cover image Night Terrors & Other Tales

Night Terrors & Other Tales

Lisa Morton. Omnium Gatherum, $13.99 trade paper (281p) ISBN 978-1-949054-28-6

Morton (The Samhanach and Other Halloween Treats) somewhat overbills these collected dark fantasias as “terrors.” These 21 stories successfully tease out the dark corners of offbeat notions, but seldom raise goosebumps. The melancholy and oddly sweet “Joe and Abel in the Field of Rest,” imagines what might cause a man to stay friends with someone even after they become a zombie. “The Secret Engravings,” a reimagining of the life of Hans Holbein the Younger, might inspire a quick lookup on Wikipedia, but lacks the emotional hook that would make the story itself memorable. The impressive “Sparks Fly Upward,” on the other hand, uses a close psychological portrait to transform a trip to an abortion clinic into a vessel of immense emotional freight. Morton is at her best when she allows her imagination to run wild, but many other stories are populated with tired archetypes, including femme fatales (“Madelyn was sleek and serious, like a Maserati in human form”) and shrewish gold diggers blamed for their failing marriages. There’s promise here, but few of these stories go for the jugular. (May)