Sunday, 1 September 2013

Review: Holes For Faces - Ramsey Campbell

Where to start writing a review of a new collection of Ramsey Campbell short stories? I guess many of you will be familiar enough with Campbell to make it almost seem redundant - most horror fans made up their mind about him years ago, one way or the other. If you admire him as much as I do, all you really need to know is that Holes For Faces collects fourteen recent stories, and that he's as good as he ever was.

So there you are: go buy.

Still here? Well okay, let me also add that if by some slim chance you are new to Campbell this is as good an introduction to his late style as any. You'll find all his key traits: the ambiguous imagery, the black humour, the treacherous wordplay. The protagonists of these stories tend to either be children or the elderly - outsiders unable to communicate to their family or colleagues the horrors they see, or think they see. This inability to communicate is key to Campbell's horror - words are as much foe as friend, slippery and keeping people apart rather than drawing them together. Campbell's prose is as sharp and intelligent as ever, as is his ability to conjure up a disturbing image in just a couple of sentences. The characters merely glimpse the phantoms and bogeymen in these stories, rather than seeing them straight on, leaving them (and us) unsure of exactly what they've seen, and how real it was.

Stand-out stories, for me were: Passing through PeacehavenThe Room BeyondThe Rounds (which adds a nice touch of Philip K Dick style uncertainty to Campbell's usual paranoia), the title story, and The Long Way.

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