cover image Hell Train

Hell Train

Christopher Fowler. Solaris, $7.99 mass market (368p) ISBN 978-1-90799-244-5

The affection of British Fantasy Award–winner Fowler for classic Hammer Films horror movies pays off in this intricately recursive tale of terror. In London, 1966, American writer Shane Carter is given less than five days to come up with a script for Hammer’s next Peter Cushing vehicle. Given only the vague guidance that the plot should have something to do with a train, Carter finds an old board game called Hell Train. The narrative shifts to a story within the story, as an unnamed young girl ignores the warning message on the same game, and then to the conceit of the game itself: a disparate group of desperate people in 1916 Carpathia board a mysterious midnight train to an unknown destination. Fowler (the Bryant and May series) neatly incorporates many of the Hammer studio’s trademarks: “young lovers, fearsome creatures, a dire warning, rituals and curses, and dreadful consequences.” The shocks never stop coming, bolstered by crisp writing and well-defined, sympathetic characters. (Dec.)