Nifty collection of chillers that are a homecoming to the best in the genre.
Okay, some readers will remember different tales that chilled them more (such as Clark Ashton Smith’s braineaters in “Mimic”), but few will deny the high quality here. Speaking of brains, J. Sheridan Le Fanu’s “Green Tea” turns on a congestion of brain fluids that produces a vicious spectral illusion of a monkey that decides to cling to a minister who has read too much Swedenborg. Now, reading the mystical Swede doesn’t actually produce the monkey—it’s the transformation of spiritual brain fluid that might well have been cured, according to the specialist the minister approaches, with iced eau de cologne held to the forebrain. In a way, then, Le Fanu does not tell a supernatural story. Nor does Edgar Allan Poe in “The Tell-Tale Heart,” since it turns on the hysteria of a murderer gone mad and hearing things thumping under the floorboards. Brains gone awry must once have been thought invaded by angry spirits. Readers can have nothing but praise for a volume that includes Oliver Onions’s “The Beckoning Fair One,” Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s postpartum “The Yellow Wallpaper,” Arthur Machen’s “The Great God Pan,” Bram Stoker’s “Dracula’s Guest,” and Shirley Jackson’s brilliant “The Lottery.” Which story chills the most? Perhaps H.P. Lovecraft’s absolutely supernatural “The Call of Cthulhu,” about the unspeakable Great Old Ones, who, when the stars were right, could plunge from world to world and now lie dreaming in horrid cities on the ocean bottom. Mercifully, Lovecraft tells us, “We live on a placid island of ignorance in the midst of black seas of infinity. . . .” Other delectables: Robert Louis Stevenson’s “The Bottle Imp,” W.W. Jacobs’s “The Monkey’s Paw,” and H.G. Wells’s “The Country of the Blind,” among other blood-sweets.
Not for the paranoid.