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The Twilight Zone: Memphis & The Pool Guy
Jay Russell
Black Flame, 415 pages

The Twilight Zone: Memphis & The Pool Guy
Jay Russell
Jay Russell was born in New York City and now lives in London, UK. His novels include Celestial Dogs and Blood and his short fiction has appeared in such magazines and anthologies as Midnight Graffiti, Dark Terrors, and The Year's Best Fantasy & Horror.

Jay Russell Website
ISFDB Bibliography
SF Site Review: Waltzes and Whispers

Past Feature Reviews
A review by Steve Lazarowitz

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There is nothing quite like time travel. Revisiting the past is something we all do, even if it's just to understand what we've been through. For me, reading this book was like traveling back in time. I was a child again, staring at a black and white television, enthralled as Rod Serling laid out yet another fabulous story that would stay with me for days to come. While this book is an adaptation of the new Twilight Zone television series, for me it was more than that, for it allowed me to return to the days of my youth and enjoy the very same kind of story I suspected I would never again encounter. For that reason, among many others, this is a book to consider.

The first of the two stories in the volume is called "Memphis," a tale of time travel, heart and hope. Ray Ellison, a man who lives an empty life, is diagnosed with an inoperable brain tumor. With a few months left to live, he carelessly steps in front of a vintage automobile and that's when he enters his own personal twilight zone, for when he strikes the pavement, he is no longer in present day Memphis, Tennessee. He's back in 1968. He doesn't know how or why, but there has to be a reason.

The portrait Mr. Russell paints of the 60s places me there, though I can only barely remember them (having been only eight when the decade ended). There is an innocence about the day, overshadowed by elements of racism that by today's standards seem ludicrous. Still, it was a simpler time and that came through loud and clear.

It would be hard to say more without giving away something vital, but I have to say, I loved this story. After I finished reading it, I read it a second time, something I rarely do.

On a completely different note, the second story in the volume, aptly named "The Pool Guy," is a nightmarish tale about Ritchie Almarez, a California resident who wakes up from a dream of dying, only to find himself in another dream. Ritchie's inability to escape his endless nightmares is taken to the extreme. Perhaps, at some points, it was overdone, though I found I couldn't stop reading anyway. This was one of the television episodes I actually caught part of at one point, so I knew the end before it arrived. Still it's a solid story, featuring the kind of unlikable protagonist Rod Serling made so famous. That might go against all of today's literary wisdom, but it doesn't hurt the story at all. "The Pool Guy" is truly horrific, more in the psychological sense than in the physical.

What would you do if each time you awoke, it was to a variation of the same nightmare?

I felt the two stories complimented each other perfectly. Mr. Russell's style gave me enough detail to get to know the characters a bit at a time, so I wasn't overwhelmed. The action carried the book forward, and occasional bits of humor never failed to bring a smile to my lips.

If you're a fan of the Twilight Zone, seriously consider adding this book to your collection. If you're not, this is your chance to find out what you've been missing all these years.

Copyright © 2004 Steve Lazarowitz

Steve Lazarowitz is a speculative fiction writer, an editor, a father, a husband, an animal lover and a heck of a nice guy (not necessarily in that order). Steve lives in Moonah, Tasmania with his family and four giant spiny leaf insects. You can check out his work at http://www.dream-sequence.net.


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