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DarkEcho Horror
deccoclock by Rick Berry
Book Review

Twists of the Tale: Cat Horror Stories
Edited by Ellen Datlow
Dell Publishing
Paperback/366 pp./$5.50

Cat horror? Has the trend to theme anthologies gone too far? Will we next see bird horror and aardvark horror and zebra horror? Well, if we do, and they are as well done and entertaining as Twists of the Tale, then bully for them.

Any theme anthology can bog down with a lack of variety, but Twists does not suffer from that, even when authors have dealt with similar themes within the theme. Jane Yolen and Michael Cadnum, for instance, offer dark humor with their felines. In "Scratch" Joel Lane offers a chilling look at how the self-sufficiency and interdependence of a cat and a boy abandoned by society can merge into a monstrous reality. Kathe Koja and Barry Malzberg's story of a whore and her cat is another look at the alienated and the feline.

Children are the focus of several stories, but none of them repeat the same note and all provide haunting portraits. Joyce Carol Oates deals with a child who feels unloved and finds an ally in a stray. Nancy Kress presents an abused child drawn to the comfort of a mechanical cat. Douglas Clegg's troubled child in "The Five" discovers the terrible secrets adults hold.

Clegg's child character believes a family of cats live in the walls and Lucy Taylor's "Walled" gives us another walled-up cat, but Taylor's is as much a ghost story as it is a tale of a troubled psyche.

Sarah Clemens introduces us to Roman cats and human cruelty. Tanith Lee takes us to a distant time with a richly complex story of women, magic, hatred, and cats. A cat's nature--and perhaps human nature in dealing with it--are shown in a delightfully wicked little story by Harvey Jacobs.

Nicholas Royale deals with male territorial imperative and wild cats in a classic suspense story. Michael Marshall Smith's evocative "Not Waving" dances between the fantastic and the all-too-real world of guilt and relationships.

There are two reprints in the anthology: William S. Burrough's cold-war parable, "Ruski," and "The Cat from Hell," a gem of a 1977 story by Stephen King.

Twists of the Tale, with its wonderfully wide diversity of talent and tails...I mean tales...abundantly disproves the old adage "All cats look the same in the dark." -- Paula Guran

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Copyright © 2002 Paula Guran. All Rights Reserved.