Seventeen all-new tales emulating, or re-creating, the ambience of classic Victorian supernatural suspense.
Not unexpectedly, London with its smog haunts of ill repute and real-life history is the favored, sometimes quite imaginary, but by no means exclusive venue. The standouts: Peter S. Beagle's typically lyrical and brilliant conjuring of ghostly voices in an alternate-world past. Gene Wolfe, in inimitable style, gives us a murderer who's brilliantly duped by a vengeful not-quite-ghost. Lucius Shepard weighs in with a creepy tale of a ghost-trapping machine, obsession and incest. John Harwood writes a lethal manuscript. Laird Barron describes devilish sprits, some in human guise, roaming the wilds of Washington State. From Jeffrey Ford comes a fine tale from the early career of Cley, his splendidly deluded Physiognomist. Paul Park offers an eerie, jangling tale of New Orleans wherein nothing is what it seems and, indeed, seems to deny that anything ever could be. And John Langan's effervescently titled "The Unbearable Proximity of Mr. Dunn's Balloons" conjures up some oozily nasty alien vampires. Elsewhere, Robert Silverberg offers a perfect Kipling-esque period piece without surprises; James Morrow's ghost-trapping metal shroud falls apart from illogic; Terry Dowling describes a demonic mummy; Garth Nix offers an imaginative but overdone Sherlock Holmes pastiche; plus, a time-travelling succubus (Margo Lanagan), a ghostly alien invader (Sean Williams), a machine that cures mental illness (Richard Harland), a ghost in a mirror (Marly Youmans) and, with a decidedly modern sensibility, the ghost of a murdered poet (Theodora Goss).
Clever and often impressive work that succeeds, mostly, in being more than a mere exercise in nostalgia.