Monday, March 9, 2009

"Poe's Children" edited by Peter Straub

This is one of those cases where the blurbs on the dust jacket led me to believe this was going to be a fantastic short story collection. My friend sent this to me, saying that it looked like my sort of book, and from the outward appearance of the volume, she's totally right. And when the jacket promises "new horror" and says that these authors have "more in common with the wildly inventive, evocative spookiness of Edgar Allan Poe than with the sometimes predictable hallmarks of their peers", well, I'm all in. Anytime you mention Poe, I get excited; I consider him to be one of the best writers of all time, even if a lot of it might have been fueled by his addictions. None of us are perfect, right?

Imagine my disappointment as I waded my way through story after story, trying to decipher just what it was that the author was trying to make me feel. I also found myself wondering just what the hell was happening in a lot of the stories, not a good thing. There are some good ones, lest you believe I'm trying to completely steer you away from this work: Jonathan Carroll, Stephen King, Joe Hill, Graham Joyce, Ellen Klages, and Straub himself turn in some fairly good work. The other authors, however, went for overly "literary" horror stories, which in my humble opinion, just did not work.

My biggest complaint is that the authors that went cerebral went so far that I felt too stupid to understand their stories. That, my friends, is not what an author is striving for, I hope, when they pen their work - why alienate your audience? I consider myself to be a pretty intelligent person, but story after story left me thinking "HUH?" I don't particularly enjoy work that deliberately goes over my head, and I don't think you will either.

Pick it up for the select few, wade through them all if you're brave enough (or smart enough), but don't force yourself as I did. It's just not worth it.

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