IN THE SHADOW OF THE GARGOYLE
Edited by Nancy Kilpatrick & Thomas S. Roche
Reviewed by Steven H Silver
Graven Images is Nancy Kilpatrick and Thomas S. Roche’s follow-up volume to 1998’s In the Shadow of the Gargoyle. However, while the authors represented in the earlier volume seemed to have an understanding of what a gargoyle is, there is no such consensus in the current volume. Graven images range from an ancient statue of Diana in Robert Silverberg’s “Diana of the Hundred Breasts” to the dashboard hula girl in M. Christian’s “Wanderlust.”
Most of the stories work well, although there are few outstanding stories. In some cases, the authors seemed so intent on establishing a Lovecraftian atmosphere they seem to have forgotten to include some story elements. In other cases, the plot and character are included, but there is an intangible lack to the story.
One of the most intriguing stories is Esther Friesner’s “Cora,” the story of a man who runs an emporium of oddities in Greenwich Village. Halfway through, the nature of the story shifts from a reasonably humorous tale to one of horror. Friesner manages to pull the switch off.
Lawrence Watt-Evans provides the entirely light-hearted story in the book with “Heart of Stone,” in which the viewpoint character is the graven image, a woman captured inside a wall. Watt-Evans focuses on her loneliness after the wizard who created her is taken away and then on her growing understanding of the three dimensional world.
Other stories don’t work as well. Christian’s “Wanderlust” has an interesting premise, but there is little plot to the piece, presented more as a slice of life piece rather than a story. On the other end of the spectrum, Tanith Lee’s “That Glisters Is” focuses on the entire life of Conraj, although it does so in a remote manner which dulls the horror of his situation and keeps the reader at a distance.
In addition to several new stories, the editors have elected to include three reprints. The first is Robert Silverberg’s “Diana of the Hundred Breasts,” about an archaeologist’s discovery in Turkey and the question of belief. “Masks,” a collaboration by Jack Ketchum & Edward Lee which appeared in 1999 in a limited edition chapbook and looks at how people can subvert their personalities behind the masks they wear and what happens when their reliance on those masks grows too great. Finally, “Mud” is Brian McNaughton’s Lovecraftian World War I story which aims for atmosphere over plot.
The strongest story in the collection, and the one with the least overtly supernatural occurrences, is Lois Tilton’s “The Goddess Danced,” about an unlucky woman in India. Tilton successfully portrays an alien society which is consistent. Meena, an Indian Job, manages to maintain her faith no matter what difficulties occur to her, although her faith grows and changes throughout the course of the story.
Graven Images never quite manages to succeed, perhaps because the authors all had different ideas of what, exactly, a graven image is or how it should be incorporated into the story. Many stories work partially, but the authors don’t manage to bring all the necessary story elements together. While Graven Images is an anthology which will appeal to many horror fans, few will pronounce the stories to be required reading in the field.
|Robert Silverberg||Diana of the Hundred Breasts|
|Storm Constantine||The Face of Sekt|
|Lois Tilton||The Goddess Danced|
|Kathryn Ptacek||The Grotto|
|Gene Wolfe||The Eleventh City|
|Lawrence Watt-Evans||Heart of Stone|
|Nina Kiriki Hoffman||Shaped Stones|
|Chelsea Quinn Yarbro||Giotto's Window|
|Jack Ketchum & Edward Lee||Masks|
|Kathe Koja||At Eventide|
|Tanith Lee||That Glisters Is|
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