First book--a collection of 20 stories--by a much-hailed stylist in the horror field. All of Ligotti's pieces--written and published in small magazines over a span of seven years--show a growing mastery of poetic language, often at the expense of story. Despite the occasional vampire, there is no horror here, although H.P. Lovecraft breezes about Ligotti's imagination. Among the standouts are two ""nonfiction"" pieces that slip into fiction and parody: ""Notes on the Writing of Horror"" and ""Professor Nobody's Little Lectures on Supernatural Horror."" Essentially, Ligotti suggests rather than shows, This can lead to artistic triumphs, but too often here the occult event being suggested has to fight its way through a gummy luminescence. Recent stories are more effective for being less wordy. ""Vastarien,"" one of the winners, tells of the buying of an occult book that is not about something but is the thing it's supposedly about--in this case the shadowy empire of Vastarien, which is stolen from the book-buyer's mind every time he goes to sleep and dreams of Vastarien: he at last dreams his mind away. The best tale is ""The Lost Art of Twilight,"" about a young man, son of a dead human father and ripped from the womb of a just-killed vampiress, who finds himself changing over a long period from a half-human being into a full-blooded vampire: his once-beloved evening twilight is now the radiant dawn of night and hunger. This story has several fresh vampire effects too lively to be revealed here. The opening stories--""The Frolic"" and ""Les Fleurs""--are among Ligotti's weaker tales. Now for the first novel? It could be an original, though one hopes for more richly human characters.