Reviews Logo
SearchHomeContents PageSite Map
David Drake
Night Shade Books, 303 pages

David Drake
David Drake is the author of Igniting the Reaches and Through the Breach (1995), The Dragon Lord (1979) and To Bring the Light (1996) as well as the North-World series. Best known for his science fiction classic, Hammer's Slammers, Drake is a veteran of the only independent armored regiment assigned to Vietnam. He lives in Chapel Hill, North Carolina.

David Drake Website
ISFDB Bibliography
SF Site Review: The Far Side of the Stars
SF Site Review: Mistress of the Catacombs
SF Site Review: With The Lightnings
SF Site Review: With the Lightnings
SF Site Review: Queen of Demons
SF Site Review: Patriots
SF Site Review: Lord of the Isles

Past Feature Reviews
A review by Mario Guslandi

A prolific and successful writer of military SF and of fantasy novels, David Drake has a consistent CV as an author of horror and fantasy short fiction, mostly produced at the beginning of his career, when he managed to sell his early stories to Arkham House's founder August Derleth.

Balefires collects a bunch of stories previously published in various magazines and anthologies between 1967 and 2004, displaying the many faces of a literary chameleon able to easily jump from a genre to the other.

Predictably, the book includes such a variety of themes, styles and atmospheres to constitute an interesting showcase of Drake's fictional work but also a tour de force for the average reader with well defined literary preferences. Predictably, not everything is top-notch material.

To me, there's too much military jargon in the Vietnam-based horror stories, the prose is often inelegant and every now and then the dialogues seem to be taken from a mediocre action movie.

On the other hand, there are some excellent tales that are worth a special mention, such as "The Red Leer," a tense, thrilling piece where a creature best left alone is loose after an Indian sacred mound has been violated or "The Shortest Way," an excellent, very dark tale about a disused road and the bandits who haunt it.

"Something Has To Be Done" is a little masterpiece revolving around the unusual death of a soldier endowed with deadly properties, while the World Fantasy nominee "The Barrow Troll" is a powerful, disquieting story of barbaric horror in which the menace of a terrible troll keeps a priest in fear.

Definitely not for the squeamish, "Smokie Joe" nicely blends horror, eroticism and crime, and the obscure "Blood Debt" leaves the reader uncomfortable and uneasy with its unsettling depiction of witchcraft.

Adding an extra taste to Balefires, each story is presented to the reader with a smart commentary by Drake himself about the circumstances of its genesis and its first appearance in print. So entertaining are those notes and memories to make me wonder if, maybe under a different name, he is also a non-fiction author…

Copyright © 2007 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.

SearchContents PageSite MapContact UsCopyright

If you find any errors, typos or other stuff worth mentioning, please send it to
Copyright © 1996-2014 SF Site All Rights Reserved Worldwide