The Nameless Dark is a perfect title for this collection of stories. For the feeling of something indescribable emanating from a blackness void to terrify and then destroy you is certainly the sensation I got from involving myself in these tales.
Inside these pages lie 14 stories that will, there’s no other way to put it, shit you right up!
This book had been on my wish list for a while, longer than I should admit really, but finally I got round to buying a paperback copy. The other reviewers seemed to love it, and the cover is some creepy shit, and the title… OK, I’ve mentioned the title already.
There are some real nods to HP Lovecraft in here and mentions of the Cthulhu Mythos. But these are in no way rip-offs, they’re not even simply homages either. Every idea even though not entirely original per se, is fresh and well respected and fits well within the contexts of the stories.
Truth be told, the first three (yes three) stories didn’t really grab me as I’d initially hoped. The first one, Tubby’s Big Swim, isn’t all that frightening and is more a tale that evokes empathy and a little sadness. Of course, that’s credit to the author, even though my pants were still clean at that point.
The Screamer turned up the terrors a notch, and although it was a good story I was still craving something truly horrifying. But things did seem to be hotting up.
Then came Clean, a story with a subject matter that many would refuse to consider reading about (not me, I might add). But again, I wasn’t really feeling this one either. I flicked through the pages, glanced at the front and back covers again, and seriously wondered whether I was going to finish the book.
But I continued, because although I wasn’t gripped there was still something about T. E. Grau’s style that held me in, like a grotesque, nameless creature from the threatening darkness (that’s a clever title tie-in there, you’re welcome!).
To digress slightly, I’d liken this collection to an epic album by a prog rock/metal band. It’s only by immersing yourself fully in it that you get the rewards. Some albums feel like the opening act of the record is just preparing you for the sheer awesomeness that’s about to come your way. And after being blown away by the musicianship and turning the album off with a ‘wow’ face, those opening songs suddenly appear better than when you first heard them. Know what I’m getting at?
So Return of the Prodigy was where my opinion of this collection really changed. When a man takes his wife away to a remote island on the cheap, his thrifty tactics backfire astoundingly. There’s something definitely ‘off’ about the place and its history. The couple’s holiday is halted in the most devastating of ways.
In Expat a man wakes in a strange flat with a corpse on the floor beside him, and that’s never a good situation to be in. When he realises what has actually happened, his world changes forever. A creepy supernatural element encased this story.
The legend of Jack the Ripper is explored in The Truffle Pig. This is a short tale explaining exactly what happened in Whitechapel all those years ago. I’d prefer it to be just some whore-hater to be honest, that seems much less scarier than what actually happened.
Beer and Worms was kind of horrific, but not all out horror. It was still enjoyable, though. A story made up mostly of dialogue, which moved the pace along nicely. It has a ‘well, what happens next?’ type ending.
In White Feather we’re treated to some proper balls-to-the-wall Lovecraft action. There’s even mention of fish-folk and Innsmouth. But it’s the terror and unease that really moves the story forwards to its dramatic ending. Cree. Pee.
Scary stories involving videos, computers, music and such resonate with us even more these days with technological advances almost taking the piss with what they’re capable of. I find this branch of the horror tree particularly unnerving. In Transmission a man driving along a deserted highway picks up an eerie broadcast on the radio. It calls to him, and he answers it. The unknown secrets of the cosmos are about to be understood, kind of.
Mr Lupus is about werewolves, the clue’s in the title. But this isn’t just your run-of-the-mill werewolf tale. A rich, arrogant arsehole is humbled by a strange yet sweet girl who he sort of befriends. She lives out in the woods and is frightened of the city, and especially of Mr Lupus who visits her once a month. This one had a great ending with a very creepy set up.
Free Fireworks tells of the commemorating of victims of war, and bringing solidarity to the people showing their respects to their fallen soldiers. There’s no time period stated here, and that makes the story timeless in a way. But war is coming, and not in the traditional sense humanity has been used to since, forever.
Strange, hippie-esque followers of a charismatic new-age messiah are prevalent in Love Songs From the Hydrogen Jukebox. The narrator is taken on a strange journey by said leader where he witnesses terrifying secrets from another world, a weird cult ceremony, and naked masked people.
Twinkle, Twinkle is the story of a recently bereaved father and daughter. The young girl misses her mommy but claims she can see her in the stars through her telescope. It’s true, there is something there, but it’s not her mommy.
And so we come to the final story, The Mission. The desolate backdrop that accompanied this was breathtakingly vivid. A band of soldiers on horseback are searching the plains for the enemy. But when they discover a small town that doesn’t appear on any map, things go downhill for the dudes, and fast. This was a great closer, again using the mysteries of Cthulhu and Dagon (although not named) to truly terrify the group of men, and this reader.
Even though I admit it took me until the fourth story to really feel this collection, I can’t give it less than 5 stars. The other stories were mostly 6-starrers themselves, so all in all it’s top marks for this really impressive bunch of stories. I suppose it’s a good job I read this in the summer with these warm, light nights to keep me company. Although, the Elders have no respect for the light!
Categories: book review