01/02/2011. Contributed by Eamonn Murphy
pub: Subterranean Press. 117 deluxe hardback. Price: $ 20.00 (US). ISBN: 978-1-59606-284-9).
check out website: www.subterraneanpress.com
Most anthologies have some kind of introduction or forward, the editor getting in his two cents worth, but this has none, perhaps because I had an Advance Uncorrected Proof. The five stories are presented bare with no comment.
First up was the headline act, Robert Silverberg with 'The Prisoner'. Protagonist Dave is a divorced man who works in a dull, trivial job but has terrifying dreams at night of being chased, burnt at the stake, drowning and so on. As usual, Silverberg is endlessly inventive. The narration was stream of consciousness, almost like someone gabbling at you feverishly and the prose was stylish and flawless as usual with this old master. Unfortunately, the plot was pretty ordinary and the climax, while interesting enough, didn't really justify the wordage. Old masters can weave their arts around a thin core and produce a story - Somerset Maugham was famous for it - but learned craftsmanship doesn't make it a great story. This was okay.
Lucius Shepard has a dig at the film industry in 'Dream Burgers At The Mouth Of Hell'. Arthur Embry, a lowly screenwriter, gets taken to a burger bar out in the sticks by Marshall Ziegler, the eleventh most powerful man in Hollywood. Arthur is working on a new Dragon picture that may be the next big hit. Zeigler takes him to a retro-style diner called The Mouth Of Hell. To say more would spoil a story that has to be read to be properly appreciated. Shepard's style is witty and imaginative. I suspect a novel might be too much of this stuff but it suits a short story to a tee.
Jay Lake's 'Testament' seems to be a story about ‘The Testament Of The Six Sleeping Kings’, a book written by an angel perhaps. It tells six stories over a long period of time. I recognized Moses and George Washington in the tales but the whole thing was, aptly perhaps, like a dream. Frankly, it was beyond me.
'Rex Nemorensis' by Kage Baker was about a Viet Nam vet who can't settle back into normal society. He has left his wife out of kindness and gone to find some land for which he has the deeds and his grandfather bought it long ago off a dodgy property speculator. The land turns out to be a worthless swamp that is part of a government park anyway but he goes there to see it and is nearly killed by a crazy old man. The 'dream' theme here seems to be that he prefers the 'real' world of nature red in tooth and claw to the 'dream' world of civilization. The story was brutal but well-written and gripping.
In '86 Deathdick Road' by Geoffrey Ford, a man takes his wife to a 'McMansion' in the country where The Smartest Man In The World is putting on a show. The fee to get in is fifty dollars but lots of people from town are there, many of them annoying neighbours. In the very dream-like cascade of events that follow our hero is insulted, locked out and assaulted by killer owls.
I have the same problem with the last story that I have with all of them. Since fantasy is not real anyway why bother making fantasy stories about dreams. All that happens is you're not sure if it’s an unreal dream or an unreal fantasy. 'Dream Burgers At The Mouth Of Hell' was a perfectly good fantasy story and 'Rex Nemorensis' seems to be a grisly, realist story of the type you might find in a Stephen King anthology. Silverberg's story is definitely about dreaming and maybe it gave the book its title. Who knows? Not a bad collection for a pastime but no classic. Don't break a leg trying to get it.
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Stephen Hunt's novels - USA