This collection of ten stories was an enjoyable, yet harrowing experience for me. Although all different, the stories are held together by a central theme; abysses, voids, chasms, gateways to other worlds; or just holes. There was definitely a touch of the Lovecraft in these tales.
The Abyss Beyond the Reflection, the title story (and a great title, by the way), kicks things off brilliantly. Set in the future where technology has come up with the ultimate experience in celebrity stalking, a man in his thirties longs to live a day in the body of his favourite blonde bombshell. But of course, things don’t go all that swimmingly. Eyeballs are removed, an abyss reveals itself in a mirror that leads to a terrifying other place, and all is not well in the world of this certain celebrity.
I was reminded of the Red Dwarf episode, Back to Reality, but obviously there was little comedy in this story. What made this tale all the more scary was that it wasn’t a million miles away from the direction society, with the whole celebrity culture, seems to be going. A great start to the collection.
The second story, Driftwood Mannequins, didn’t quite wow me like the first. When a couple trekking through the woods stumble across a pair of, well, driftwood mannequins, one of them decides to investigate. Not the best idea in the world. This one could have perhaps been elaborated upon, but thinking of it now, it did end with a creepy twist. So yeah, probably ignore the first sentence about this one.
Things started to really hot up with Three White Demons. An excavation crew make a startling discovery, and one of them calls a friend of his who he is sure will dig it (get it?) as he’s a big sci-fi geek. When the man, Thomas, visits the site he becomes fascinated by the structures that appear 2001 monolith-esque. A great chasm appears between the structures and good old Health and Safety deems it far too dangerous to investigate. But Thomas, desperate for something exciting in his life, decides to have a look down there himself. What he discovers is the thing of science fiction nightmares.
The White Sea was not only brilliantly Lovecraftian in its ideas, but also in its execution. A man with a huge inheritance from his parents embarks on a journey across the sea to Alaska. There’s something very strange about the crew he hires, though, and especially the captain. His journey seems to be taking longer than expected but when he discovers exactly where’s he headed, it’s too late to turn back. The sense of utter helplessness aboard the boat was really well executed here. That and the damn freaky creatures living in the water, but I’ll say no more.
The Doorway tells of a man who’s told he is crazy, and medicated accordingly. But the doorway is everywhere, and no matter how he is treated by the doctors, it finds a way to creep into his psyche. The things beyond this doorway could send a sane man crazy, and a crazy man even crazier.
The story of two popular stage magicians is recounted in Nowhere Better Than Here. Marvelous Marco, assistant to The Fantastique Frederick becomes increasingly agitated and a little fearful at his colleague’s (boss’s?) fascination with strange old books that apparently give answers to the great unknown. Another terrifying void makes an appearance here when Fred finally makes his discovery. I felt that this one could have been a more, I don’t know the right word, but there was just something lacking. Saying that, though, I did hammer through this one, such was the way the story drew me in, so I can’t complain too much.
Never-ending Rain was about… go on, have a guess. I loved this one. Imagine if it rained forever, well, for as long as it took for us petty humans to be wiped out completely that is. But it wasn’t just the prospect of drowning in the world’s biggest rain-ocean that was at the heart of this story, it was what would happen after the world was turned into this epic swimming pool. There were yet more weird alien-type monster creatures here. Creepy stuff, man.
Qaeceit’s Mirror slowed things down a bit for me. A strange man who’s spent his life travelling, moves in with a student who needs a roommate quick. When the man sleeps all day and goes out all night, the student begins to suspect something weird going on. There is some good gore going on here, but the whole thing didn’t really do it for me.
The Space Passed the Stars was a fun flash fiction piece that will teach you to definitely think about the awesomeness and vastness of space. Don’t just pass it off as meh, it’s just some black with twinkles in it!
A Star Collector, another flash piece, brings things to a strange abyssian and voidian (they are now words!), weird-as-hell finish. Although thinking more about it, the whole book had that weird vibe throughout.
So all in all, a great collection of stories. The ones that didn’t really grab so much me were easily outweighed by the ones that did. Micah Castle obviously has a great love of the Lovecraft tale but manages to put his own contemporary twists on the classic ideas. This is highly recommended for fans of the aforementioned Howard, and those fans of weird stories in general.
Categories: book review