Simon Bisson (sbisson) wrote,
Simon Bisson

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The Sunday Morning "Catchup" Reviews - Number 1: Dark Visions

The Dark Visions anthology has been sat on my "to-be-read" bookcase for some time now. Not as long as some books, but long enough to make it surface when I was grabbing for a tube book the other morning. It's a collection of dark fantasy stories by Stephen King, Dan Simmons and George R. R. Martin, which I probably bought for the Martin. A good job too, as I'd actually read all the Simmons stories elsewhere, and I found the Kings derivative and disappointing. Capsule reviews of the stories follow.

Stephen King

  • The Reploids: A standard "he walked around the horses" alternate history story, with the twist being that the switch is made as the main character walks on to the set of a major chat show. A very derivative story, with enough of a point of difference that the swap could never happen. While it may give us that Twilight Zone feel, King really needs to read some decent A-H before he tries this again.

  • Sneakers: A basic ghost story in a recording studio, with a haunted toilet cubicle. King tries to give it some psychological spin with an overlay of homophobia, but his heart's not in it. There's no suspense, no drive. Ramsay Campbell would have done this so much better.

  • Dedication: Billed as a macabre and unsettling story, this actually turned out to be just another voudon tale, spiced with a little auto-eroticism. There is some redemption in the characterisation, but it remains a sad little story that does little to meet its billing.

Dan Simmons

  • Metastasis: Simmons is a wonderful writer, and when his stories turn dark they go all the way. An accident has given our narrator the ability to see the supernatural entities that cause cancer, and the will to destroy them. This is a story of madness, redemption and the ultimate sacrifice. Superb.

  • Vanni Fucci Is Alive And Well And Living In "Hell": A delightful satire on TV evangelists, with an almost Prachett-like twist. As we observe the universe, it changes to fit our most powerful myths. There was no hell until Dante wrote his Comedy. One of the damned returns to confront a televangelist with the way things really are. Simmons pulls humour out of quantum horror, and shows just how well he can write.

  • Iverson's Pits: A dark tale of betrayal and revenge, set during the early years of the century at the 50th anniversary reunion of the Battle of Gettysburg. A young boy scout travels to become an escort to a veteran, and finds himself dran into a cycle of revenge that reaches from within the graves of the war's unknown dead. Powerful stuff, and an example of why Simmons really is one of the best writers around.

George R. R. Martin

  • The Skin Trade: A private eye story with a twist, as we slowly discover that not only is one of the lead charachters a werewolf, but so is practically everyone else. Again it's a story driven by betryal and revenge, reaching out across the years. Red herrings and counterplots thrust the tools and tropes of the detective novel headfirst into the supernatural, in a twisted rush across the night city. Wonderful stuff, the stuff that dark dreams are made of. And the joy of the night running of the wolf are a pointer to Martin's later work in the Song Of Ice And Fire.

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