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Review: Horror Reanimated – Echoes

Friday 28 August 2009

BOOK REVIEW

Horror Reanimated: Echoes

Authors: Joseph D’Lacey, Bill Hussey, Mathew F Riley
Published: Horror Reanimated 2009
69 pages, black and white illustrations

This little chapbook was printed in a limited edition of 200 copies to go with the Horror Reanimated tour. Barely any were left over after the very well-attended first night but fortunately I could get to the second venue. Echoes contains one story from each of the three Bloody Books ‘curators’, so it’s a kind of sampler.

Mathew F Riley has, according to the blurb, won the British Fantasy Society short story award (2008), though based on this one example I wouldn’t seek his work out again. It hasn’t had the opposite effect either, of putting me completely off, but is perhaps not the best introduction. The mystery in this story did grab me: the gradual realisation that an old man on a park bench is a very different kind of person. In terms of atmosphere, though, it did not grab me. Slow is fine, descriptive is fine up to a point, but I needed a ‘hook’ first to engage me before being so subtly tantalised. Opening with the daily commute felt too real, so I didn’t want to read on!

Style is important to me as a reader and here the writing could be tightened. I wanted more five-senses vividness. And a handful of typos, eg scalding for scolding, put me off.

Having slated this story I would rescue my appraisal of it by saying the world-behind-the-world into which it draws us, and its inscrutable inhabitants, will stay in my mind.

Bill Hussey is the only one of these authors I had read before, and from Through a Glass, Darkly and The Absence I had perceived that he’s more of a historian, in a literary, educated way, than I am. Here he takes us to London in 1888 to show what became of Jack the Ripper in the end. No surprises in the narrative, once the vengeful main character is set up, but it all unfolds believably – and given the nasty life Jack leads at home, the detail had to be believable or it would lose its grip on us. Which it didn’t on me. The characters also were thoroughly real to me, even though one is the kind of person that would make you do a double-take if you met her. None is particularly sympathetic; I wasn’t rooting for anyone.

If you are into Jack the Ripper fiction, this will sit nicely among your collection. The psychology is its strength, skilfully under-explained. Personally I rate Hussey’s novels higher, which still leaves me with a pretty high opinion of this story.

The authors warned me this collection is not ‘really’ horror (or maybe they were reassuring me; I’d confessed to being a horror virgin until TaGD converted me). Joseph D’Lacey‘s is the only piece in this volume that scared me, and that’s influenced by the fact that I have a ‘thing’ about deep water. It’s about diving, and has sharks in, but the menacing mood is more about the ocean itself than any of the sea-life.

From the outset I cared about the central character. When we meet the others, they talk like people actually do (= naturalistic dialogue) and I didn’t get muddled by a fairly large (for a short story) cast of extras. The setting and technical details all seem accurate as far as I can tell. And I even found myself fancying the narrator’s dive buddy, though she’s not my type at all.  ;0)

The very end was a bit of a let-down. That’s my only negative. And an ending that does justice to the rest of this story would be very difficult to achieve. This is a story that hasn’t just stayed with me but leaps back fully-formed into my mind, ocean colour scheme, irritating tourists, salt on my tongue and all, when I look at the cover of the book (the shade of which isn’t remotely oceanic).

I plan to review Bill Hussey’s novels but wanted to get this up now, because they’ve made Echoes available as a free download. I feel rather luckier than you, because I have one of the limited edition copies.  :0)

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. Friday 28 August 2009 2.49 pm

    Very nice review! I too was a horror virgin until TaGD!

    • Friday 28 August 2009 5.47 pm

      I think our opinions on that book match. :0) Funny, having avoided horror all my life so far, i now suspect i may be a natural…

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