly scare his reader, he wants to unsettle the reader. These are stories I find myself thinking about, days, weeks later. Images and situations presented really get under the skin, and stay in the mind like few others. Sometimes a story will build and build, then just end. Many concepts here feel fresh and original too.

I think my favorite thing though was the sense of atmosphere Aickman pours into these stories, t
Jan 18, 2013 rated it it was amazing
The thing I'm finding about Aickman's later and posthumous collections is they only contain reprints of stories I've already read. This is no detraction to the quality of the content, always excellent, but caveat lector. I have already read all but one of these stories here.

I'm going to stick with the more expensive, way more expensive, Tartarus reprints since I can buy one of those for what it is costing me to get two of these retreads. Besides they are more beautiful to look at, keep their va
Merl Fluin

DAY 19: No Stronger Than A Flower
Rather far from Aickman's best, but still pretty damned good.

*The rules:
– Read one short story a day, every day for six weeks
– Read no more than one story by the same author within any 14-day period
– Deliberately include authors I wouldn't usually read
– Review each story in one sentence or less

Any fresh reading suggestions/recommendations will be gratefully received 📚
Apr 11, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is the third volume of Aickman’s short stories that I’ve read, and while in personal preference I’m tempted to rank it slightly below the recent reissues of ‘Cold Hand in Mine’ and ‘The Wine-Dark Sea’, it’s still another basically peerless assortment of strange and haunting tales. There’s something about his work which seems somehow calculated to apply very specifically to my own tastes and sensibilities; each story seems enchanted with (to borrow Poe’s title) a sense of mystery and imagina ...more
Oct 12, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The Unsettled Dust contains some of my favourite Aickman stories. The Cicerones has haunted me with its subtle terror ever since I first encountered it in (I think) the Oxford Book of English Ghost Stories and the title story is a masterpiece of creeping unease, conjuring an unsettling atmosphere from simple resources. I came across The Stains and Bind Your Hair more recently, but they certainly made their mark. The rest of the stories here were new to me - they range from the strangely depressi ...more
Sep 28, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites, horror
This is the second collection of Aickman's stories I've read, so this time I knew what to expect: beautiful, eerie tales of the supernatural - or not. With Aickman, you just don't know. Maybe his characters are simply delusional. Or maybe the world really is a dangerous place where at any moment you might get lured into a maze full of bodies while avoiding your in-laws, or meet weird and alluring creatures on the moor, or be cornered by strangers in a Belgian cathedral. I'll certainly be looking ...more
Sep 24, 2012 rated it really liked it
It seems to me that Robert Aickman is the most underrated British writer of the post-war era, in any field of literature, high or low.

Aickman made two mistakes, when it came to literary fame: he was a writer of short stories in an age that is too busy to read short literature; he was a writer of ‘strange’ stories, which have never appealed to highbrow critics. His work was too 'literary' for the ‘weird’ crowd; too ‘weird’ for the 'literary' crowd. And yet this split nature is what makes his stor
Cameron Trost
Having read and quite liked "The Trains" and "Ringing the Changes", I was hoping to find a handful of great Aickman stories. This collection, although rich in atmosphere and architectural detail, was a little disappointing. The tales lack narrative and direction, thus coming across as dream sequences rather than works of fiction. This may have been Aickman's point, but it gave me the impression that they had been poorly planned or left unfinished. ...more
Stephen Curran
Nov 21, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The forth of the available Robert Aickman collections that I have read and I’m sad that it’s the last. Unusually for a book of short stories, it gets better as it goes along. The first two are great but they make use of a more conventional form than the author’s fans might be used to. It’s when things get weirder that the writing begins to soar, starting with ‘No Stronger than a Flower’, where a newlywed visits a beauty consultant and an unstoppable transformation begins. Aickman’s best stories ...more
Jed Mayer
Jul 07, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Contains much of this master of the short story's best work, from the folk horror of "Bind Your Hair" to the fungal gothic romance of "The Stains." Only the title story and "Houses of the Russians" fall short of Aickman's highest marks, and even those tales have their merits. There is no one like Aickman, and Faber are to be commended for bringing these back into print. ...more
Jason Gilbert
Nov 12, 2013 rated it really liked it
This is another great collection of Aickman's stories. However, it seems odd that "The Unsettled Dust" was chosen as the title story, as it is a somewhat mundane, traditional ghost story, and not representative of Aickman's oeuvre. Not a bad story in its own right, but it feels like an avant-garde musician playing standards. The rest of the collection improves from that slow start, "The Next Glade", "Ravissante", and "Bind Your Hair" being my personal favorites.

Aickman's stories are occult in t
Dec 24, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Like a series of bad dreams: strange, unpredictable, flashes of violence, undercurrents of eroticism; rarely, if ever, making complete sense, except possibly on some subliminal level. Rich, leisurely prose, atmosphere that crawls under your skin and stays there.

Like that lichen. Ugh, the lichen...
Ian Casey
Oct 03, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
An intense reality, as new as it was old, was burning down on him like clear sunlight or heavenly fire or poetry.

In writing of Robert Aickman's collections, I struggle to find a way of adequately expressing the potentially conflicting ideas that a given book is more of the same from him, and yet that 'same' continues to be extraordinary. Thus I can scarcely review The Unsettled Dust in any meaningful way without regurgitating thoughts on his other works.

These eight stories could therefore be des
Inigo Thornton
May 27, 2019 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Very very very low-key story-telling. I had a hard time finishing more than two stories, losing myself in what seemed to me an endless series of unneccessary details. I get that it's all meant to build up dread or suspense slowly - and in earlier times, with nothing else to read, it might have worked; but I need to be kept more interested on the way these days, especially if I'm not sure that I'm going to be rewarded eventually. Which, in the two stories I actually got through, I really wasn't. ...more
Aug 30, 2020 added it
I enjoyed this anthology a lot more than the first collection of Aickman's works I read (The Wine-Dark Sea). Aickman's understated strangeness that often has no explanation and no satisfactory conclusion is absolutely without compare and the very stodgy British-ness of his prose accentuates the strangeness in a really effective way. Highlights for me were "Bind Your Hair," "The Cicerones," and "Ravissante" although there really isn't a particularly weak story in the collection. ...more
Oct 23, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Aickman is incredible. This might be my favourite of the Faber collections. The Stains, The Next Glade, and The Houses of The Russians are all stellar works of strange fiction. Every sentence feels perfect and pregnant with meaning and mystery. Having read all of the Faber editions, I'm seriously considering collecting the Tartarus hardbacks, containing as they do some of his lesser known pieces. ...more
asif khan
Sep 26, 2018 rated it really liked it
Charming collection of not-quite ghost stories, which follows the formula of someone meeting a ghost person or even a ghost building then realising it's a ghost then coming to terms with it very quickly. ...more
Logan Noble
Apr 12, 2021 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Robert Aickman’s fiction endlessly bucks convention and somehow terrifies and entertains in equal measure. The House of the Russians and The Stains stood out to me in this collection. These Faber books are quite excellent.
Annie Neugebauer
Jun 06, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2019
Not well suited to audio; I need to give Aickman a fair chance and read some more of his work in print.
Dec 10, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
No Stronger Than a Flower - 7
The Cicerones - 4
Ravissante - 7
The House of the Russians - 6
The Unsettled Dust - 9
Bind Your Hair - 6
The Next Glade - 6
The Stains - 6
The Unsettled Dust ~ ★★★★
The Houses of the Russians ~ ★★★★
No Stronger than a Flower ~ ★★★★
The Cicerones ~ ★★★★★
The Next Glade ~ ★★★★
Ravissante ~ ★★★★★
Bind Your Hair ~ ★★★★★
The Stains ~ ★★★★★
Suzie Grogan
Aug 03, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The strangest collection of short stories I have ever read. Disturbing, unfathomable in places, yet wholly satisfying in a haunting and undefinable way. Wonderful writing.
Lawrence Binnie
Highlights: ‘The Cicerones’, ‘The Next Glade’, ‘The Stains’.
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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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