Real-Time Review continued from HERE

Imagination – Christopher Fowler
For one thing, no matter how harmless they were, they tended to creep people out.”
This honestly very clever, satirical and often laugh-out-loud extrapolation of horror tropes returns us to  the other significant leitmotif in this book: the ‘world soul’, the Littelwood swarm, the Finch ‘zoo’ of Christmas decorations, etc. etc., but with an added dimension of viral Grudge-Enders or, here, it seems, zombies-feeling-and/or-evoking-pathos called ‘Deads’ as a youngster’s view of old people (or nearly dead, like me) as akin to such Deads, i.e. at the other end of this book’s spectrum from the baby Deads in other stories in this book’s cycle. A second added dimension: the viral quality of the internet being related to this new ‘zoo’, to such an extent the story’s young protagonist keeps statistics of these Deads in an old-fashioned exercise book to stop his Facebook friends ‘liking’ them, or words to that effect. A third dimension: the power of ‘imagination’, that balance between truth and fiction (what I have long called ‘the synchronised shards of random truth and fiction’).  Finally, a fourth dimension (more arguable): this growing swarm of Deads being symbolic of or a metaphor for the current spate of reputations being destroyed pre- and post-death by that internet virus (“rumours and nut-rants“) etc. and by, sometimes but not always, an undeserved form of mutated or retrocausal political-correctness: which brings me back to that aforementioned ‘pathos’…plus a withdrawal of omniscience exemplified by this book’s first story, here in this Fowler story enacted more blatantly thus: “In fact, I missed out one very important detail...”  And, oh yes, my on-line Real-Time Reviews will soon be going into exercise books! To avoid that Facebooker who “…thinks there are voices in her mum’s dishwasher.” (13 Oct 12 – 1.50 pm bst)

The above may also relate to everything-is-a-film-production conceit in this book’s Rhys Hughes… (13 Oct 12 – 2.20 pm bst)

Cf: the drink-driving theme in the Riley story as another example of retrocausal changes in general social acceptance of certain things…. Which doesn’t excuse anything, however. (13 Oct 12 – 3.05 pm bst)

The Baby Trap – Janine-Langley Wood
“Only the night before this she had seen her brother taken.”
A wonderful poetic vision that, independently written as it is (presumably  like all the stories in this anthology), stands completely on its own. Equally, it is a symbolic summation of the boy and girl sibling pairs in the Massey and the Farrell, yet with the oblique HOPE of the Burke. A feral landscape, with the arrival of the end-ferals from the Fowler. And the fear of an approaching bear with a flash of white to evoke Finch’s ‘polar bear’. And that aforesaid oblique hope resonates with the book’s erstwhile ‘world soul’, here the gods explicitly looking down with goodness… This story affirmedly seems to be the perfect symphony’s end for all the literary and horror music of this anthology. Therefore, I sense that the two remaining stories I have yet to read are unconnected codas, bonus tracks… but of course I could be wrong.  (14 Oct 12 – 8.25 am bst)

The Tip Run – Johnny Mains
“When he finally freed it from the heap he stared with blank incomprehension at the illegal trap…”
A story by the anthology’s editor. Many snobbish people may think that anyone searching for literary gems or even leitmotifs in a Horror Anthology of all things would be like dangerously scavenging in a council rubbish tip! Here the working-class boy and his father have a regular jaunt to such a tip treasure-seeking, sometimes having to tip the tip attendant to do so. From the previous baby trap to a gratuitous urchin one…  Judging by the surprise ending of this likeable scenario, they forgot the tip! Or one of Finch’s Christmas burglars (now one of Fowler’s Deads?) turned up. (14 Oct 12 – 10.20 am bst)

Dementia – Charlie Higson.
“She said there wasn’t any problem in the world that couldn’t be fixed by having a nice hot bath. A nice long soak.”
Not a bonus track at all, not even just a perfect coda (which it is), this in many ways, for me, is this screaming book’s raison d’être, both in itself as a free-standing story and in the context of the book’s found gestalt. Something you NEED to read, combining the pervasive HORROR and the earlier recognised  HOPE of the Littlewood ‘Swarm’ and the phrase ‘Horror without Victims’ — the onset of the ‘Deads’: that plague of dementia as we all grow older. Reminds me too of Reggie Oliver’s great story: ‘Flowers of the Sea’: there a wife (and people of my age have ‘wives’ (or as the Higson story tellingly has it: ‘partners’)), and here in this story: a mother. Her dementia makes Higson’s narrator seem to her to be forever her baby, left behind. And she becomes his ‘giant baby’. And, thus,  the book’s main ‘infanticide’ leitmotif takes on a new light here, from  Probert’s fatal christening onward. Hot bath or washing-machine to washing-line. The narrator, too, is imbued with the Taborska and Hughes film director and celebrity slant, and the hint in the Fowler of today’s concerns regarding this slant, as explicitly recorded by the narrator in ‘Dementia’: “Starlets, make up girls, continuity girls. I was never short. Had plenty of affairs, relationships, long and short, one-night stands. I was never lacking on the sex front.” This seems to add a pathos to an already deep pathos of the Deads, such HORROR stigmata, paradoxically, not without HOPE. His mother ever moulding clay like pottery – or poetry. A major story in a major book. “Screaming and screaming.”

GRUDGE END (14 Oct 12 – 11.20 am bst)

PS: Alison Moore’s ‘Pronoun Horror’ effectively takes significant hold at the end of the Charlie Higson story. (15 Oct 12 – 10.25 am bst)

2 responses to “*

  1. The various websites that I use for my real-time reviews are all shown below. I try to make venues appropriate to the type of review being placed on it. Having said that, I feel justified in using my various book sites etc. for my real-time review venues (as a spin-off marketing) because I have always bought the books I review, i.e. as a normal customer (or, very rarely, it’s a contributor copy or exchanged it for another book). My over-riding love however is actually in doing the real-time reviews themselves for my own creative reading satisfaction, which, as merely another spin-off, hopefully benefits all the good literature I choose to review.


    THE NEMONICON (general blog)



    CLASSICAL HORROR (anthology submission guidelines)


    WEIRDTONGUE (novella)

    THE LAST BALCONY (forthcoming collection)

    WEIRDMONGER: THE NEMONICON (old collection)

    THE BEACH HUT (early DFL material)



    NEMONYMOUS (2001 – 2010)






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