TOLD BY THE DEAD

Ramsey Campbell, Introduction by . PS Publishing $50 (341p) ISBN 1-902880-69-2

In this stunning new collection, Campbell builds on his reputation as an inimitable stylist who uses the nuances of language as much as horrific imagery to tell his disturbing tales. Each of the 23 stories features prose carefully calibrated to wring maximum unease from its plot. In "Never to Be Heard," an innocent choirboy's darkening dreams prove the measure of an occult influence secretly encoded in the symphonic chorale he's performing. "Worse Than Bones," one of several stories about the power of the written word, features a book collector who's horrified to discover that a recently purchased volume of ghost stories is channeling the spirit of its deceased previous owner and her disturbing reflections on the real afterlife. "The Entertainment" is a shocker about a man whose failure to correct misunderstandings of his casual comments leads to his imprisonment in a grotesque mistaken identity. Though the gluey texture of Campbell's imaginings prevents easy access to some selections, it creates an inescapable sense of foreboding throughout. He effectively describes physical horrors with an indirectness that amplifies their intensity, as in "The Worst Fog of the Year," where a resurrected corpse shows a face that "might almost have been a mask shaped of mud and insufficiently baked." He also deftly conjures psychological horrors in "Becoming Visible" and "The Word," simply by showing nightmare visions of the world as viewed by their deranged narrators. Readers who appreciate a challenge will find Campbell's unique approach to horrors as rewarding as it is chilling. (May)

Forecast:An introduction by Poppy Z. Brite will help make this even more desirable a collector's item, especially the boxed slip-cased edition ($90, ISBN 1-902880-70-6), signed by both Campbell and Brite. Campbell was the guest of honor at the International Conference of the Fantastic in the Arts in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., Mar. 19–23.

Reviewed on: 04/07/2003
Release date: 00/00/0000
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