A collection of stories from a horror legend.
This retrospective, the first since the author’s death in 2013, is a mix of 33 well-known classics and lesser known tales offering tension and scares aplenty. Readers already familiar with Matheson’s work will immediately recognize “Duel,” which takes road rage to horrifying new levels and was immortalized in Steven Spielberg’s TV movie of the same name. And of course, “Nightmare at 20,000 Feet” served as the basis for a well-known Twilight Zone episode (of which Matheson wrote 16). Among other highlights are “Shipshape Home,” in which a couple is convinced that something strange is going on in the apartment they bought for a song, and the humorous “The Funeral,” which has a hapless funeral director take on a very odd client and his very, very strange friends. “The Prisoner” tells of a man who finds himself on death row in 1954 but claims to be a nuclear physicist from 1944, and the quick but effective “Now Die in It” is about a husband and father with a secret past that comes back to haunt him. The melancholy “The Last Day” is about, well, the last day before a flaming ball in the sky destroys the Earth, and the disturbing “Day of Reckoning” features a mother who will go to extraordinary lengths to have eternal control over her child. Where Matheson shines is in his depictions of ordinary horror, the way strange goings-on affect everyday people, and his ambiguous endings leave plenty of room for further thought. As a bonus, editor LaValle offers an enlightening introduction that discusses Matheson’s influence on his own work and even offers up the story behind what he calls his “Matheson moment,” giving more heft to the stories that follow.
These chilling page-turners still hold up, serving as an excellent starting point for a new generation of readers.