Toybox

Al Sarrantonio, Author
Al Sarrantonio, Author Cemetery Dance Publications $40 (260p) ISBN 978-1-881475-81-1
Mass Market Paperbound - 288 pages - 978-0-8439-5174-5
Ebook - 172 pages - 978-1-4416-9046-3
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Although best known as a novelist (House Haunted) and anthologist (999), Sarrantonio has been writing short tales of horror and dark fantasy for nearly two decades. The 18 stories in this first collection are gems of weirdness that mostly sidestep the traditional themes and approaches of supernatural fiction and shape deeply personal fears of loneliness, rejection and nonconformity into haunting scenarios with an almost primal power. Virtually all show the influence of Ray Bradbury in their child's-eye views of a world where the magical and the monstrous seep fluidly into one another. ""Under My Bed"" is narrated by a young boy who befriends the monster under his bed and enlists him as a defense against his abusive father. A new child in school proves to be the incarnation of Halloween nightmare in ""Pumpkin Head."" ""Bogy"" features a quartet of kids determined to prod the living incarnation of Fear into making their drab world delightfully scary again. The minimum of plot in these tales is skillfully counterbalanced by an abundance of eerie images--dark autumn nights, spooky toys and costumes, menacing elders--unleashing the dreadful potential of the most innocent situations: for example, a desire for Christmas to go on forever becomes horrifying reality in ""Wish,"" and breaking parental taboos leads to unsettling self-discovery in ""Father Dear"" and ""Corn Dolly."" At their best, which is quite often, these stories remind the reader that the most effective horror tales reduce us all to babes lost in the woods of our dark imaginings. (Feb.)
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