“…that country where it is always turning late in the year. That country where the hills are fog and the rivers are mist; where noons go quickly, dusks and twilights linger, and mid-nights stay. That country composed in the main of cellars, sub-cellars, coal-bins, closets, attics, and pantries faced away from the sun. That country whose people are autumn people, thinking only autumn thoughts. Whose people passing at night on the empty walks sound like rain…”
A very fine collection of Ray Bradbury’s earliest short stories. Many of these stories first appeared in the author’s little-known 1947 short-story collection, Dark Carnival. Bradbury is said to have reworked the stories for this collection published by Ballantine Books eight years later. He also added four new stories. It is now considered to be a classic showcase of American Gothic rather than out and out horror. Every single story is worth reading. Just allow yourself to get lost in Bradbury’s wonderful prose and memorable characters.
The stand-outs for me are The Jar, Uncle Einar, Homecoming, The Lake, The Scythe, and The Emissary. But readers will find much to enjoy in all of the stories. The October Country is meant to be read in autumn; it also makes perfect Halloween reading.
After reading and really enjoying Daryl Gregory’s 2017 novel Spoonbenders, I was eager to read more of his work. So I picked up his 2011 collection of short stories, Unpossible and Other Stories. I had a great time reading these stories. I found them very inventive, at times quite deep and thought-provoking, at other times bonkers and hilarious. The more I read by this author, the more I really appreciate his style. Recommended for fans of something a bit different, a bit out there; stories that not only entertain but make you think.
The short stories in this first collection by Daryl Gregory run the gamut from science fiction to contemporary fantasy, with a few stories that defy easy classification. His characters may be neuroscientists, superhero sidekicks, middle-aged heroes of children’s stories, or fanatics spreading a virus-borne religion, but they are all convincingly human. Includes two never-before published short stories.
I will write brief thoughts on each story in the collection. I’m also giving them a rating out of 10.
Second Person, Present Tense (2005) 8/10 – After Therese is discharged from a psychiatric hospital, her parents begin to question who she is. This opening story is a fascinating look into identity, altered states, personality change, and family. Great character work by Gregory.
“The house was built in unhappiness, has been lived in with unhappiness, there has been blood spilt on its floors, there has been disappearance and accident.”
-JERUSALEM’S LOT by Stephen King
I’ve written about Stephen King before on this blog. In my review of IT back in May 2020, I complained about King’s penchant for ‘overlong’ writing in some of his doorstoppers. I have always thought one of the pieces of advice in his excellent memoir On Writing was ironic. In it, King refers to the classic American writing guide, The Elements of Style by William Strunk, Jr., and highlights the guideline to “omit needless words.” Of course, it’s all subjective but just imagine if King had applied it more forcibly to his own writing. How about omitting needless pages and pages of backstory, Stephen? No? Well, who am I to argue with one of THE bestselling authors of the last 50 years.
I realize that I’m waffling a bit myself, but I just wanted to say how much I’ve come to prefer King’s shorter works. Which leads us to Night Shift, King’s first collection of short stories.
‘Night Shift: Excursions into Horror is the fifth book published by Stephen King, and his first collection of short stories. The book was released by Doubleday in February of 1978. Night Shift received the Balrog Award for Best Collection, and in 1979 it was nominated as best collection for the Locus Award and the World Fantasy Award. Many of King’s most famous short stories were included in the collection.’
I posted a review of J.G. Ballard’s short story “Chronopolis” yesterday, so I thought I would show some photos of the HUGE book I read it in. The Complete Stories of J.G. Ballard (2010) was a present from my brother a few years back. I’ve only dipped into it occasionally, so I want to make an effort to read more of the stories this year. It’s also a good chance to read more Ballard–a writer whose work is reckoned to be essential reading for any fan of the science fiction genre.
This book contains 98 short stories written between 1956 and 1996. That’s one thousand one hundred and ninety-six pages! I think this will take me a few years to complete, as I’ve been advised not to read too much Ballard in quick succession. I can understand why. His writing is well-known for being “thought-provoking and unsettling,” his stories “eerie and melancholy.”
The Private Life of Elder Things (2016) is a collaborative collection of new Lovecraftian fiction by Adrian Tchaikovsky, Adam Gauntlett and Keris McDonald.
“From the wastes of the sea to the shadows of our own cities, we are not alone. But what happens where the human world touches the domain of races ancient and alien? Museum curators, surveyors, police officers, archaeologists, mathematicians; from derelict buildings to country houses to the London Underground, another world is just a breath away, around the corner, watching and waiting for you to step into its power. The Private Life of Elder Things is a collection of new Lovecraftian fiction about confronting, discovering and living alongside the creatures of the Mythos.”
‘It is a mistake to fancy that horror is associated inextricably with darkness, silence, and solitude. I found it in the glare of mid-afternoon, in the clangour of a metropolis, and in the teeming midst of a shabby and commonplace rooming-house.’
A foul-smelling leak from the apartment above leads our protagonist to hear about the reclusive Doctor Munoz. A famed physician from Barcelona, he now spends his days in his rooms, only occasionally venturing out onto the brownstone’s roof.
One day, the narrator suffers a heart attack and seeks assistance from Doctor Munoz. He is surprised by “a rush of cool air” which hits him after the doctor opens the door to his apartment. Doctor Munoz saves the narrator’s life, telling him that he is “the bitterest of sworn enemies to death,” and needs to keep his apartment below 55 degrees Fahrenheit.
‘On August 9, we espied the ocean floor, and sent a powerful beam from the searchlight over it. It was a vast undulating plain, mostly covered with seaweed, and strewn with the shells of small mollusks.’
I first got interested in H.P. Lovecraft’s weird fiction when I was in my early teens. Like most readers, I started off reading a volume which contained a selection of his more popular stories. This journey into Arkham horror began with a copy of “Omnibus 3: The Haunter of the Dark” which includes The Rats In The Walls, The Call Of Cthulhu, The Haunter Of The Dark, Pickman’s Model, and The Lurking Fear. These are some of Lovecraft’s most famous tales. (I’ve never forgotten this cover illustration by Tim White!)
Recently, I was looking for some lesser-known gems by the author and I came across this one. It’s called “The Temple” and was published in issue 24 of Weird Tales back in 1925. It is dated as being written in 1920. I read it in the Delphi Classics kindle edition of the Complete Works of H.P. Lovecraft, which I highly recommend. Continue reading →
‘I presenced into Cardiff a day after the atrocity.’
This story is taken from Alastair Reynolds’ 2009 UK Edition of ‘Zima Blue and Other Stories’, (which includes three more stories than the original 2006 edition). It’s a very short story that was originally published in The Big Issue magazine. In his post-story notes, Reynolds reveals that “Cardiff Afterlife” is actually a sequel to his novella, “Signal to Noise”. It can be read as a standalone story.
Douglas Quail wakes up in his ‘conapt’ after dreaming of Mars. He dreams of walking along its valleys. At the beginning of the story, we are told that Mars is a world ‘which only Government agents and high officials had seen.‘ It’s not a place a ‘miserable little salaried employee‘ can visit. Kirsten, Doug’s wife, reminds him of this every day. But it’s okay because ‘it was a wife’s job to bring her husband down to Earth.‘
This is how Dick’s classic story opens. As he inhales his morning shot of snuff, Doug’s wife complains that he is obsessed with the Red Planet. She wants him to take her on a trip to ‘the bottom of the ocean‘, to ‘one of those year-round aquatic resorts.‘ His Martian dreams can only lead one way: “you’re doomed, Doug!” Continue reading →
‘If we remove him from the past, we have to make sure no one notices the big jagged hole in history we’ll leave.’
I reviewed John Sladek’s 1983 BSFA-winning novel Tik-Tok back in December 2015. I enjoyed the story, describing it as “a darkly humorous satire that casts a wry eye on such topics as art, celebrity, power, politics and slavery.” THE STEAM-DRIVEN BOY is a humourous short story that pokes fun at Asimov’s “Robot” novels. It’s another story taken from the fine 1972 collection Nova 2.