Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Brief Curtains

Beyond the Curtain of Dark (1967/1972): edited by Peter Haining, containing the following stories:

Lizzie Borden Took an Axe... (1946) by Robert Bloch: Interesting but a bit long and fairly obvious; a sort of thematic companion piece to Bloch's earlier, superior "Yours Truly, Jack the Ripper."
The Snail Watcher (1964) by Patricia Highsmith: Brilliant, gross, and very short from the creator of the talented Tom Ripley.
Chickamauga (1889) by Ambrose Bierce: Haunting and horrible tale of war as observed by a child.
At Last, the True Story of Frankenstein (1965) by Harry Harrison: A mostly funny, EC Comics-like entry in the school of 'that story was actually sorta true!'
Fever Dream (1948) by Ray Bradbury: A creepy tale of infection still resonates with body-fear in the Age of Ebola.
The Other Celia (1957) by Theodore Sturgeon: A fascinating character study of a voyeuristic loner and the strange fellow lodger in a boarding house whose oddities attract his attention.
The Oval Portrait (1842) by Edgar Allan Poe: Short-short from Poe, and not all that rewarding.
The Monster-Maker (1887) by W. C. Morrow: One crazy scientific monster story from the late Victorian Age.
Come and Go Mad by Fredric Brown: Brilliant piece of science-fictional paranoia, and an unusually long story from the often terse Brown, one of the two or three absolute masters of the shock-short.
The Survivor (1954) by H. P. Lovecraft and August Derleth: Derleth expands brief notes from Lovecraft into a story. You will see the ending coming. Fun but derivative.
The Ancestor (1957) by H. P. Lovecraft and August Derleth: Derleth expands brief notes from Lovecraft into another story. You will see the ending coming. Also fun but derivative.
The Mortal Immortal (1833) by Mary Shelley: A melancholy non-Frankensteinian work from Shelley. The ending suggests a possible future team-up between the eponymous protagonist and the Creature.
Dr. Heidegger's Experiment (1837) by Nathaniel Hawthorne: One of Hawthorne's funnier excursions into a bleak assessment of human character.
By These Presents (1953) by Henry Kuttner: Clever deal-with-the-devil story.
Whosits Disease (1962) by Henry Slesar: Brief and disposable.
King Pest (1835) by Edgar Allan Poe: Another of Poe's less-anthologized works is a funny-nightmarish walkabout in a plague-ridden port town. The extreme physical oddities of most of the characters, and the oddly jolly, macabre situation of the story suggest Tim Burton.
Mayaya's Little Green Men (1946) by Harold Lawlor: Very much telegraphed and pointlessly nasty.
For the Blood Is the Life (1905) by F. Marion Crawford: Maybe the prolific Crawford's oddest horror story, with a really striking revelation of a ghost as seen from afar.
The Human Chair (1925/translated from the Japanese 1956) by Edogawa Rampo: Very creepy little tale from a Japanese master of horror.
The Fortunes of Sir Robert Ardagh (1838) by Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu: The great Le Fanu plays with narrative points of view.
Return to the Sabbath (1938) by Robert Bloch: Relatively early Bloch melds Hollywood and the Satanic in an early indication of how Bloch's horror writing would develop.
The Will of Luke Carlowe (1906) by Clive Pemberton: You will see the ending coming.
Eyes Do More Than See (1965) by Isaac Asimov: Nifty and unusual inclusion of a science-fiction story set in a far, far future in which humanity has evolved into immortal energy beings.

Typically eclectic and wide-ranging anthology from the prolific anthologist Peter Haining. Not everything hits hard, but the breadth and occasional rarity of the selections make it a worthwhile read. Recommended.

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