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BOOK REVIEWS: August 1999
By Paula Guran

STRANGEWOOD
Christopher Golden
Signet/ $6.99/ 320p
ISBN: 0451197658

book cover Protagonist Thomas Randall is the author of a series of immensely popular children's fantasies set in an L. Frank Baum-meets-Clive Barker world he has created -- Strangewood. But now that Strangewood is a hot Hollywood and publishing property, it seems that it no longer "belongs" to Randall and he has become less than content with writing it. Author-angst isn't his only problem, however. Even though he amicably shares custody with his ex-wife, Randall has concerns about the effects of a recent divorce on his five-and-a-half-year-old son, Nathan. Disconcertingly, Nathan's nightmares and fears seem oddly connected to his father's created world and its denizens. When the child is seized with a strange catatonia and hospitalized, the doctors have no answers and the answers that the distraught Thomas begins to uncover lead to a melding of the fantastic with day-to-day reality. Golden manages to journey into adventurous dark fantasy while never losing touch with the completely human as he makes the unbelievable quite believable. Compelling characters and the heart-wrenching horror of an endangered child combine for an inventive and engrossing page-turner -- dark magic realism for the masses.

BEDTIME STORIES TO DARKEN YOUR DREAMS
Bruce H. Rogers (Editor), Alan M. Clark (Illustrator)
IFD Publishing/ $20/ 224p.
ISBN: 0967191203

book cover The design is that of a children's book -- slightly ornate big type, lots pictures, even whimsical page decorations. But the little tales in this anthology are definitely not for the kiddies as they lie past the boundaries of dreams well into nightmare country. This makes them -- as intended -- "just right" for grown-ups. Ten of the entries are original to the volume -- stories like newcomer Rusty Nixon's perversely humorous "Mouths to Feed," Michael Arnzen's two "tabloid poems," and Elizabeth Engstrom's "Vargas County" ( where children "just disappear") and Steve Rasnic Tem's "There's No Such Thing As Monsters," both of which reveal just how dangerous childhood can be. Among the reprints are Rogers' own Pushcart Prize- and Bram Stoker Award-winning "The Dead Boy at Your Window""-- a notable exception to the general rule that editors should never publish their own work -- and Jane Yolen's simple, but telling, "Souls." Each story is aptly accompanied by Clark's terrific (in both senses of the word) black-and-white illustrations. BEDTIME STORIES TO DARKEN YOUR DREAMS is a darkly charming creation, a unique realization of a highly original idea by two talented individuals and their cohort of writers.

WHITE OF THE MOON: NEW TALES OF MADNESS AND DREAMS
Stephen Jones, editor
Pumpkin Books/ 16.99/ 340p
ISBN: 1901914195
(This book may still be available through the publisher. Contact:
pumpkinbooks@netcentral.co.uk
or
Pumpkin Books
PO Box 297
NOTTINGHAM NG2 4GW
ENGLAND)

book cover As with last year's DARK OF THE NIGHT, eminent editor Stephen Jones is again assisted in his effort to publish original modern horror in anthology form by British specialty publisher Pumpkin Books. The resulting psychological horror and suspense is loosely based on a general theme of lunacy from a variety of 21 topnotch writers -- including Ramsey Campbell, Christopher Fowler, Caitlin R Kiernan, Graham Masterson, Kim Newman, and Brian Stableford. There's a diversity of approaches: David J. Schow slowly seduces the reader into terror by unlocking a series of boxes in "Unhasped;" Gregory Frost haunts with a parable of a family falling apart in "Collecting Dust;" Michael Marshall Smith's "Welcome" journeys in a mild millennial madness inspired by a computer glitch; Ed Bryant deals with death-pools on the Net; Kathryn Ptacek explores a marriage gone psychotically sour in "Little Contrasts;" Paul J. McAuley gets inside the decidedly sick mind of a science fiction reader; there's even a poem from Jo Fletcher. Another *A1* anthology from the prime, prolific and perservering Jones.


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