The New Uncanny: Tales Of Unease

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Short Stories Challenge 2017 – Seeing Double by Sara Maitland from the collection The New Uncanny: Tales Of Unease edited by Sarah Eyre and Ra Page.

Published December 4, 2017 by bibliobeth

What’s Seeing Double all about?:

Seeing Double is the story of a young boy who lives with his father and is looked after by a nanny. He seldom sees anyone else and there is a terrible reason why he is being kept away from other people.

What did I think?:

Although I’ve never read any of Sara Maitland’s work before, I’m very familiar with her name and have her non-fiction book, Gossip From The Forest as a priority read on my Kindle that now I’ve finally read some of her fiction, I simply must make time for in the New Year. For this short story, all I can say is wow. This little tale really floored me, it was so powerful in its nature and the clever reveals throughout which led up to an explosive ending were simply stunning. I’ve heard that Sara Maitland has a bit of a talent for short story writing (that’s putting it lightly!) but I wasn’t prepared at all for how marvellous her writing actually was and I’m delighted to finally have discovered her.

Now, the only annoying thing about Seeing Double is that I’m going to have to be incredibly careful what I tell you about it! I really don’t want to ruin anything and if I reveal the “big secret,” that our young male protagonist has, I’ll be doing exactly that. Let’s just say that we have a young boy born whose mother sadly dies when she gives birth to him. The midwife who assisted at the birth ends up being employed by the boy’s father as a permanent nanny to look after him and they are ensconced in a large house in the country with his father who becomes increasingly distant as he indulges his passion for nature, although they do have some tender moments playing together with a train set. Our protagonist doesn’t see anyone else apart from Nanny and his father, this includes the various servants that help out in the house until one day a maid enters his room. Both her and the boy find out the reason why he has been secluded and because of this, his life is changed forever:

“Grown-ups, he learned far too suddenly, spoke with double voices, cunningly, so that true and not true weren’t like white and black, like either-or, like plus and minus, they were like the bogs on the hill side, shifty, invisible and dangerous.”

As you can tell from the above quote, the writing is absolutely glorious and I felt just the utmost happiness when I was reading this dark little tale, purely for the gorgeous lyrical style and the way that the author uses her words to beautiful effect. Yes, this story has murky depths and goes to some strange and fascinating places so if you’re not into twisted tales, this might not be the story for you BUT I urge you to give it a chance because I’m now desperate to talk to anyone who has read this before and hear all their thoughts on it. I immediately felt so sorry for our protagonist when we learn what he has to deal with but I certainly wasn’t expecting the direction in which Sara Maitland took it in one of the most dramatic conclusions I think I’ve ever read in a short story. Have I convinced you yet? I’ve undeniably convinced myself that I need to read something else by this author ASAP.

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

 

 

 

NEXT SHORT STORY: The Adventure Of The Beryl Coronet by Arthur Conan Doyle from the collection The Adventures Of Sherlock Holmes.

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Short Stories Challenge 2017 – Part Five

Published November 5, 2017 by bibliobeth

Image from: http://www.creativindie.com/how-to-make-money-by-publishing-and-selling-short-stories-and-short-books-on-amazon/

Hello everyone and welcome to the fifth part of my Short Stories Challenge in 2017. My fourth part was quite like the third, up and down. I had a huge disappointment with a short story by Daphne du Maurier which was Monte Verità but I also got some lovely surprises in the form of The House On The Hill by Kate Mosse and The Man In The Ditch by Lisa Tuttle. Here’s what I’ll be reading in the next few months:

Best New Horror by Joe Hill from the collection 20th Century Ghosts.

The Moons Of Jupiter by Alice Munro from the collection Stories To Get You Through The Night.

The Man Who Would Not Shake Hands by Stephen King from the collection Skeleton Crew.

Unplugged by Dianne Gray from the collection Manslaughter And Other Tears.

Wisht by Lucy Wood from the collection Diving Belles.

The Man From Mars by Margaret Atwood from the collection The Story: Love, Loss & The Lives Of Women.

Seeing Double by Sara Maitland from the collection The New Uncanny: Tales Of Unease edited by Sarah Eyre and Ra Page.

The Adventure Of The Beryl Coronet by Arthur Conan Doyle from the collection The Adventures Of Sherlock Holmes.

Freaks: A Rizzoli & Isles Short Story by Tess Gerritsen (stand-alone).

High House by Rosy Thornton from the collection Sandlands.

Short Stories Challenge 2017 – Possum by Matthew Holness from the collection The New Uncanny: Tales Of Unease edited by Sarah Eyre and Ra Page.

Published August 7, 2017 by bibliobeth

What’s Possum all about?:

Possum follows a disgraced puppeteer as he is forced to return home and confront certain things from his past.

What did I think?:

Oh my goodness, what on earth did I just read?! The short story Possum is from an author I had never come across before, Matthew Holness who is actually a well respected comedian and actor here in the UK. This is why I feel so bad about writing this review – this story was unequivocally not for me. Don’t get me wrong, I love a story with a bit of an edge, horror is definitely my bag and anything that leaves me in the slightest bit uneasy I will usually praise to the heavens. However, not this story. I left it feeling disgusted, a bit dirty (and a little bit nauseous if I’m completely honest). I was a bit surprised to be feeling this way, I’m not easily shocked or grossed out by fiction and pride myself on my strong and (I thought!) immovable stomach. Well, it turns out that there is a limit to what I can take and I’m afraid Matthew Holness just found that level and took it to dizzying heights.

Our narrator is returning home we think, in disgrace after an incident at one of his puppet shows. His favourite puppet called Possum is an absolute monstrosity. Most of it is quite canine in appearance – the body, long protruding tongue, bull terrier eyes but the head is undeniably human. It is made of wax and possesses a startling resemblance to our narrator when he was younger, acne scars and all. The tongue is coated with flypaper and over the years has amassed a number of bluebottles, now dried up and tending to fall out whenever the tongue escapes the mouth of the puppet. We don’t really learn too much about our narrator’s past, a lot of things are merely implied or suggested but we understand that he has been through some terrible experiences that are still affecting him as an adult. He takes out all his emotions about his past on Possum the puppet, attempting to drown it, bury it alive tear it apart, burn it etc yet it still returns each time to haunt him making him believe that he will never be able to confront the ghosts of his past and indeed present situation in life.

So, positive things about this story. The whole idea of it (whilst being completely warped) was hugely imaginative and intriguing and although I personally didn’t get on with the narrative, I was completely gripped to finish the story and see how it all panned out for our main character. Beware however, I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, a strong stomach is definitely required if you want to read this story. Some parts are so hideous and so nauseating that I actually groaned out loud. It takes a lot to repulse me (or so I thought!) and this piece of fiction certainly takes the ick factor to brand new levels that I never anticipated. If the object of the story was to make you feel as uneasy and as disgusted as possible, (which I have to say does seem to be the point when you consider the title of this particular collection) the author has one hundred percent succeeded in his objective so all kudos to him. I just never ever want to read this again!

Would I recommend it?:

Probably not.

Star rating (out of 5):

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NEXT SHORT STORY: The Adventure Of The Noble Bachelor by Arthur Conan Doyle from the collection The Adventures Of Sherlock Holmes.

Short Stories Challenge 2017 – Part Three

Published July 8, 2017 by bibliobeth

Image from https://www.standoutbooks.com/how-publish-short-story/

Hello everyone and welcome to Part Three of my Short Stories Challenge this year. Part Two was again, very interesting with some really memorable stories read, namely The Birds by Daphne du Maurier and Gallowberries by Angela Slatter which were both fantastic and HIGHLY recommended. Here’s to finding some more great short stories and authors in Part Three!

An Anxious Man by James Lasdun from the collection Stories To Get You Through The Night.

Word Processor Of The Gods by Stephen King from the collection Skeleton Crew.

Hot Dog Stand by Dianne Gray from the collection Manslaughter And Other Tears.

Blue Moon by Lucy Wood from the collection Diving Belles.

Master by Angela Carter from the collection The Story: Love, Loss & The Lives of Women.

Possum by Matthew Holness from the collection The New Uncanny: Tales Of Unease edited by Sarah Eyre and Ra Page.

The Adventure Of The Noble Bachelor by Arthur Conan Doyle from the collection The Adventures Of Sherlock Holmes.

The Heart Goes Last: Positron, Episode Four by Margaret Atwood (stand-alone).

The White Doe by Rosy Thornton from the collection Sandlands.

The Light Through The Window by Kevin Brockmeier from the collection Things That Fall From The Sky.

Short Stories Challenge 2017 – Double Room by Ramsey Campbell from the collection The New Uncanny: Tales Of Unease edited by Sarah Eyre and Ra Page

Published March 10, 2017 by bibliobeth

What’s Double Room all about?:

Double Room focuses on an older man who after losing his wife begins to hear strange and disturbing things in the hotel room next to him.

What did I think?:

I’ve only come across the author Ramsey Campbell once before and it was another short story, Getting It Wrong from the collection A Book Of Horrors. I did enjoy what I read there and was delighted to discover on opening a brand new short story collection, The New Uncanny, that the first story was penned by him. Like his previous short story, the author has a real knack for making the reader feel supremely uncomfortable word by word, page by page until the very satisfying and ominous finale.

As I mentioned, this is a new short stories collection for my challenge, after completing a previous book, Vampires In The Lemon Grove by Karen Russell in 2016. All my reviews for the short stories there if you’re interested can be found in my archive, available on the main page under the author’s name. Back to The New Uncanny though – I have to admit to feeling a thrill when an editor of a collection does a little introduction at the beginning of the book. This one, edited by Ra Page was especially fun to read and he does an excellent job of describing the uncanny:

“…the uncanny is that which may be familiar, or ordinary, but somehow disturbs us, makes us uncomfortable, and in some cases gives us the full on willies.”

Double Room is a brilliant example of the uncanny and uses a trope often employed by those writing horror stories, that is the double or doppelganger that our main character finds himself confronted with. His name is Edwin Ferguson and he’s a man recently bereaved after losing his beloved wife after a long illness. When we first meet him, he’s trying to get off with a couple of girls in a hotel bar and is instantly unlikeable for the reader. However, when he goes upstairs to bed, our attitude might change to pity when he starts to experience a queer thing. Every move he makes, word he speaks etc appears to be mirrored by the same behaviour/sound in the adjoining room to his own. At first, it seems like a coincidence but it is not long before the echo of his own voice begins to terrify him and he alerts hotel staff who show him that the room is clearly empty (*shiver*).

I don’t want to say too much about the plot but it is safe to say that his guilt over his wife’s death (more specifically, his internal reaction to it when her death happened) is playing on his mind and becoming tortuous. The words that are being repeated back to him from the doppelganger, as they are muffled, could be mis-interpreted as something else and seems to suggest that Edwin was relieved for her eventual death. By the end of the story, I had done a complete revolution of my feelings against the main character and just felt terribly sorry for him. The mocking echo of your own “double,” was quite a frightening aspect to read about and I think the author did a phenomenal job with both the plot and the creep factor which certainly gave me a few goosebumps along the way.

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

four-stars_0

NEXT SHORT STORY CHALLENGE: The Adventure Of The Engineer’s Thumb by Arthur Conan Doyle from the collection The Adventures Of Sherlock Holmes

 

Short Stories Challenge 2017 – Part One

Published January 7, 2017 by bibliobeth

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Its a new year and time for some more short stories. I usually do short stories in three month blocks however I’ve been struggling to keep up with this so instead of calling this post January to March I shall call it Part One and see how I get on! This is what I’ll be reading in the first half of 2017:

The Raft by Stephen King from the collection Skeleton Crew

The Butcher Of Meena Creek by Dianne Gray from the collection Manslaughter And Other Tears

The Wishing Tree by Lucy Wood from the collection Diving Belles

Faithful Lovers by Margaret Drabble from the collection The Story: Love Loss & The Lives Of Women

Double Room by Ramsey Campbell from the collection The New Uncanny: Tales Of Unease edited by Sarah Eyre and Ra Page

The Adventure Of The Engineer’s Thumb by Arthur Conan Doyle from the collection The Adventures Of Sherlock Holmes

Erase Me: Positron, Episode Three – Margaret Atwood (stand-alone)

On The Banks Of Table River: (Planet Lucina, Andromeda Galaxy, AD 2319) by Rajesh Parameswaran from the collection I Am An Executioner: Love Stories

The Passenger by Kevin Brockmeier from the collection Things That Fall From The Sky

Fleeing Complexity by Jon McGregor from the collection This Isn’t The Sort Of Thing That Happens To Someone Like You