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by Ramsey Campbell

Pub Date: June 1st, 1993
ISBN: 0-312-85514-1
Publisher: Tor

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Campbell admits as much in his introduction, although he does preen about the most recent entry here—the previously unpublished novella ``Needing Ghosts.''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.