Nightmare Flower

Elizabeth Engstrom, Author Tor Books $19.95 (304p) ISBN 978-0-312-85404-1
Indirection and subtle evocations of terror and evil are the hallmarks of this well-crafted collection of horror and fantasy stories. That is not to say there are no letdowns among the 20 tales: one senses that both ``Will Lunch Be Ready on Time?'' and ``Grandma's Hobby'' will involve cannibalism long before reaching their ``surprise'' endings. But most of the stories deliver. In ``Quiet Meditation,'' fantasies about the past war with the dark realities of a woman's life. Engstrom ( When Darkness Loves Us ) indulges in a cliched horror formula in ``The Final Tale''--a full moon, a mysterious stranger and storytellers regaling one another with ghost stories--and still turns out quite a shocker. The horror of the title piece, a variation on the man-eating-plant theme, keeps pace with the growth of the dreadful flower. The gem of the collection is the novella ``Project Stone.'' Here a single machine at the center of a utopian city in the Arizona desert turns against its creators. While the machine emits a tone meant to relieve stress, the townspeople are unaware of its purpose. Engstrom unleashes a chilling, totally unexpected ending. This is a genuinely imaginative and diverse collection; if one story doesn't seduce and horrify the reader, the next one surely will. (Sept.)
Reviewed on: 08/31/1992
Release date: 09/01/1992
Genre: Fiction
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