NIGHTMARE FLOWER by Elizabeth Engstrom


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 Engstrom, author of the interesting Lizzie Borden (1991), has labored in the horror genre before (When Darkness Loves Us, 1985) with uncertain results. This time--in 20 weird tales of varying lengths--she offers a spread from the gross to the gratifying for fans of the crawly and scary. Not surprisingly, in a horror collection in the classic vein (a gray, acrid atmosphere; surreal appearances; and a final scream...or silence), there's bound to be a stomach-turning few featuring wayward human parts: a woman's hand grows finger-by- finger in someone's wallet; within just a few pages, the ``nightmare flower'' crunches down a baby; and what is in grandma's homemade jelly? Most of the stories, though, are concerned with the deadly fog of intent that slowly creeps into the obsessing human brain. In two of the longer (and best) tales, ``Fogarty and Fogarty'' and the futuristic ``Project Stone,'' a derelict disposes of wife and child on the edge of fantasy (or was it?), and an American model-community sealed by a tonal pulse (the inhabitant deprived of the pulsing tone will die) is part of a monstrous international design. Meanwhile, grief transmogrifies into the unthinkable (``The Old Woman Upstairs''); individuals hit the twilight zone--one woman dances away time; horror writers tell their tales (``The Final Tale'')--and guess what? Art imitates life. Often inventive and fanciful, pat and pulpy, goose-bump yarns, many of which have appeared in horror, fantasy, and sf mags.

Pub Date: Sept. 18th, 1992
ISBN: 0-312-85404-8
Page count: 224pp
Publisher: Tor
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15th, 1992


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