A middle-drawer miscellany—eight stories and two novellas- -that spans the 20-year career of British horror-writer Campbell. At his best (as in Midnight Sun, 1991), Campbell writes elegant, soul-sucking horror that rivals the genre's finest—but there's none of his best here. To his credit, Campbell admits as much in his introduction, although he does preen about the most recent entry here—the previously unpublished novella ``Needing Ghosts.'' Before reaching it, the reader encounters, first, one of the author's earliest tales, ``Cat and Mouse,'' a lackluster bit of feline terror that does, however, flow smoothly. Next up is the once privately published ``Medusa,'' a true Campbell oddity since it's a science-fiction novella, an unsettling tale of alien encounter. Campbell says it's his strongest work of sf, since ``here and there imagination surfaces,'' and that's about right. Next come four stories inspired by the ghoulish E.C. comics of the 50's: one deals with zombies, a second with mummies, both obviously; ``A New Life'' is a wrenching take on Frankenstein from the monster's point of view, while ``Run Through'' is the collection's only truly scary tale—an eerie mosaic of flashbacks revealing a man pursued by a monster. Three mid-80's stories follow, two of them climaxing with the sort of predictable twist favored by their original publisher, TZ (Twilight Zone) Publications. And then there's ``Needing Ghosts,'' in which a writer takes a dreamlike odyssey through a threatening town and into the mystery of his own life, and perhaps death. It's Campbell at his most surreal—and most self-indulgent: a lament for the writer's lot that mixes horror and black humor as awkwardly as did his most recent novel, The Count of Eleven (1992)—not a happy augury for future Campbell work. With so much Campbell to read or reread, only die-hard fans will want to bother with these scrappy leavings.

Pub Date: June 1, 1993

ISBN: 0-312-85514-1

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Tor

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 1993

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An enjoyable, cozy novel that touches on tough topics.


A group of strangers who live near each other in London become fast friends after writing their deepest secrets in a shared notebook.

Julian Jessop, a septuagenarian artist, is bone-crushingly lonely when he starts “The Authenticity Project”—as he titles a slim green notebook—and begins its first handwritten entry questioning how well people know each other in his tiny corner of London. After 15 years on his own mourning the loss of his beloved wife, he begins the project with the aim that whoever finds the little volume when he leaves it in a cafe will share their true self with their own entry and then pass the volume on to a stranger. The second person to share their inner selves in the notebook’s pages is Monica, 37, owner of a failing cafe and a former corporate lawyer who desperately wants to have a baby. From there the story unfolds, as the volume travels to Thailand and back to London, seemingly destined to fall only into the hands of people—an alcoholic drug addict, an Australian tourist, a social media influencer/new mother, etc.—who already live clustered together geographically. This is a glossy tale where difficulties and addictions appear and are overcome, where lies are told and then forgiven, where love is sought and found, and where truths, once spoken, can set you free. Secondary characters, including an interracial gay couple, appear with their own nuanced parts in the story. The message is strong, urging readers to get off their smartphones and social media and live in the real, authentic world—no chain stores or brands allowed here—making friends and forming a real-life community and support network. And is that really a bad thing?

An enjoyable, cozy novel that touches on tough topics.

Pub Date: Feb. 4, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9848-7861-8

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Pamela Dorman/Viking

Review Posted Online: Oct. 27, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2019

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A strict report, worthy of sympathy.


A violent surfacing of adolescence (which has little in common with Tarkington's earlier, broadly comic, Seventeen) has a compulsive impact.

"Nobody big except me" is the dream world of Holden Caulfield and his first person story is down to the basic, drab English of the pre-collegiate. For Holden is now being bounced from fancy prep, and, after a vicious evening with hall- and roommates, heads for New York to try to keep his latest failure from his parents. He tries to have a wild evening (all he does is pay the check), is terrorized by the hotel elevator man and his on-call whore, has a date with a girl he likes—and hates, sees his 10 year old sister, Phoebe. He also visits a sympathetic English teacher after trying on a drunken session, and when he keeps his date with Phoebe, who turns up with her suitcase to join him on his flight, he heads home to a hospital siege. This is tender and true, and impossible, in its picture of the old hells of young boys, the lonesomeness and tentative attempts to be mature and secure, the awful block between youth and being grown-up, the fright and sickness that humans and their behavior cause the challenging, the dramatization of the big bang. It is a sorry little worm's view of the off-beat of adult pressure, of contemporary strictures and conformity, of sentiment….

A strict report, worthy of sympathy.

Pub Date: June 15, 1951

ISBN: 0316769177

Page Count: -

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Nov. 2, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 1951

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