THE WINE DARK SEA by Robert Aickman


Email this review


Peter Straub introduces this volume by writing: ""Robert Aickman at his best was this century's most profound writer of what we call horror stories."" Proof? This collection of 11 tales (many new to the US) in which Aickman, an Englishman who died in 1983, is at his very best. A meticulous craftsman grounded in the school of subtle horrors founded by Henry and M.R. James, Aickman never resorts to gore, raw sex, or classic monsters in these tales. Their terrors arise from a flow of fearful incongruities that culminate not in shock but in a freezing sense of wrongness. In the title story, for instance, an upperclass Englishman (the social strata that spawns nearly all of Aickman's heroes) becomes obsessed with a shunned Grecian island; landing there in a stolen dinghy, he finds a trio of self-proclaimed ""sorceresses"" who transport him to a seemingly Edenic life--but why does the surrounding sea begin to glow blood-red? In ""The Stains,"" a man happens upon an untutored woman in the countryside; as he romances and weds her, the lichenous stain on her body disappears even as a similar stain grows on his. In the truly terrifying ""Your Tiny Hand Is Frozen,"" a recluse falls in love with a woman who repeatedly telephones him. Yet why does the phone company insist hers is a ""dead number,"" and why does she refuse to visit him until, as she says, ""You can't live without me""? A barred room near train tracks (""The Trains""); too-large twin boys (""Growing Boys""); a carlie (""The Fetch""); a dollhouse with a hidden sanctum (""The Inner Room""); a nightmare gondola ride (""Never Visit Venice""); a forbidding caller (""The Next Glade""); an asylum for insomniacs (""Into the Wood""), a monstrous maze (""Bind Your Hair"")--each story here tingles with a vital current of the uncanny. This powerful assemblage of stories matches in artistry, vision, and dark effect the finest work of Aickman's two prime inheritors, Ramsey Campbell and Clive Barker, and enthrones him as a horror master.

Pub Date: Oct. 24th, 1988
Publisher: Arbor/Morrow