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The Wine-Dark Sea

4.10  ·  Rating details ·  1,434 ratings  ·  153 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
Paperback, 452 pages
Published March 8th 1990 by Mandarin (first published January 1st 1988)
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Nov 25, 2016 rated it really liked it
Having been a one-time lover of traditional stories by some of the greats of the last century or century and a half, I was much more at home with these tales than I might have been otherwise, assuming that I was in for tales of horror and the macabre.

What we have here are subtle tales that evoke more with atmosphere and themes of travel and disturbing discoveries than outright hack and slash.

My personal favorite was a retelling of Death in Venice with a particularly fantastical bent and no sign
Paul Christensen
Jan 19, 2018 rated it it was amazing
The Inner Room (5 stars)
Aickman’s most chilling and memorable story in my opinion. A doll’s house stands as substitute for a Europe whose spiritual neglect by the allied victors of WW2 means its utter ruination.

Never Visit Venice (5 stars)
One of the most right-wing stories ever written. A scathing attack on egalitarian man, with a nod of respect to Mussolini at the end.

Growing Boys (5 stars)
Aickman’s most laugh-out-loud funny story, although it deals with a serious issue. Phineas Morke is what
Aug 22, 2014 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
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 H ...more
Nov 14, 2010 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
Jovana Autumn
I'm starting to think that the Serbian horror edition from this particular book publisher is actually choosen well.

I am very picky with the horror genre, and I tend to feel indifferent with reading short stories;I was sure that this can't be the second short story horror book that I gave 5 stars in 2019- but alas, it was.

And the Serbian edition is beautiful.

The thing with these stories is that they don't have a definitive ending, it leaves more than one possibile ending and that actually mak
Apr 15, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Some of the stories in this collection were very twisted. I actually went back and re-read parts to make sure that I wasn't missing anything.

Try and find a copy and read these unforgettable and unsettling stories.
Jan 17, 2008 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
Feb 20, 2017 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2017
Average rating for the entire collection - 2.4 stars

Given the high ratings for this collection, I was hoping to enjoy these stories more than I ultimately did. Some of them took some discussion with a fellow reader to help understand what was going on, so I got more out of them than I would have on my own. However, there were only a few that I marked up because I really enjoyed the uneasy atmosphere and situations the characters found themselves in. My favorite above all of them was The Inner Ro
Dec 25, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: horror, short-stories
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
Apr 03, 2008 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
Aug 30, 2014 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
Jeannie Sloan
Nov 13, 2009 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
Eddie Watkins
May 07, 2008 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.
Mar 17, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Yet another superb collection, tho one that will hardly satisfy those who view Aickman as a writer of what is nowadays seen as “weird“/dark fiction.

“The Wine-Dark Sea” - being the opening, titular story - is a gorgeous, melancholy piece. Herein are set both the tone and theme of this collection. This story is centred around the journey to "...the island surrounded by the waters, the rock, the unshakable stone... symbols of inviolability and inaccessibility; the invisible or not-to-be-found cast
Paul Ataua
Apr 28, 2020 rated it it was amazing
I came across this selection of Robert Aickman’s short stories and it really knocked me out. The stories are strange, atmospheric, and thought-provoking. My favorites were ‘ Into the Wood’, ‘Never Visit Venice’, and ‘The Inner Room’, but I pretty much enjoyed all of them. The stories in ‘The Wine-Dark Sea' are difficult to categorize. They are certainly not horror, nor are they weird fiction. It’s probably best to say that they are just strange stories that satisfy.
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
Mar 24, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is a reprint collection of the author's stories, ranging through his career. The audio version's contents mirror those of the Faber reprint, omitting stories found in Faber's other Aickman reprints.
I am a fan of Aickman's, and have been for a while now. His work is subtle and obscure, heavy with foreboding and symbolism, light on gore and explicit scares. His emphasis on mood over story can be frustrating, especially to new readers, and can lead to his lesser works blending together, indist
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 collecti ...more
This posthumous collection showcases too much of what I don't enjoy in Aickman's work (the diffuseness and aimless wordiness, the snobbishness, the narcissism, the whingeing about the modern world) for me to give it a higher rating, but there are a few stories here that are worth reading, two of those truly remarkable.

"The Inner Room" is a creepy, beautifully imagined dolls' house tale that will appeal instantly to any reader who ever obsessed over a miniature home of her own. Aickman appears t
Mark McLaughlin
Nov 03, 2012 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.
Michael Adams
A fine collection of quiet horror stories masterfully written. Some of these tales were genuinely wonderful, classics of the genre. and stood out, even amongst their most excellent peers. Highly recommended to fans of intelligent, articulate prose, and quiet, unsettling horror.
Apr 24, 2015 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
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
Oct 01, 2010 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
Jan 26, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites, horror
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
Ann Schwader
Feb 16, 2013 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
Steve Griffin
Aug 16, 2017 rated it it was amazing
The attention to detail in these stories and the deeply-knit tensions make you think you are heading for a full length novel, something that is going to take you to fantastic, dark places and give you all kinds of revelations. And you get some of that, but Aickman uses the short story to cut you off in mid-flow, to leave early, to depart in a manner that leaves you wanting more. There hangs the doom of foreclosure across all his tales, which I think is exactly what he wants. His glimpses, of the ...more
Robert Aickman's The Wine-Dark Sea is a great collection of "strange stories", as Aickman himself dubbed them. His style of horror is very distinct, but if his work must be compared to others then one would have to place it in the vein of subtle and quiet European ghost stories, similar in manner to the hugely influential work of M.R. James. Whereas James' stories usually follow the formula of curious Englishmen foolishly meddling with places and things related to the occult and bringing upon th ...more
Feb 17, 2018 rated it it was ok
After all the great reviews, I had expected so much more. Had to force myself to finish the book. Sad because there was so much potential. Aickman has a great talent for creating atmosphere and evoking unique places. But he is so much in love with his writing that he gets lost in it. Hemingway would be turning in his grave. Aickman seems to be convinced that a million adverbs (the more obscure, the better) make for great style.

Most of the stories left me unsatisfied. Anticlimactic endings, unli
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Literary Horror: March 2018 Group Read -- The Wine Dark Sea 26 53 Apr 01, 2018 02:50AM  

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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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