Edited by David A. Sutton
Published by British Fantasy Society, 2008
Another look into the hidden work of the publishing arm of the BFS with a book of novellas inspired by William Hope Hodgson’s – The House On the Borderland. I say inspired but it’s a rather loose connection, anyone coming here looking for satanic pigs or drug induced trips into the cosmos will be disappointed but if, like me, you preferred the first part of Hodgson’s masterpiece, the unsettling ghostly tale of a strange dwelling you will love this collection.
We start with Today We Were Astronauts by Allen Ashley a scifi/horror story that takes us to a remote lighthouse during the global pandemic of the moon plague. This is a suitably unsettling tale as the claustrophobia in the lighthouse is amplified by the general sense of detachment from the rest of the population (if there is anyone left). Throw in some “mind block” machines which transfer the entire consciousness of people and you have the basis for an entertaining and satisfying tale.
The Listeners by Samantha Lee is probably the closest in terms of connection with Hodgson’s tale. This time a mysterious house, a connection to fairies and some clever time shifts in the plot create a nicely creepy tale. It manages to be both traditional and modern at the same time.
The Schoolhouse by Simon Bestwick is focused on two buildings Drakemire School and The Pines, a psychiatric hospital. Needless to say the events in both places are intimately connected and old acquaintances are renewed which should not be. This is an extremely dark and powerful piece. The tales of abuse at the school and the torment this has caused in later life leave nothing to the imagination in their gritty realism. Its a story that will stick with you long after you may wish to forget it.
The House On the Western Border by Gary Fry sees a mother and daughter making the break from a failed relationship to a remote cottage in Anglesey. This is probably the most traditional ghost story here but it is still very successful, managing to evoke elements of both The Shining and The Exorcist in its portrayal of a haunted building and troubled relationships.
Paul Finch takes us into the gritty hell of the eastern front with The Retreat. I am a huge fan of Finch’s historical stories which manage to bring elements of both fact and folklore together to create excellent tales of horror. In this case the horror is twofold as we see the depravity of a group of German soldiers on the Eastern front seeking refuge in a remote cottage from the horrors of war. As you may expect, the cottage turns out to be less than ideal as a sanctuary and it’s not long before they begin to realise things have gone from bad to worse.
Finally David A. Riley takes us into the hell of drug and drink abuse in suburban squalor in The Worst Of All Possible Places. Again we find ourselves in a place with altered identities and a strange dream/drug like confusion as the protagonist realises things are not all they seem and the already tragic circumstances he finds himself in become much worse. It’s a great, hardhitting tale of paranoia and strangeness.
And there you have it six excellent novellas. Paul Finch continues to tick all the right boxes for me with his blend of horror and myth so for me this was the best of the bunch but all the stories here are worthy of your attention and personal preferences will surely be well served by the variety on offer. So once again I urge you to visit the BFS site, become a member or simply purchase and enjoy this fine collection of horror.
Rating 4 out of 5