Al Sarrantonio, Author . Cemetery Dance $40 (230p) ISBN 978-1-58767-098-5

Sarrantonio's second collection of short fiction (after 1999's Toybox ) offers a heady blend of stories from the extremes of the horror spectrum. Some feature apocalypses that begin as local phenomena before spreading globally: "The Ropy Thing" and "The Quiet Ones" both involve predatory monsters that emerge from subterranean realms to swiftly overrun the world, while "Stars" spins a boy's psychotic fascination with the heavens to an earthshaking climax. Most of the 17 selections, however, are subtle, character-driven explorations of the shadowy ground between psychological and supernatural horror. In "The Green Face" and "White Lightning," alienated young men blame their murderous actions on provocateurs gradually revealed to be little more than externalized manifestations of their anger and antisocial feelings. "The Only" and "Bags" both feature protagonists whose fascination with the grotesque is a harbinger of the fate to which their empty lives are leading them. "Hornets," about a writer who immerses himself too deeply in writing the perfect Halloween horror story, keeps ambiguous whether he's channeling dark inspiration or being consumed by his own morbid imagination. Although gruesome incidents abound, Sarrantonio approaches his horrors with subtlety, rendering them through surreal imagery and tethering them tightly to the agitated emotions of his characters. Offbeat and original, these stories will appeal to readers with a taste for quirky dark fantasy. (Sept.)

Reviewed on: 08/30/2004
Release date: 10/01/2004
Genre: Fiction
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