by Adam-Troy Castro

Wildside Press



An Alien Darkness

Reviewed by Steven H Silver

In the Afterword to An Alien Darkness, Adam-Troy Castro discusses the geneses of the various stories which appear in the collection.  This series of short essays provides a glimpse into the creative process of a man who notes that he watched too much television as a kid.  As a result, there is a definite grounding of many of the stories in pop culture.

Most notable among these are the reprint "The Batman and Robin Murder Mystery--Solved!," which provides an interesting, if twisted, view of Batman and Robin's relationship.  Not content to follow up with the counter-cultural idea that the dynamic duo were homosexual, Castro re-examines the Batman mythos and, using only clues contained within the canon, he comes to his own conclusions about Batman's motivation for taking Robin as his ward.

In a similar topsy-turvy vein, Castro introduces one of the strangest assassins in history in "Woo-Woo Vengeance," published for the first time in An Alien Darkness.  This story takes a serious look at the effects of violence on our culture, even when the violence is set in a supposedly humorous context.  Castro makes wide use of a variety of classic film actors who would have graced the late night screen when he was in his formative years.

Many of the stories demonstrate that Castro took time out from watching television to read.  "The Last Robot," which opens the collection and first appeared in the premiere issue of Science Fiction Age is a bittersweet homage to Isaac Asimov, while Barry Malzberg, Robert Sheckley and Harlan Ellison also make their influence known through Castro's selection of style and plot.  Castro clearly writes science fiction because he is a fan of the genre, and an educated fan at that.

Not all stories have their basis in pop culture.  "MS. Found Paper-Clipped to a Box of Jujubes," one of the three original stories in the collections, seems to be based on the hallucinations which might go through a persons mind after eating a few too many hotdogs and cotton candies at the local carnival.  Rather than a full story, this seems almost to be random musings.

The third original story is the lengthily named "The Guy Who Could Make These, Like, Really Amazing Armpit Noises, and Why He Was Contemplating Hippopotami at the Top of Mount Everest."  In many ways this story is typical of the type of story Castro writes.  Despite the ludicrous title, the story is a reasonably serious look at vendettas and what happens when a bogeyman is set up and real issues are ignored.

An Alien Darkness is a fantastic introduction to Adam-Troy Castro's writing, demonstrating that he has been writing strong, interesting stories for more than a decade.  Castro's writing does not easily lend itself to pigeon-holing, which may be the reason that, although he has received Hugo and Nebula nominations, his writing still has not managed to make the impression on the general reading public which it should have.  With luck, by collecting his stories between covers, Castro will find a wider audience.

The Last Robot
Neither Rain Nor Sleet
Cerile and the Journeyer
Ego to Go
MS. Found Paper-Clipped to a Box of Jujubes
The Batman and Robin Murder Mystery--Solved!
Woo-Woo Vengeance
The Guy Who Could Make These, Like, Really Amazing Armpit Noises, and Why He Was Contemplating Hippopotami at the Top of Mount Everest
Baby Girl Diamond
The Funeral March of the Marionettes

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