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MASQUES IV by J.N. Williamson


All-New Works of Horror and the Supernatural

edited by J.N. Williamson

Pub Date: Nov. 29th, 1991
ISBN: 0-940776-26-X

 Fourth volume, the best yet, in this sometimes waver-y series. A high number of hits marks this collection of horror originals, with two or three possible classics in the field. Not so oddly, the most charming tale is the sole reprint, entertainer Steve Allen's ``The Secret'' (1956), which opens with ``I didn't know I was dead until I walked into the bathroom and looked in the mirror''--and never misses a beat throughout. Dan Simmons's ``My Private Memoirs of the Hoffer Stigmata Pandemic'' is the top tale for inventiveness, originality, and unity of effect, and deserves expansion. It opens with Dan Rather on the CBS Evening News; his face melts, undergoing the Change--a pandemic that strikes mankind- -in which one's moral character suddenly becomes monstrously evident on one's face. ``Official word was that Mrs. Reagan died of shock at the sight of her husband after the Change. It's true that Ron's case of Liar's leprosy, apathy osseus, and stupidity sarcoma was impressive....'' Chet Williamson's ``The Pack'' has a sizzling opening, with the return to life of dogs killed violently by humankind who are still grotesquely flattened by car tires, have spines splintered and innards hanging out, and now run in packs hunting men. Cartoonist Gahan Wilson has a clever variation on The Birds in his ``Sea Gulls,'' which finds baleful sea gulls as nemeses to a wife-murderer. F. Paul Wilson's ``Please Don't Hurt Me,'' told entirely in dialogue, is quite sexy as an 11-year-old girl unwittingly turns the tables on her abuser. James Kisner's ``Splatter Me an Angel'' tells of a worm turned into a cruel seducer, who meets his match in a woman who is his sexual mirror- opposite. Bruce Boston's ``Animal Husbandry'' reveals a wife's bristling rage for revenge when her husband comes home with a vasectomy--she gets very hairy about it. Some misfires, but largely a sheaf of bright storytelling.