Six new and 21 previously published stories constitute this first book from young (33) Matheson, who here casts off the shadow of his dad (horror great Richard Matheson: The Shrinking Man, I Am Legend) to solidify his own position as one of the top young turks of dark fantasy. Stephen King and Dennis Etchison supply brief, cheerleading introductions to the collection, made up of generally very short tales that often pack a wallop--frequently topped off by a surprise ending. Happily, Matheson is improving with age: the oldest story (and his first published one), ""Graduation""--a series of letters from a college freshman to his folks--is, while fun, predictable in its tracing of the student's slide into madness and murder; and the next oldest, ""Unknown Drives,"" is a murky if effective rehash of the old ""You can't get there from here"" joke. Most of the new or more recent tales, however, jolt with snappy shocks packed in dense, evocative prose. In ""Red,"" a man wanders a highway picking up pieces of something that turns out to be his daughter, whom he accidentally killed with his car; in ""Goosebumps,"" a horror story creates living goosebumps that devour the reader's flesh. A couple of the newer stories are spoiled by a cloying moralism--""Echoes,"" for instance, where an arms dealer goes mad hearing the cries of his product's victims--but these are more than made up for by the startling power of the collection's best tale, ""Vampire,"" a prose-poem tour de force that in single-word sentences (""Man. Late. Rain. Road. . .) creates an unforgettable tableau of a ghoul who feeds on pain. (Special applause for Harry O. Morris' 12 full-page, black-and-white illustrations, masterful and nightmarish.) The few bad eggs don't spoil this basket: overall excellent horror, handsomely packaged.