cover image Strange Things and Stranger Places

Strange Things and Stranger Places

Ramsey Campbell. Tor Books, $18.95 (256pp) ISBN 978-0-312-85514-7

The previously published stories in this collection, which also includes a new novella, seem to have languished in obscurity until now for a reason: very few stand out, and none achieve the resonance of Campbell's best horror novels, such as The Count of Eleven. The collection does frequently display his remarkable talent for twisting the ordinary into the darkly surreal, but some of these early efforts lack the taut construction which shapes his later flights of fancy. In ``Cat and Mouse'' (1972), the narrator decides his new house is ``hunting'' him before much has happened to convince the reader of this odd conceit. Other stories seem like throwaway attempts at well-worn genres: ``Wrapped Up'' and ``Rising Generation,'' both written in 1974, respectively run through the usual mummy and zombie shtick. The new novella, ``Needing Ghosts,'' occupies a category of its own, depicting a nightmarish odyssey through a strangely distorted suburban landscape, as a novelist desperately tries to reassure himself that he hasn't simply imagined his entire career. The images are disturbingly inventive, but in the end the novella's harrowing, delusionary pointlessness is so like a bad dream that the reader just wishes it would end. Campbell's fans, however, will admire his venture into even weirder territory and should welcome the collection as a whole. (June)