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Lost on the Darkside
edited by John Pelan
Roc, 387 pages

Lost on the Darkside
John Pelan
John Pelan's fiction includes the Lovecraftian novella "The Colour out of Darkness."" He is the editor of such anthologies as Darkside: Horror for the Next Millennium, The Devil Is Not Mocked, and The Last Continent: New Tales of Zothique. His solo stories have appeared in publications such as The Urbanite, Gothic.net, Enigmatic Tales, and Carpe Noctem. He is the founder of the publishing house Darkside Press, and co-founder of Midnight House. He lives in Seattle.

ISFDB Bibliography
SF Site Review: The Last Continent

Past Feature Reviews
A review by Mario Guslandi

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This anthology represents the forth instalment in the fortunate Darkside series edited by John Pelan, a series so far consistently good, which has probably reached its peak with the previous volume A Walk on the Dark Side. In spite of Pelan's ability to recruit first-class writers as contributors for his annual horror anthology, keeping up the quality level of such a literary project is not easy. So, perhaps predictably, here we are facing a phase of low tide.

Of the fifteen tales included in the book, featuring contributions by well respected authors such as David B. Silva, Michael Laimo, Jeffrey Thomas, Paul Melniczek, etc., too many are just ordinary, standard material unable to produce a spark of originality or a feeling of real dread or at least of unease. For example, in Tony Richard's "The Circus of the Dead" the tell-tale title just says it all, while Joseph A Ezzo's "The Blood of Ink" is, well... about a haunted pen and that's it.

Even Mark Samuels' disturbing "Glyphotec" about a mysterious organization turning its employees into a bunch of brainwashed spiritual zombies, has a sad taste of dèja vû.

On the other hand David Niall Wilson's "The Call of Farther Shores" is an uneven piece of fiction, unsuccessfully trying to blend a mainstream, effective framework concerning the deep melancholy of the past gone, with a rather confused supernatural theme.

Which leaves us with only four stories that prove to be fully satisfactory. "Unblinking" is, in my view of thinking, Ramsey Campbell's best short story in years, the masterful portrait of the gradual descent of a university teacher in the abyss of mental paranoia.

John Pelan's "Last Stop" is an excellent tale of urban horror, describing the unsettling discovery by a library clerk of what lies behind the world of the city homeless.

Jessica Amanda Salmonson provides "A Bottle of Egyptian Night," a fascinating medley incorporating some classical genre subjects such as the purchase of a haunted object from a weird curiosity shop and the mysteries of antique Egypt into the global motif of the fear of growing old and dying, while Joseph Nassise contributes the unnerving "Roadside Memorials" where the crosses marking the sites of fatal car accidents hide a darker, alien reality. Personally I'd like to know more of the latter writer but the frustrating absence of whatsoever biographical notes about the book contributors prevents me from satisfying my curiosity.

Hopefully the next volume will bring us something darker...

Copyright © 2006 by Mario Guslandi

Mario Guslandi lives in Milan, Italy, and is a long-time fan of dark fiction. His book reviews have appeared on a number of genre websites such as The Alien Online, Infinity Plus, Necropsy, The Agony Column and Horrorwold.


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