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Subterranean Tales of Dark Fantasy 2
edited by William Schafer
Subterranean Press, 296 pages

Subterranean Tales of Dark Fantasy 2
William Schafer
William Schafer is the publisher of Subterranean Press.

ISFDB Bibliography
SF Site Review: Subterranean: Tales of Dark Fantasy
SF Site Review: Joe R. Lansdale's Lords of the Razor
SF Site Review: California Sorcery

Past Feature Reviews
A review by Sandra Scholes

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Subterranean Tales of Dark Fantasy was the beginning of a monster, and that monster spawned a second helping of stories under the guise of dark fantasy, in Subterranean Tales of Dark Fantasy 2. The first volume went on sale in 2008, and had some of the best known names in dark fantasy and horror working on it; and in this newer one there are such well-known authors as Caitlin R. Kiernan, Bruce Sterling, Joe Hill, Kelley Armstrong, Glen Cook and William Browning Spencer.

Wolverton Station by Joe Hill

Travelling on a train from Wolverton to his destination, Saunders gets on with another man dressed as a wolf holding a briefcase in one hand like a businessman. Throughout the whole train journey the reader is treated to his thoughts on almost anything in his mind at the time, but also something nags at him, the man with the briefcase next to him -- whether he is dressed up as a wolf, or if he is really a werewolf trying to look like a man. This is what troubles the character, and Joe Hill keeps the reader gripped right up until the very end.

Not Last Night but the Night Before by Steven R. Boyett

Michael, an office worker goes about with his daily routine all of his life without interruption. So much so some could say his life is boring until a day when he sees his own death. The man wears a dark robe and cowl, and follows him everywhere, at work, during the day or night disturbing his life. Yet no one else can see this other person with him. He thinks he is seeing things, but when he starts to see other people's deaths he starts to worry. There comes a time when he can't keep what he sees inside, and he has to tell someone close to him, but realises it doesn't help.

Steven R. Boyett's story lures the reader in by showing a man who lives in a mundane world inside and outside of work, then once he sees his death, it changes his outlook on life. At first, acting as an enemy to that peace he once had, that mundane aspect in his life he had got used to, then it makes him question his role in life and starts thinking about other people's lives instead. His death acts as his liberation of sorts, but its intent does not become apparent at first. Boyett is good at lightening the mood of the story having his protagonist's death in full view doing unusual things that aren't normally associated with such a dark figure.

The Dappled Thing by William Browning Spencer

Lord Addison has a problem -- a big one that bothers him; his lovely daughter has been tempted by a cad and has run away to be with him aboard the Cloud King, a vast zeppelin. The cad, a man called Henry Wallister, has a reputation that definitely precedes him. Bertram Rudge is the man Addison asks to bring her back, and doesn't rule out using force to get her to see reason.

William Browning Spencer's tale draws on steampunk imagery of Victorian proportions where a man is sent on an expedition into both known and later unknown territory that proves dangerous to him, though he knows what his mission is -- to try and bring Lavinia back to his friend. It is the expedition that is perilous as are all journeys to unknown destinations and places. What he comes across isn't what he was expecting, and that is what will interest the reader.

Chivalrous by Kelley Armstrong

Having fun at a University party, Reese has a look around the room as it's in full swing, and at the girls there whom he might be interested in. As randy as he appears, he wants a girl, the sort he couldn't take home to his concerned mother, someone who is meant for now, not forever. He finds whom he is looking for, but when he goes outside to kiss her, something happens that changes everything. Reese never imagines he is the chivalrous type -- his friends wouldn't even consider thinking about it, but he is when it comes to girls in trouble.

Readers can expect to be taken into the darker side of life, love, hate and the transformation of the self. Kelley Armstrong tells it like it is, and uses simple language to make it a truly interesting story.

A Room with a View by K.J. Parker

Master Chrysodonis, aka Manuo as he is used to being called, has another teaching assignment with a young girl, Comitina wanting to learn about subjects she isn't that good at in order to graduate to the next level. Her only problem is she can't do rooms. Manuo finds rooms incredibly easy when he manipulates magic in his own way, so he knows he has a really hard task on his hands in order to help her out. In one exercise, he tells her she needs to be able to see beyond the room she is in order for her to think the way he does, for most normal humans only see inside the room and nothing else beyond, while Manuo can create doors and exit into other dimensions when he wants.

This is a creative tale of teaching, and understanding but also of one girl's struggle with what lies ahead of her in life.

Hydraguros by Caitlin R. Kiernan

This is a first person view of the dangerous world of crime and smuggling, whether it is drugs or other contraband, one man is at the forefront of whatever is going on around his side of town even though he is under the thumb of a big time crime lord. Among all the other stuff in which they are trafficking is something new called silver. He is used to selling on the streets, but it's like nothing they have ever seen before. Readers will find it interesting getting into the mind of a drug-addled guy, reading about his day to day life and problems he deals with in this life. They will get an idea of what kind of person he is, and what he later gets himself into with this silver and what it turns out to be in the end.

The Passion of Mother Vajpai by Jay Lake and Shannon Page

Prepare to be taken into the mysterious Orient, of the exotic and erotic world of the house of Mother Vajpai and the Lily Blades who act as both courtesans for making money by tempting men, and dangerous assassins when needed. Shayla has a fondness for Umage and takes part in an initiation, but the real question is whether she will pass the test. This is about love, romance, sex and fantasy weaved around the intoxicating smell of sandalwood.

In Subterranean Tales of Dark Fantasy 2, there are some very different styles of story in this anthology of the weird and unnatural. There will be something for everyone and there will be a favourite among the tales that will stick in the mind for long after it has been read.

Copyright © 2011 Sandra Scholes

Sandra Scholes writes for Quail Bell Magazine, Active Anime and The Chronicles, is a full-time worrier and part-time writer most of the time.


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