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Graven Images
edited by Nancy Kilpatrick and Thomas S. Roche
Ace Books, 251 pages


Victor Stabin
Graven Images
Nancy Kilpatrick
Nancy Kilpatrick writes horror, dark fantasy, mysteries and erotic horror, under her own name, and under a nom de plume. Besides writing novels and short stories, and editing anthologies, she has written 4 issues of VampErotic comics. She has won the Arthur Ellis Award for best mystery story, has been a Bram Stoker finalist twice and an Aurora Award finalist 3 times. With years of teaching experience at a Toronto College behind her, Nancy now teaches several on-line courses. She lives with her black cat Bella in Montreal.

Nancy Kilpatrick Website
ISFDB Bibliography: Nancy Kilpatrick

Thomas S. Roche
Thomas S. Roche is a San Francisco writer who began selling stories professionally in mid-1994. His short stories have have sold to such anthologies as Razor Kiss, Blood Muse, Dark Angels and Enchanted Forests. He has also written for 3 of White Wolf's anthologies based on their World of Darkness. He recently edited his first anthology, Noirotica.

ISFDB Bibliography: Thomas S. Roche
SF Site Review: In the Shadow of the Gargoyle

Past Feature Reviews
A review by Steven H Silver

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Nancy Kilpatrick and Thomas S. Roche have selected ten new stories and three reprints to address the idea of Graven Images in their anthology of the same title. While many of the stories are written quite well and provide appropriately disturbing images, the anthology as an whole suffers because there seems to be a lack of definition of what, exactly, constitutes a graven image. The stories assign this term to everything from a statue of Diana to the visions a (possibly) insane man sees in lieu of humans' heads.

Perhaps the most disturbing story in the anthology is Lois Tilton's "The Goddess Danced," which presents a view of modern India as alien to mainstream American thought as any culture created by science fiction authors. Meena falls into a downward spiral, not of her own making, but she continually makes the best of her situation and retains the faith her mother passed on to her. The horror of her situation builds throughout the short story until the ending, which provides resolution, but not necessarily peace.

Much more hopeful in its outlook is Lawrence Watt-Evans' fantasy story, "Heart of Stone," about a woman (most of the graven images described in the book are female) who is trapped inside the wall of a wizard's hut and the loneliness that enters her life after the wizard is lynched by the locals. Even the villains of the piece have redeeming features, and the woman in the wall is able to extract the positives from her various interactions with humans.

Esther Friesner's "Cora" is a strange mix of humour and pathos, which somehow manages to work despite a complete reversal of mood halfway through the story. Friesner manages to write a tale that begins humorous and ends darkly without alienating her reader.

In some cases, the pieces don't work as well as they could because the author didn't take the idea as far as possible. Most notable of this failing is M. Christian's "Wanderlust," which describes people's adoring reactions to a stranger in a truck stop. Rather than hang the idea on a plot, Christian provides a slice of life in his depiction of the strange man with the hula girl on the dashboard of his car.

Many of the stories, such as Brian McNaughton's "Mud," attempt to create an atmosphere of almost Lovecraftian horror. Unfortunately, few of the stories are able to combine that atmosphere with a story that reaches a satisfying conclusion. The result is that several of the stories in the anthology have an eerie, but unfinished, feel to them.

One of the other reprints in the anthology is "Masks," by Jack Ketchum and Edward Lee, about a Svengali-esque relationship and the masks people use to cover their true personae when they are learning about each other. The story comes close to working well, but could be informed by a little heavier reliance on psychology than it is.

Graven Images is a anthology of mostly horror stories that don't quite manage to send shivers down the reader's spine. While the authors all managed to refrain from incorporating gratuitous bloodshed and gore, they frequently failed to include plot, character and atmosphere, instead only including two of those three elements.

Copyright © 2000 by Steven H Silver

Steven H Silver is one of the founders and judges for the Sidewise Award for Alternate History. He sits on concoms for Windycon, Chicon 2000 and Clavius in 2001 and is co-chair of Picnicon 1998. Steven will be serving as the Programming Chairman for Chicon 2000. In addition to maintaining several bibliographies and the Harry Turtledove website, Steven is trying to get his short stories published and has recently finished his first novel. He lives at home with his wife and 3200 books. He is available for convention panels.


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