What’s Charcloth, Firesteel and Flint all about?:
Many of us grew up on The Pan Book of Horror Stories and its later incarnations, Dark Voices and Dark Terrors (The Gollancz Book of Horror), which won the World Fantasy Award, the Horror Critics’ Guild Award and the British Fantasy Award, but for a decade or more there has been no non-themed anthology of original horror fiction published in the mainstream. Now that horror has returned to the bookshelves, it is time for a regular anthology of brand-new fiction by the best and brightest in the field, both the Big Names and the most talented newcomers. A Book of Horrors is the foremost in the field: a collection of the very best chiller fiction, from some of the world’s greatest writers.
Charcloth, Firesteel and Flint is a short story that explores both the fascination and fear of fire, and how it has the power to destroy everything.
What did I think?:
I’ve never read anything by Caitlin R. Kiernan before, and I’ve got to say this story didn’t live up to my expectations unfortunately. Although in my opinion, it’s probably hard to follow a tough act like Stephen King who had the honour of the first story in this collection. The tale introduces us to a young man named Billy who picks up a female hitch hiker who is travelling alone on a dark and poorly lit road. The girl tells Billy that her name is Aiden, but we discover even in the short period of time she is in the car, that she has had multiple names in the past. Even when Billy questions her about her past, it seems that she has seen a lot and been through a lot, all seeming to have involved fire which makes us question her exact age. Billy notices that she seems to give off an aroma of smoke, and all she seems to want to talk about is fire. The mystery continues when Billy suggests that they both get a motel room for the night, and what happens next makes Billy wonder whether he was right to pick her up at all.
I did enjoy the writing of this story, and it certainly had quite a unique premise. I don’t want to give anything away, but I was fairly surprised by the ending and wasn’t sure exactly where the author was heading with the tale. Personally, it felt slightly unfinished for me, and I was slightly frustrated that the story wasn’t slightly longer – maybe I liked it better than I thought I did? I would definitely read something else by this author though, as I think her writing style is beautiful and obviously shows talent.
Would I recommend it?:
Star rating (out of 5):
NEXT SHORT STORY: The Festival by H.P. Lovecraft from the collection The Definitive H.P. Lovecraft