"Dead Letters" Book Review
Written by Jennifer Turner
Published by Titan Books
Edited by Conrad Williams
2016, 400 pages, Fiction
Released on April 5th, 2016
I am not a fan of short stories; I'm a size queen who thinks a book under three hundred pages is a waste of time. I would normally list and review each story, but there are a lot of them and a few would have the same review, which could be whittled down to meh!
It's not that the authors are bad; it's just that a few of them end vaguely and I have barely enough time to grasp what's going on before it's over. There are some good entries though, and for the most part I enjoyed my time spent with Dead Letters.
We start our anthology with "The Green Letter" by Steven Hall. It is simply written as a scientific report of a chain letter that has disastrous consequences to those who follow its instructions. "Green Letter" Is brief but intriguing. I would love it if Steven Hall explored this idea more in future works. I would definitely read it.
Another diamond in the rough is "Over to You" by Michael Marshall Smith. Over centers around a mysterious chess pawn that has unexpected consequences to the unlucky recipient. I love the eerie Twilight Zone-like atmosphere and the honest view on how far someone can go to save his life by sacrificing another's.
"Wonder to Come" by Christopher Fowler somehow manages to bore, entice, and anger me in just a few pages. This tepid installment centers on Roy Brook, an engineer that discovers a weird geological formation under a new resort. This entry is just dull until literally the last two pages, where I found a terrific twist that made me so mad when it ended just as I had begun to like it. Like "The Green Letter",I would like to see an expansion of this in future works.
I had kind of a reverse reaction to "Cancer Dancer" by Pat Cadigan. It starts out well, exploring a cancer-ridden woman who receives a desperate letter meant for a deceased policeman. This letter eventually leads our antagonist to a mysterious hotel. The end is too abrupt and makes no sense, even after I reread it twice more looking for something I may have missed.
I wanted to love "The Wrong Game" by Ramsey Campbell. I have heard a lot about his work and was pleased to finally get a chance to read him. This submission is written almost like an email to the book's editor, Conrad Williams. It's a rambling hard to follow read that I frankly had to force myself to read and didn't quite understand the ending or even really the point of the plot itself.
My absolute favorite entry is "The Days of our Lives" by Adam LG Neville. I have recently become a fan of his work after reading his novel Apartment 16. I was thrilled to see his name pop up in the table of contents and he did not disappoint. Day follows an unusual couple consisting of an unnamed narrator and Lois, his evil murderous wife who delights in keeping him submissive and suffering. The shifting dynamic of the couple is intense, with a very satisfying ending.
Another favorite is "The Hungry Hotel" by Lisa Tuttle. Hotel is a dark and romantic tale of an engaged woman who has an intense affair with a passing musician. The tale is intense yet sweet and makes me want to read more of Tuttle's work. Although it ends abruptly with the resolution left up to the reader's imagination, I still love it.
All in all, Dead Letters is a good read despite me finding a majority of the stories dull or just plain confusing. I got to sample various mostly unheard of authors; a few I intend to look up in the near future. That in a way is the point of an anthology, to expand your brain as well as your bookshelves.