Podcast

The SFFaudio PodcastThe SFFaudio Podcast #294 – Jesse, Jenny Colvin, and Tamahome talk about This Perfect Day by Ira Levin.

Talked about on today’s show:
1970, swearing, watch your “fighting language”, think about things before treatments, like Brave New World‘s soma, the incurables vs. the savages, a stratified society vs. a flattened society, sex once a week, Marxmas and Christmas, the computer shapes little boy Li, the computer trains the society, controlling by giving a semblance of control, We by Yevgeny Zamyatin, no friction, top-speed, Jesus Christ, Karl Marx, Bob Wood, Li Wei, Vulcan philosophers, a cross and a sickle instead of a hammer and a sickle, not exactly a Communist utopia/dystopia, a communist takeover of the entire planet, movies and TV shows about Marx every year, no spirituality, Rosemary’s Baby, The Stepford Wives, did the good guy win in the end?, the rape scene, Rosemary’s baby-daddy is Satan, what will happen after Chip blows everything up?, when Wei is eating, the focus on the food, the high programmers, the turn/plot twist, the gold toilet fixtures, silk clothing, fuck is a nice word, you’re not free, free of aggression, how will they feed everyone, the YouTube video, The Syndic by C.M. Kornbluth, the Prometheus Award, books that examine the meaning of freedom, Ayn Rand, four ideologies combined, what they took from Christ, “From each according to his ability, to each according to his need”, Wei addressing the chemotherapists, who is Wood?

Christ, Marx, Wood and Wei,
Led us to this perfect day.
Marx, Wood, Wei and Christ,
All but Wei were sacrificed.
Wood, Wei, Christ and Marx,
Gave us lovely schools and parks.
Wei, Christ, Marx and Wood,
Made us humble, made us good.

body part swapping, improvements in the society, the last injection you get is fatal, you become a net loss to society after a certain point, baby boomers getting older, the diseases of aging, the totalcakes and cokes for lunch, Jenny is baking total cakes for Marxmas!, Li’s spilling a coke on a leaf, eureka!, how he got the idea to avoid treatment, there is no Pepsi, there’s no Dr Pepper, the symbol of a leaf in the shape of a man, Jenny always ignores metaphors, was the grandfather in a secret society?, you don’t forget, ecstasy , athletes and drugs, the influence machine, television as a drug, revisionist history, there’s no NEWS, it’s very North Korea, how did you claim the ticket?, a book about mental illness, replace sickness with sin and the entire novel is about religion, self-reporting, “No, thank uni.”, “they’re all snitches”, the f-word is fight, “everybody loves fucking”, hate is a bad word, objectivism is exactly selfish, selfishness and fear, it’s their Galt’s Gulch, the whole smoking thing, the perks of the programmer class, the fantasy of libertarianism, “you the unrecognized superman”, a dystopia, we’ve got our magic super-power stuff, Atlas Shrugged, reardon metal, people are aliens, men trying to control women bodies, two ambiguously dystopic societies, a powerful book with a lot to think about, more Animal Farm than Nineteen Eighty-Four, We, Brave New World has a boring, stupid and depressing plot (so let’s do a podcast on it!), a neglected novel, Planet Of The Apes, Logan’s Run, Paranoia (the Role Playing Game), THX-1138, The Call Of Cthulhu RPG, the new Paranoia Kickstarter, the book for the blind audiobook, rape in quotation marks, The Matrix, Soylent Green, Gattaca, Colossus: The Forbin Project, Equilibrium, “live in that horrible world”, the women’s names: Anna, Mary, Peace and Yin, if you were living in this world which society would you want to live in or would you overthrow it?, keep getting mad, keep being proactive, aren’t we done talking about it yet?, King’s suicide, your old gray head, the secret sleeper spies, a mental asylum run by the patients, Cuban refugees fleeing Castro, this book is about our world, any ideology you have ought to be thrown to the dirt, the schizophrenia TV focus, Facebook becomes our island, dumping buckets of ice, Ferguson, New York, this book feels alien, the goal of communism, wouldn’t it be interesting if we all were actually equal, father knows best, blowing up airports seems crazy, a hard one, people only want you to think for yourself when it doesn’t effect them, Pierre Boulle.

Fawcett - This Perfect Day by Ira Levin

Posted by Jesse Willis

SFFaudio Review

The Peripheral by William Gibson audiobook coverThe Peripheral
By William Gibson; Narrated by Lorelei King
Publisher: Penguin Audio
Publication Date: 28 October 2014
[UNABRIDGED] – 14 hours, 5 minutes

Themes: / future / time travel / drugs / veterans / crime /

Publisher summary:

Where Flynne and her brother, Burton, live, jobs outside the drug business are rare. Fortunately, Burton has his veteran’s benefits, for neural damage he suffered from implants during his time in the USMC’s elite Haptic Recon force. Then one night Burton has to go out, but there’s a job he’s supposed to do – a job Flynne didn’t know he had. Beta-testing part of a new game, he tells her. The job seems to be simple: work a perimeter around the image of a tower building. Little buglike things turn up. He’s supposed to get in their way, edge them back. That’s all there is to it. He’s offering Flynne a good price to take over for him. What she sees, though, isn’t what Burton told her to expect. It might be a game, but it might also be murder.

Reading a new William Gibson novel is both delightful and exciting. He delights with the cool, sardonic yet imaginative visions of the present and future. He excites with his uncanny glimpses of the future, grounded in canny selections from our time.

The Peripheral offers another pleasure, that of Gibson trying something new. His recent brace of novels looked at the very near future, each following a normal linear path. His classic cyberpunk or Sprawl trilogy envisioned a medium-term future, also tending to thriller linearity.

But in The Peripheral we see a very different conceit and narrative structure. This novel relies on two timelines, one in the near-to-medium term future, and one almost a century away. At first we follow these in parallel, trying to infer connections. Then we learn that the further-along future has discovered a form of time travel – well, information exchange with the past, to be precise. The far-future signals the closer-to-us future, and has a proposition. Or two. Then more, which aren’t propositions but assassinations.

This dual-track time-travel-ish idea owes much to Gregory Benford’s 1980 novel Timescape. Other parallels appear; see spoiler section at the bottom of this post.

The future-near-to-us characters are also the more sympathetic. They focus on a young, poor Southern woman, Flynn Fisher, and her family. They live in a postwar backwater, where the economy barely exists apart from illegal drug manufacture. Flynn helps her vet brother, Burton, with an online job and witnesses what seems to be a strange murder. In the future-farther-away we see a PR flack, Wilf Netherton, working with a Russian crime family and their staff. Wilf has made an unspecified bad move, and is trying to improve his situation.

The plot ratchets up slowly and steadily to climax in a party, where multiple schemes intersect. Some, not all, is revealed, and the Fishers end up alive, very rich, and with a powerful edge on their present. Wilf somehow survives, and ends up in a relationship. This is too brisk and cursory a summary, but will do for now.

One of the pleasures of reading William Gibson is tracking his experimental words and phrases. These are concentrated projections of a possible future. Let me list some that caught my eye: klepts, artisanal AIs, battle-ready solicitors, court-certified recall, the viz, hate Kegels, autonomic bleedover, continua enthusiasts, drop bears, period trains, neo-primitivist curators, quasi-biological megavolume carbon collectors, heritage diseases, directed swarm weapons, a synthetic bullshit implant, surprise funeral, mofo-ettes, and a neurologer’s shop. One near-future treat is the “freshly printed salty caramel cronut”.

Some of today’s words mutate in these two futures. For example, poor folks don’t cook, but build drugs with some form of 3d printers. “Homes” refers not to homies or residences, but to Homeland Security. A very bad crisis happened between now and 2025 or so. People afterwards refer to it as the Jackpot.

Some of the language is simply cute. One character has her name changed slightly, and refers to it as “amputating the last letter of her name.” Another speaks of “cleaning up the afterbirth of Christmas ornaments”. The Fisher family shops at a Hefty Mart.

In a sense The Peripheral is Gibson’s gloomiest novel. Like the recent film Interstellar (my notes), this story begins in a bad situation, then gets worse. The Fishers are poor and ill (the brother has seizures, the mother seriously ailing) in a society that clearly doesn’t care for them at all. Their story reads like something from a late 19th-century Southern backwater, or like today’s worst countryside. Characters have little help for the future. What we learn about the Jackpot not only makes things horrible, but sets up a future that’s inhumane. Across all of these times looms the specter of vast economic inequality, of a society caring only for the <1%.

There is a powerful sense that the far-future is a kind of 1% taken to an extreme: a lonely elite, casually breaking off temporal worlds as a hobby, easily committing murders. Our lack of information about the world around London’s far-future elite disturbs me, the more I think of it. Conversely, the far-future world is situated in such total surveillance that they see our/Flynn’s sense of surveillance as charmingly antique.

Overall, The Peripheral offers solid future thought in an engaging narrative. Recommended.

I didn’t read this one, but listened to it on audiobook. Lorelei King was the reader and did a fine job, with the whole file running a touch over 14 hours. King does different nationalities well, which matters in the kind of multinational world Gibson loves. She reads with the right level of cool, too – not a thriller’s burning pace, but with a kind of observation acuity that I always associate with Gibson.

SPOILER SECTION

Here I reveal mysteries of the novel.  Do not read any farther if you wish your brain to remain unsullied.

Ready?

Here they come:

First, more on the plot: one agency in the far-off future is manipulating the past for its own reasons, and hires the Fishers as proxies. Another far-off-future group hires others to kill the Fisher family. Ainsley Lowbeer, a London cop, or something like that, appears in the far-future, with unusual connections to the Fishers’ time. Flynn and Burton are able to interact with their far-future employers via telepresence robots, the titular peripherals. Wilf explains the Jackpot to Flynn, describing a series of interconnected, overlapping crises that killed the majority of humans:

droughts, water shortages, crop failures, honeybees gone like they almost were now, collapse of other keystone species, every last alpha predator gone, antibiotics doing even less than they already did, diseases that were never quite the one big pandemic but just big enough to be historic events in themselves…

Flynn also learns that by intervening in her time, the far-future team has effectively broken off her world from the stream of time, creating a “stub” which can’t affect their future, and avoiding neatly some classic time travel problems.

Second, how does this gloomy novel end, then? Ah, it’s a happy ending, pretty much, although we don’t learn enough about what happens in the future. We – well, the Fisher stub – get to avoid the Jackpot. Whew!

But Gibson doesn’t want us to relax. Note his comments in a Tor interview:

there may be readers who get to the end and they go, “oh, well, that’s okay, everything worked out for them!”
… But these guys had an immensely powerful—if possibly dangerously crazy—fairy godmother who altered their continuum, who has for some reason decided that she’s going to rake all of their chestnuts out of the fire, so that the world can’t go the horrible it way it went in hers. And whatever else is going to happen, that’s not going to happen for us, you know? We’re going to have to find another way. We’re not going to luck into Lowbeer.

Worse, the Fishers seem like good folks. But what will keep them (or their inheritors) from becoming klepts, with their vast power and advantages?

So this book ends up as a cautionary tale, a huge warning, and a goad to get us hauling ourselves away from the Jackpot.

Third, I mentioned earlier that The Peripheral has links to Benford’s Timescape.  Benford’s future world is facing an existential crisis, due to events occurring in the past, so they reach out to communicate with the past to get them to change their ways. Gibson’s far-future has already experienced the Jackpot, but some of the survivors want to change the past to mitigate the experience. I dimly recall Benford’s future coming to an end, somehow, and the past branching off into a new, better world. This recalls Flynn’s world cutting its way into a different, hopefully non-Jackpotted world.

Posted by Bryan A.

SFFaudio Review

ChimpanzeeChimpanzee
Written and narrated by Darin Bradley
Publisher: Resurrection House via Audible
Publication Date: 9 October 2014
[UNABRIDGED] – 5 hours, 46 minutes

Themes: / dystopia / unrest / cognitive theory / virtual reality / revolution /

Publisher summary:

Unemployment has ravaged the U.S. economy. Foreclosures are rampant. People struggle everywhere, exhausted by the collapse that destroyed their lives . . .

Benjamin Cade is an expert in cognition and abstract literature, and before the flatlined economy caught up to him, he earned his living as a university instructor. Now, without income, he joins the millions defaulting on their loans—in his case, the money he borrowed to finance his degrees. But there are consequences.

Using advances in cognitive science and chemical therapy, Ben’s debtors can reclaim their property—his education. The government calls the process “Repossession Therapy,” and it is administered by the Homeland Renewal Project, the desperate program designed to salvage what remains of the ravaged U.S. economy. The data Ben’s repossession will yield is invaluable to those improving the “indexing” technology—a remarkable medical advance that has enabled the effective cure of all mental disorders. By disassembling his mind, doctors will gain the expertise to assist untold millions.

But Ben has no intention of losing his mind without a fight, so he begins teaching in the central park, distributing his knowledge before it’s gone in a race against ignorance. And somewhere in Ben’s confusing takedown, Chimpanzee arrives. Its iconography appears spray-painted and wheat-pasted around town. Young people in rubber chimpanzee masks start massive protests. A new use of the indexing technology shows up in bars across the country. It’s called “chimping” . . . named after the mysterious protest movement, and it uses goggles and electrodes to reverse the curative indexing process, temporarily (recreationally) offering those inclined a mental illness of their own choosing.

As Ben slowly loses himself, the Chimpanzee movement seems to grow. And all fingers point to Ben . . . or maybe the voice that speaks to him every time he uses the chimping rig. As civil unrest grows, and Homeland Security takes an interest, Ben finds himself at the center of a storm that may not even be real. What is Chimpanzee? Who created it? What does it want?

And is there even enough of Ben left to find out?

What I prefer in my dystopia is realism and possibility, that it could happen here, in my lifetime. I read dystopia for the horror, for the thrill. That is the brilliance Darin Bradley brings to his novels, both in Noise and in Chimpanzee. It helps that Chimpanzee takes place in a town an hour from where I live, a place I visit often, particularly the arts district, where quite a bit of the action takes place. The events are very vivid to me, described in that place. They will be vivid to others for different reasons, but basically anyone watching the news in the last few years will feel they know the world of this novel.

The premise of Chimpanzee (see description above) may be even more chilling to those of us working in academia, who have seen the impact of the various economic downturns on expensive liberal arts educations. Now that there are no job guarantees, and no guarantee on the investment made (often by the students through hefty loans), people are starting to question the benefit of the system we have maintained for so long. I hate this conversation, because I work at one of those schools, and depend on it for my livelihood. So did the author, for a while. And that’s where reality and the terror of this possible future start to blur within the novel.

There is a lot in this novel that might feel over the reader’s head.  I would encourage people who don’t understand every word from the rhetoric of cognitive theory to press on –  treat it like a classic science fiction info dump.  Let it wash over you, grasp what you can. You will be in the same place as the students in the story, who also are put into a position of creating their own meaning, applied to their real situations.

There is a concept of virtual reality in this novel that I liked, called chimping, something you can do at a bar with your friends.  It becomes an important part of the story in ways I will not give away here.

The audiobook has a story to its making. In the insert, it talks about the initial difficulty Resurrection House had in distributing the audio version.  It includes a warning:

“Because some books aren’t meant for sedans on highways. They may have too many voices, or they may have jagged corners that snag plots, or they may have things with no business being in stories… like symbols or formulae or languages we don’t understand. You can listen to them, if you’re ready to pay attention.”

I did not heed the warning and listened to some of this audio production while driving around. The first time I encountered a repossessed memory, the sound used to represent the hole, the deletion, it almost sent me off the road.  When I played it at home, my husband jumped out of his skin. It would be remiss not to warn you.

Otherwise, the audio moves back and forth between a radio-play style performance from multiple readers with sound effects and music, and the author’s own narration.  I liked the music choices and the sound effects were generally effective.  Having sound effects in some parts magnifies the silence of the others. Benjamin Cade spends a lot of time inside his head, and losing what is in his head, so I think that silence is well warranted.  It takes some getting used to, but I ended up appreciating it.  The author also does a good job delivering his narration in a noirish tone, where short sentences shine.

Posted by Jenny Colvin

Podcast

J. Sheridan Le Fanu's CARMILLA
The SFFaudio PodcastThe SFFaudio Podcast #293 – Carmilla by J. Sheridan Le Fanu; read by Elizabeth Klett (for LibriVox). This is an unabridged reading of the novelette (3 hours 7 minutes) followed by a discussion of it. Participants in the discussion include Jesse, Mr Jim Moon, and Elizabeth Klett.

Talked about on today’s show:
1871, 1872, Elizabeth’s first solo for LibriVox, a per-adolescent kid, Dracula, a novella and not a novel, Dracula is obsessed with its own structure, dictaphone, the manner of the telling, The Dark Blue magazine, the framing device, the Dr. Martin Hesselius framing device, wee have the papers to prove it, not with that ending, so chilling, eight years after the major events, three hundred, Duke Charles, CBS Radio Mystery Theater adaptation, the setting, the nearest inhabited village is twenty leagues away, the ruins of Karnstein, white lilies, swans, perch, in the moat, the story within the story, Spielsdorf’s letter, Millarca and her “mother”, fete, a masked ball, a vampire scam, a glamour on the father, pulling Laura’s father aside, is she glamouring him?, so lonely, giving in to her whim, why don’t the vampires not immediately suck some folk dry?, preying on the village girls, Varney The Vampire, the name as an anagram, the blue mark, the lonely vampire, “you’re going to die into me”, “I live into your warm life and you’ll die sweetly into mine”, Laura has been stalked since she was six, enchanted by the pretty lady, needles, “just a blue spot”, the father and the doctor are shielding Laura, shielding Mina from the truth ends up hurting her, the female characters in both stories are more capable than the male characters give them credit for, religion, the crucifix doesn’t figure into Carmilla, the complicated layering of imagery, Carmilla’s escape from the castle, enclosure, Carmilla can transcend enclosures, transcendent confinement, an extra-transmissive female, the Mountebank peddlar, the little dog, amulets for protection against the oumpire, a very sharp tooth like a fish, a transaction through a window, a liminal space, invading the domestic space, well educated in trickery and juggling, the mountebank half-recognizes Carmillas as a vampire, a clever recipe, Harker’s shaving mirror, Markheim by Robert Louis Stevenson, Carmilla thinks of herself as a product of nature, “all things proceed from nature”, girls as caterpillars while they live in the world, relying on God to take care of us is naive, a post Darwinian perspective, Dracula’s Guest by Bram Stoker, Horror Europa with Mark Gatiss, Nosferatu was nearly destroyed by copyright claims, the invasion of the home, Eric Rabkin, vampires are for aristocrats whereas werewolves are for peasants, The Odyssey as a series of stories about the host-guest relationship, Carmilla’s only virtue is that she’s pretty, Bertha, the striking image of Carmilla crawling onto Bertha’s bed, a phallic sword, there’s no hiding the fact that this is all sex sex sex, The Vampire Lovers, Hammer Horror with nudity, the British Board of Film Censors, “this is literature”, The Killing Of Sister George, Richard LeStrange from Cork, adaptations of Carmilla, the servants, a quick snack on the peasants, bathing in seven inches of blood, Elizabeth Bartolde, floating of coffins in blood, entirely shielded from ghost stories and fairy tales, languorous and dream-like, languorous and languid, a code word for sensual, sated, façade, interest in beauty, metamorphosis, your chrysalis is your coffin, how vampires leave their graves, revenants, Karnstein = fleshstone, out of folklore and into proto-science fiction, turning Laura into a vampire, one of the great questions in Carmilla – who is her mother? who is the man in black, the cuckoo nest scenario, who are these people?, the “broken” carriage charade, the cuckoo in the nest, pushing the other chicks out of the nest, a wonderful horrible story, Laura Palmer in Twin Peaks, a lot of Laura victims, lesbianism and incest, corruption beneath the veil of respectability, why the mother is missing, the doom to come, Morella by Edgar Allan Poe, Ligeia, Berenice, all up in the creepy, all possessing consumption, waiting for the fruit to be ripe, Blood And Roses, the petals of the rose, is it like a venereal disease?, M.R. James, the lens of distance,

“Magia Posthuma,” “Phlegon de Mirabilibus,” “Augustinus de cura pro Mortuis,” “Philosophicae et Christianae Cogitationes de Vampiris,” by John Christofer Herenberg; and a thousand others

the rules for vampires, Count Alucard, the writing itself, vic-fic, the clarity and economy of Le Fanu’s prose, clear but evocative, he doesn’t over-egg the pudding.

Aricel Comics - Carmilla, issue 1

Carmilla by J. Sheridan Le Fanu

Carmilla by J. Sheridan Le Fanu

Carmilla by J. Sheridan Le Fanu

Carmilla adaptation from Creepy Magazine 19

Posted by Jesse Willis

SFFaudio Review

Fools FateFool’s Fate (Tawny Man Trilogy #3)
By Robin Hobb; Performed by James Langton
Publisher: Brilliance Audio
[UNABRIDGED] – 35 hours
Themes:  / fantasy / Farseer / assassin / dragon /
Publisher summary:

FitzChivalry Farseer has become firmly ensconced in the queen’s court. Along with his mentor, Chade, and the simpleminded yet strongly Skilled Thick, Fitz strives to aid Prince Dutiful on a quest that could secure peace with the Outislands—and win Dutiful the hand of the Narcheska Elliania.The Narcheska has set the prince an unfathomable task: to behead a dragon trapped in ice on the isle of Aslevjal. Yet not all the clans of the Outislands support their effort. Are there darker forces at work behind Elliana’s demand? Knowing that the Fool has foretold he will die on the island of ice, Fitz plots to leave his dearest friend behind. But fate cannot so easily be defied.

Disclaimer: This is a review of the third book in a trilogy and the review will likely include spoilers from preceding books. I’d strongly recommend starting with the first book in the trilogy (Fool’s Errand) or better yet, Assassin’s Apprentice since the Farseer trilogy is very good and all these books are related.

Fool’s Fate is the last book of the Tawny Man trilogy. The story picks up immediately where Golden Fool left off as the Farseers are preparing to travel to the island Aslevjal to kill the dragon Icefire. The Fool has also told FitzChivalry that they must save Icefire to put the world on a better path. Which will Fitz decide: his oath of loyalty and allegiance to the Farseer throne or his role as the Catalyst of the White Prophet? I’ve really enjoyed all of the books in this trilogy leading but this book stands out as something special.

The whole premise of the book is based on a challenge Prince Dutiful was goaded into and that the adults don’t particularly want to do. It’s pretty obvious that something else is at play with the Outislanders in making this challenge and the result is a fantastic conclusion to the Farseer and Tawny Man trilogies. As already stated, FitzChivalry’s struggle with his role as the Catalyst while also serving his realm have you wondering what will happen all the way up to the climax.

As I listened to this story, I really felt like a full story was being told in which I couldn’t see the seams. I normally can’t help my mind picking a story apart into its elements to determine what’s going to be important later in the story but things weren’t so obvious here. There are so many things going on that it just feels like an active world as opposed to having just a few conveniently introduced devices to be used later (for instance, you know when Harry Potter learns a new spell that it will almost certainly be the sole thing that gets him out of trouble later. Expecto Patronum!). What will be important here? New understandings of the Wit from Webb? The newly forming Skill coterie? Chade’s blasting powder? Something old Elderling tools? Hobb does a great job working everything together into a good ride.

If there is one weakness in this book, it’s that it wraps things up too well. When I say too well, I mean that the falling action and conclusion of the book feel like the resolution to both the Farseer and Tawny Man trilogy as so much of what happens even concludes questions you may not even realize you had. The falling action and conclusion also take up about 1/3 of the book which kind of threw me. I was avidly consuming the story through the climax but then felt like things dragged out a bit afterward. Don’t get me wrong – I loved all of it, I just thought it was worth mentioning.

As with the previous installments of this trilogy, James Langton does a fantastic job with his narration of this book. There were times I forgot I was even listening to an audio book because I was just so into it. If I had one gripe it would be that some voices sound quite similar but those that do rarely have scenes together (Hap, Dutiful, Swift). I would definitely look for Langton reading other books.

Posted by Tom Schreck

SFFaudio Review

Tales of TerrorTales of Terror Collection
A Night in Whitechapel, Was It a Dream?, Caterpillars, John Mortonson’s Funeral
By: Ambrose Bierce, Guy de Maupassant, E.F. Benson; Performed by Victor Garber
Publisher: Brilliance Audio
[UNABRIDGED] – 1 disc, 1 hour!
Themes: / short stories / horror / classic / supernatural /
Publisher summary:

‘Night in Whitechapel’ French short-story master Guy de Maupassant offers this chilling look into one of the world’s best known cities. When two young men make a trek to London on a cold December evening, they expect to take in the city and maybe a pub or two along the way. But a chance encounter with a mysterious woman soon has them questioning not only the proceedings of their evening but their sanity as well. ‘Was It a Dream?’ Guy de Maupassant once again delivers a spine-tingling narrative. A young man recounts the tragic death of his love, claimed by an unknown illness. In his grief, he wanders the cemetery where she is buried to find a dark secret that she, and many other corpses, share. ‘Caterpillars’ Stories of the supernatural from E.F. Benson have been terrifying audiences for decades—even making the transition to television adaptation. In “Caterpillars,” a man recalls his terrifying stay at a haunted Italian villa. You will never look at caterpillars in the same way. ‘John Mortonson’s Funeral’ Perhaps best known for The Devil’s Dictionary, Ambrose Bierce is a mainstay of nineteenth-century American literature. In “John Mortonson’s Funeral,” Bierce adds horror to his satirical lens. The mourners at this funeral will be forever changed.

“Night in Whitechapel” – Guy de Maupassant
When two young men make a trek to London on a cold December evening, they expect to take in the city and maybe a pub or two along the way. But a chance encounter with a mysterious woman soon has them questioning not only the proceedings of their evening but their sanity as well.

“Was It a Dream?” – Guy de Maupassant
A young man recounts the tragic death of his love, claimed by an unknown illness. In his grief, he wanders the cemetery where she is buried to find a dark secret that she, and many other corpses, share.

“Caterpillars” – E.F. Benson
A man recalls his terrifying stay at a haunted Italian villa. You will never look at caterpillars in the same way.

“John Mortonson’s Funeral” – Ambrose Bierce
The mourners at this funeral will be forever changed.This collection is well named. All of these tales have a certain creepiness factor that will leave your skin crawling if you think about them too much. They also have the virtue of not being the usual “classic” horror tales included in most anthologies, although they are by authors acknowledged as master storytellers.

What enhances the subtlety and creeping horror is Victor Garber’s soft spoken narration. As any good actor would, he reads each tale differently to reflect its own character, but never with obvious technique that draws the listener away from the story itself. My favorite was “Was It a Dream?” in which the protagonist’s lovelorn state gradually gives way to shuddering fear in the graveyard. The transition was so seamless that I couldn’t tell you when it happened and by the end of the tale I myself was horror stricken.

The collection is short, clocking in at slightly more than an hour, but it is choice. Definitely recommended.

Posted by Julie D.

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