The Best Horror of the Year #13 – Ellen Datlow


Edited by Ellen Datlow (2021)

My previous reviews of Ellen Datlow:

Stories by A C Wise,  Catriona Ward, Jack Lothian, Stephen Graham Jones, Maria Haskins, Jason Sanford, Richard Gavin, Gemma Files, Michael Marshall Smith, Elana Gomel, Stephen Volk, Christopher Harman, Sam Hicks, David Surface, Tom Johnstone, Nathan Ballingrud, Pete W Sutton, J A W McCarthy, Gary McMahon, Alessandro Manzetti, Steve Duffy, Simon Bestwick, Andrew Humphrey, Sarah Pinsker, Thana Niveau.

When I read this book, my review will appear in the comment stream below….

43 thoughts on “The Best Horror of the Year #13 – Ellen Datlow

  1. I recently reviewed the first story in the context of its author’s collection ‘The Ghost Sequences’, as follows….

    Exhalation #10 by A.C. Wise

    “It sounds like it’s coming up to a crossing.”

    A series of films and the unbearably acute hearing of a man called Henry who has loved Paul since they were young, the latter now happily married to Maddy and working at investigating crimes, never to make the films he and Henry were destined to make together. They share such crime investigations now, using Henry’s acute abilities to solve a hardcore snuff-filmed video of a woman dying, and other videos in sequentia, and Henry shares and adopts Paul’s pain as a sort of loving catalyst of healing for Paul but almost destroying Henry himself at the same time, … except later Henry does meet a beloved husband, a director of photography, and there are shades of the first story in this book above and the parallel news in real-time, as if films show the moment that the dead one last saw, the metaphorical bullet coming, and there is much in this story of such pain as cicada screams underpinning such creatures’ legends of being created by Muses (a wondrous passage). A whole story, though, that seems pre-planned, even contrived, with its really hardcore horrors we are made to ‘witness’, but perhaps this was its own genius in working like a film should…
    …harnessing Henry’s own memories from his childhood with what is happening now, as if everything happens within a single Zeno’s Paradox… “Two halves of the same story, trying to find a way to fit together into a whole. Except now, the film will always be unfinished, missing its other half.” — “Henry knows all movies are ghost stories, frozen slices of time, endlessly replayed.” — The ghost sequences indeed.


    “She gets out of bed slowly, careful of her limbs, her elbows, her toes.”

    I never really grasped this but it overflowed with osmosis from the bleachers where I was consigned to sit and watch its future world sport of ivory vampire nubs and a serial dynasty within a self. A sort of inverse synergy between CARA — a secTION of CAtRionA as strangely the ward and guardian and mother and (great GREAT…) daughter as a singularity — and she who is called ‘the movie star’. Also involving a surly hotel receptionist called GRETA, not so great GREAT by the end, and punished for her officiousness. The movie star and Cara in sexual symbiosis, both almost just as officious, and really created by a future mad science or by the plot of the latest filming undertaken by the movie star, both of which characters, as one, are fussy about the compsss points of where they sleep and about other of their life’s particulars. I slipped in a fresh memory-stick in case I otherwise caught the same death virus as ‘any-germ’ of the movie star’s bodily CArER as CAncER.
    Watching herself too much in old films on hotel TVs that had difficult remotes to control them. With a movie star’s archetypal jewellery as self-indulgent theatrical props to maintain her career, at least in her own mind.

    My previous review of this author:

  3. Possible plot spoiler here? I generally try to avoid plot spoilers in my reviews. Meanwhile, most of my feedback indicates that readers read my reviews alongside me, after each story or after finishing the book, i.e. as a genuine accompanying REview not as a PREview which most other ‘reviews’ tend to be.


    “I think of the sow, with her bright red snout, her little ones beneath her as she furrowed away desperately.”

    ‘Farrowing’ is the term used to describe a sow giving birth to piglets. Here, I guess, ‘furrowing’ contains what the sow does to the young if they are still-born.
    Here by the end the main point of view of this powerfully written story — often a staccato’s tactile and cruel and nightmarish and down to Earth and fled out to nowhere spiritual — is the youngest sister of three, the other two being the middle and oldest sisters in a shadowy triangulation, the shadow that the youngest swallowed from her father while the other sisters’ shadows were cast by them. Cast or thrown? But to which throne did the bewitching words of the youngest send the Thane of Cawdor who touched her sex and importuned all three sisters in these wilds of furrowing sows, sowing destinies. Not born a runt, but now, from a missing, once frost-bitten, toe, rutted by a man called Michael. And they all, including Michael who has gone to the fatal battles that the youngest had caused by her words to the Thane, abandon her to whatever hallowed peace of nowhere’s place she can run from the flames that might have otherwise made her tasty pork. She is not still-born, but still born.

    “…these hollow men where shadows can thrive.”


    Between the idea
        And the reality
        Between the motion
        And the act
        Falls the Shadow
                                        For Thine is the Kingdom
    (From ‘The Hollow Men’, T.S. Eliot)

  4. Pingback: “…these hollow men where shadows can thrive.”  | The Des Lewis Gestalt Real-Time Reviews


    “…a helper, some shadowy presence holding him by the elbow,…”

    This is a palimpsest of sound, a visual-assist and a fictional undercurrent of moving words as filmic images telling a different story to the real one. And that is why I swallowed its unlikely far-fetched plot, with my being like the narrator’s father-in-law: as I am also an old slowly dementable man myself in real life, one who hears the metal on metal grating, but who does apply it, me or the one who slowly kills me with it, or am I being killed slowly with what one might already expect from the symptoms of old age, old age itself killing me, thus creating the ultimate perfect unnoticed crime? And I turn tables on this fiction of a fiction that is paradoxically not a metafiction at all and I vow never to share earphones with anyone, particularly with my wife, even if we have available the correct jacks and plug holes to do so. Noisy action film or classic romcom or even an avant garde version of this fiction work that would be preferable to me. I thus found this unbelievable fiction not only believably happening cinematically but also happening in real-time as it actually happens and while I read it.

    My previous reviews of this author:

  6. From the previous story’s metal grater, to the ‘meat-grinder’ here, ever cleaving, in the two opposite senses of the word ‘cleave’… all of us cleaving apart as well as cleaving together as meat….


    This disarmingly lean, spare and cutting prose cuts crucially through any fat, cuts to the chase of Hannah, a 14 year old girl once subjected to the Plague and its mindless raveners, a girl now staying with her grandparents and working in their butchers shop, whose town, for whatever reason, was never plagued. Those raveners are now ‘cured’ by vaccine with no memory of what they once did or attempted to do to other people and animals alike. Hannah, meantime, learns to handle the butchery cleaver as it manages autonomously to handle her in preparation for working her wishes in as crucially slick a fashion as you will ever see described let alone feel as its hefty readiness in your hand. She knows Pete, once a cruel ravener, now meat as Pete, who metes out memories of those dark times as a means to dupe what the vaccine had meant him to block. If I tell you more, there would be risk of spoilers and whatever else you may not wish to know now as part of your potential memory later.

    My previous reviews of this author:

  7. “With my ice axe’s saw tool, I cut the rope”… sharper or Sherpa?


    “…red and orange and bright-color parkas and boots and backpacks. As if the mountain bled a trickle of rainbow-neon blood. […] goggles covered the top of her face in one big rainbow-reflecting lens. […] ‘You idiots call that the Rainbow Valley,’ she said, pointing to the dropoff.”

    A Fallen Angel as painted by Roberto Ferri, and a suspenseful tale of climbing Everest as an arrogant one-upmanship without oxygen, a tale with that legendary number of abandoned dead up there having faced a vampire or something Miltonic, and you must resonate with a dying sick relative or friend as a puppet precursor of you, as well as with the Sherpa who facilitates such ferrying of fates. Indeed, this tale is disarmingly plain-spoken as well as suspenseful — with depths as heights and vice versa, and the most bitten frost-bite ever — as one empathises with Keller but not with Ronnie, the big-headed man’s man who is Keller’s boss to whom Keller is roped and by whom he has been spiritually raped.
    Among the many who become a dead one upon a personal Everest, perhaps, ironically, one of us at least will be transcended, even resurrected, by an undead?

  8. I reviewed the next story in the context of its author’s collection ‘Grotesquerie’, as follows….


    SCOLD’S BRIDLE: A CRUELTY by Richard Gavin

    A disarming ‘conte cruel’ — with Charles Birkin, Deadpan Book of Horrors and something uniquely Gavinostic as its elements. A man who sells his wrought ironwork from his “cell” of a lockup or lockdown garage without much profit and he’s asked by his teacher neighbour to build a Lepus mask for teaching purposes, but it does not end there. Ironic that the word ironic is used when the mask, in eventual use, gleams in the sun, sunlight elsewhere described as “molten slag”. A minefield of “swelter”. A millstone of guilt. Each rivet of tortured metal and then there is the next neighbour’s job…. We’re now all to be cruelly constrained, from birth to oldest age, I guess.

    My previous reviews of this author at the top of the page here:


    And so it does.

    “…swiping back and forth to run it forward or back, the world’s slowest little movie.”

    You are Lin (Nil?) in our reality today, here such reality cast as recurring dreams of it, as if all our worst fears of fixtures’ unfixedness could soon come home to roost — and we readers all depend on YOU to rescue us! For fear of even worst spoilers, we will not divulge this frightening work’s structure of events that contains such second person singular and first person plural co-vivid dreams — other than to mention its sexual ménage à trois, with believable characterisations becoming Bowenesque ‘shadowy thirds’ as they grapple with a HOUSE of Vines (if not of Leaves) moving nearer and nearer.

    “….as if you’re their only possible means of escape, their last shred of hope.”

    My previous reviews of this author:

  10. Pingback: “the world’s slowest little movie” | The Des Lewis Gestalt Real-Time Reviews (from 2008)


    “…in three minutes flat. It can also take the whole of your life.”

    Flashpoints in an “ill-advised game of Russian Roulette.”

    “Footwear Vietnam.” — insert whatever other country fits today,

    And this is a compelling, page-turning expression of a witty, but eventually desperate, father’s grown-up sarcasm and detailed descriptions (with knowing looks aside at us readers) in a chatty but well-couched prose regarding his 5 year old son, Tim, and the war of attrition or guerrilla tactics or bribery as well as ‘loving-father’ engagement with him when trying to get him off to school on time with his wife in the morning, while Tim is making cumulative and apparently spurious tantrums of complaint about lumps in his socks….
    And, amid knowing looks at Tim’s father from other parents and kids outside in the street who seem to be fighting similar battles, and amid references thrown about regarding an ‘army’, ‘enemy ranks’, ‘skirmishes’, ‘trench warfare’, and ‘battle lines’ as well as ‘ineffable love’, and, at the end of the story, what I can only call effable love …. Yes, amid all that, I shall leave it there for fear of something far worse than mere plot spoilers… a real war.

    “He wrong-footed me by being extremely good for the first forty minutes.”

    My previous reviews of this author:


    “But what if the curse was lifting and another, bigger, curse was following in its footsteps?”

    “The sluggishness of time thickened Lena’s blood.”

    The gluey Zenoism we all feel now, especially today in real-time as a Soviet monster parallels this work’s conjugation of ‘kelet’ as fed by ‘melt’ of not only our climate change but also by clash of culture and politics, with history, as it says here, woven in.
    Longyearbyen. Long year, most northern town, where west meets east between Europe and Russia, I wonder.
    “…dotted with crudely done tattoos: blue hearts, and vodka bottles, and crossed shovels, and red stars.”
    A massive monster that sucks all from the once thriving Mine Seven, once Your Heaven, and now, Your Hell. Including Russian Lena’s Bill as just one of many souls embodied by the monster – Bill, who never even worked there. Black gold now blackness on the move. The Russian bear is not, after all, already dead, as someone said here, when told to put your gun away, with thoughts of “persecution after Stalin”, and starkly sublime descriptions, here, of snowy wastes and its darkly mental miasma, with even the Northern Lights now flickering in and out as the hugeness of climate could possibly change those, or, as with the sun, vice versa? And what caused Trump? Brexit did! Rasputin, too, in retroactive hindsight, I guess…

    “‘Come on, man!’ Oscar spat. ‘Even after Brexit you should know that polar bears are white!’”

    My previous reviews of this author:

  13. Pingback: Mene, Mene, Tekel, Upharsin: A darkness all day… | The Des Lewis Gestalt Real-Time Reviews (from 2008)

  14. I previously reviewed the next story in 2020, as follows…


    SICKO by Stephen Volk

    “Alfred? It didn’t matter.”

    This novelette is a real page-turner, one about a woman tempted to abscond with money from where she worked and drive off in a car world where people talked about I LOVE LUCY and DESI. A clever theme and variations on a story from an improbable but possible way of mispronouncing SICKO, creative chips off the old block, as it were.

    “Expected it to be a shower – shower, ha! —“

    Some very nifty descriptions here and I wonder – with an astonishing last line disguised as a throwaway one – how many places she had actually stayed in till she had hit the lucky jackpot.

    “…she thought everybody could see that she’d had sex…”

    A potential classic.

    My previous reviews of this author:


    “Curious how the enormous holdall-type bag suspended between them from looping handles held his attention more than the women did. It was misshapen, its contents pushing out the sides, bizarrely suggestive of knees or elbows.”

    I have always been enthusiastic about Harman’s fiction, and here is another classic — with a couple of well-characterised men as leaders of a firm of garden landscapers, one with the down to earth engrained dirty fingernails, vying for the hotel’s contract with two women they also invite to the local pub for dinner — and these two men are ineluctably bewitched by the garden’s maze and its ominous past, a maze that chatters at us from off the page and subsumes us, too, as we imagine what is in the hold-all of the two Elizabeth-Bowenesque flappers or elbowers called Dunlop from the previous twenties, and I think about the wheelie measurement device that traces a lemniscate, and Delius’s Mass of Life rather than his Maze (“The mess stopped him in his tracks. He was shocked beyond measure.”) — and I wonder if I saw the same dog as Aickman.

    My previous reviews of this author at the foot of the page: HERE.

  16. I reviewed the next story about a year ago, as follows, in its then context…


    HEATH CRAWLER by Sam Hicks

    “We anthropomorphize our pets and read all kinds into their expressions, but here, peering through this animal mask, was the most uncanny, the most unnerving and subtle, human parody I had ever seen.”

    This is a mighty work of literature, no mistake, and I was immediately captured by this man called Simon who wandered through the various intense atmospheres of the psychological areas of the Heath, with his trusty Jack Russell dog, and he couldn’t help meeting with another man, a somehow threatening-type man with a knotted walking-stick and with his own dog as quoted about above — and Simon meeting, too, this stranger’s sometime woman guardian — a guardian or his help-catcher, assuming the bait was right? Leading eventually to an unforgettable Ligottian township where Simon’s Jack Russell is advertised as missing…
    One of those landmark reads.
    I myself left my red scarf there as a future aide-memoire.

    My previous reviews of this author:

  17. I reviewed the next story in August 2020, as follows, in its then context…


    THE DEVIL WILL BE AT THE DOOR by David Surface

    “It’s just… I don’t think I’ve ever heard a man sound… so afraid before.”

    An increasingly frightening story (the longer you allow for its words to sink in, that is), a story about two other stories, one told live and the other recorded, and about those listening to them, as told to me by one of those very listeners. A religious story about faith in what exists out there beyond the self, a psychological student’s story, a haunted house story, a mad story by a childless madman about his children, and the narrator who is led by the other characters, including a fellow girl student when he grows older but still shy, and he has let the older of the two stories grow even longer ago. The gory one his religious dad told on a coach trip with other kids. And today he tells me of this book’s involuted house I mentioned above somewhere, but goodness knows where, just as I don’t really know, as derived from what the narrator actually says or writes, whether this house — that only exists FOR this story rather than IN this story — has an open door but well-shuttered windows or vice versa, but once inside, whether it has a mixture of both open and shut, one of which might allow me to escape. But I ended up thinking, as with the Duffy, I should not have gone into this house just as much as this narrator should not have gone into this story. Or was that, is that vice versa? Or which of us will now last longer to understand its implications more fully. Or vanish without trace, without trace of any past self-knowledge. Another tantalising Surface gem still potentially evolving here, even as I speak about it. And you listen. Or read what is written. Deeper and deeper, the longer it takes. It takes two of us, till it becomes too late.

    My previous Surface reviews:

  18. I reviewed the next story in October 2020, as follows, in its then context…


    5CECB8CF-0A9A-4904-946F-F3BDE795B8A7 Let Your Hinged Jaw Do the Talking by Tom Johnstone

    “Eyes can follow you without moving, can’t they?”

    I remember the ventriloquism of Lord Charles and Ray Alan from the 1950s as well as when my own children watched them in the 1980s. I can remember Ray and Charles singing “I can’t stop loving you” together. And this story has similar memories of a backstory by the daughter of a 1950s marriage (a relationship then started in a Scottish dance hall), whereby she calls her Mum and Dad by their Christian names to help her plot along as a story instead of her real backstory, a plot that seems to have some mislipsynched thoughts of 1980s politics in UK as well as of her personal story about her parents and her uncles and herself that – if read between the lips if not the lines – is incredibly disturbing. Highly recommended to the reader who sees stories as I do.
    In mutually ‘beneficial’ synergy, too, with von Hessen’s puppeteered ‘mother’…even with deadpan Dauda, who must also have been someone’s daughter.

    My previous reviews of Tom Johnstone:


    Alan is interviewing an 82 year old lady — still dressing young — who once caused a stir back in 1969 when she appeared in an otherwise cheapskate horror film directed by a man called Teller – involving a retell of the major stir caused by the now legendary ‘barn scene’ where she appeared demonically possessed. A wet dream for boys at the time, as Alan was then. And he is interviewing her in a back of beyond Texas ranch with his film student assistant called Mark. And the film’s backstory and the abrasive relationship between Alan and Mark, and the character of the aged film star herself taking a startling turn all develop as the story’s plot. With not only an inner retell by a cowpoke barman character but also an overriding retell by terrible cosmic forces that seem in tune with our times today. “…walled in human faces, scores of them peering out from battlements of melded flesh…” Well-written plot as honest horror fare that unambiguously is what it is, but with a summoned character in it that arguably somehow carries it further than itself or herself.

    My previous reviews of this author:

  20. DCB258F1-80BC-484E-8407-13DCC8889761


    A brilliant day at the seaside story of staked-out family dunes, mazes, vomit, chip fat, and situations with which I can fully empathise from here in my own beside myself seaside! And it tells of one detritus family dreaming up a subsuming outcome for another family that they had already staked-out, as seen through the eyes of a boy with a dog called Tyr and a sister called Amy. If I tell you more, I would spoil it.
    A genuine classic. With coloured clothing to mark out one’s memories of it.
    Through an Aickman filter yellowly.

    My previous reviews of this author:

  21. Pingback: Through an Aickman filter yellowly.  | The Des Lewis Gestalt Real-Time Reviews (from 2008)

  22. I reviewed the next story in February 2021, as follows, in its then context…



    Contrition (1998) J.A.W. McCarthy

    “His age was probably the only thing he had in common with my grandfather—“

    The narrator who in 1998 had not come out as a ‘lesbian’… or not. Memories of a creative writing class where her work was once humiliated (“under the guise of constructive criticism”) by a fellow cohort, the narrator now getting her own back, with this story? A story that is about a “really bad, sad movie that’s attracting people who are already depressed and messed up.” For ‘bad, sad movie’ there, put ‘bad, sad story’. ‘Sad’ in 1998 meant ‘pathetic’. As was the act of severely self-harming one’s arm which bears a brother’s memorial tattoo upon it and later asking someone to sign your plaster cast, both of which happen separately in this bad, sad story…

    ‘Two days only, exclusive screening of A. Todesfurdchten’s Contrition.’
    ‘Todesursache’, though, being ‘cause of death’ in German. Only constructive critiques like mine would dream that up as being even slightly relevant!

    Yet, I was deeply affected by being allowed into this story within the dark auditorium of this book, alongside all you other few no-hopers, to see my own reasons for contrition. A neatly clogged story that hangs on the lullaby of an old man like me and like the one in the type of personal self in a projected film as presaged by the actual immediately previous story in this darkened book. Continuous performances, not separate, as in the old days when you could stay in the clotted smoky furred up auditorium to see the film through again or watch it from middle back to middle, or howsoever.

    Also I have often been genuinely intrigued by those in a cinema foyer, who cater popcorn, issue tickets, and so forth, and what goes on in their minds when they see us coming out of the dark blinking and tearful at what we had just seen. This sad story has answered many questions. Gone over the top with it all, but remained constructively true, whoever wrote it, whether freehold author or leasehold narrator, or possibly both in collaborative contrition. Sad, if not bad.

    My previous constructive criticism of this author:


    “We all have our roles to play, and this, it appears, is mine.”

    I am always guaranteed a telling segue with a Zed story, here that end of life’s alphabet where decisions need to be made, and a segue, too, with another story, one I just read, about the roles we play (reviewed HERE an hour or so ago! — a segue, too, with the previous story in that book called ‘Oracle’).
    This story’s main protagonist drinks coffee, on his day-off days, in the bar where he works serving customers, usually people with personal problems that entail drinking in such places — a main protagonist who seems ever ready to be recruited to clinch things for these problem people, but people, too, who, like him, seek things they cannot find, often seeking them upon a cusp’s act or role of deliberately dying. Sometimes on the actual cusp of that final unravelling. Today’s bar customer needing such clinching or unclinching duties from our main protagonist is called Joel: a man who had met his oracle woman whose cinched neck now needs uncinching to stop her dead body chatting. Had Joel been told by this oracle of his own certain end’s how and when? Say, to be murdered or “if he would go quietly in his sleep”?
    However, whenever — nobody can tell, especially today, always today.

    Good to relive having read a new Zed. Gone too long without it. Disarming plain-spoken frightfulness, with nifty, drifty observations… such as “Living alone doesn’t make you lonely but only lonely people tend to live alone.”, the outrunning of oneself, the seeing of the meaning of existence in the top of someone’s head, and a bell once rung never able to be unrung. But, I ask, can a neck once wrung be unwrung, once collared be uncollared, once tethered be untethered?

    My previous reviews of this author:


    I have been a fan of this writer’s work for some years. And in recent months, I became an even bigger fan, putting his work in my top ten writers of weird fiction, having found much of his published material that I had not encountered before. I suppose all that shows how, sadly, my disappointment in this story became overwhelming for me. It seemed to be a contrived hodgepodge of Beatles psychedelia in a haunted house, haunted by a man accused of child abuse, I think, but I was never sure. The characterisation of the two protagonists, a schoolboy and schoolgirl, and some descriptions of first entering the Narnia realm of this house, were pretty well done, though.
    Sorry. My loss and my fault.

    My previous reviews of this author:


    “…elbows off the table…”

    A moving story of someone’s 13 year old self taken on holiday by parents and a summit of purpose set but things falling apart — and it feels all too personal to pick over here. It just needs to be read and absorbed straight through without any preamble or critique. It is what it is. A life that creates a quarry or prey. A means of praying, too. A plain-spoken story thus shared means the quarry is found, then captured in more than just words — helping it meet its death before you do.

    My previous reviews of this author: and

  26. I reviewed the next story in April 2020, as follows, in its then context…


    Oh! Incredibly, in view of the referee’s whistle, my above photo came up earlier today on Facebook memories from exactly four years ago! I have now ‘distorted’ it as Gayle does to her own photos that she sells and puts in exhibitions …

    5CCC4857-DEB4-4A52-B1BC-A9B6A2FCE5D220 pages

    TRICK OF THE LIGHT by Andrew Humphrey

    “Easy walk. There’s a pub, a church. What more does one need?”

    Gayle and her narrator husband are staying in a lonely cottage near Southwold, Suffolk, mainly for Gayle to gather more material for a photo exhibition. They have a chequered marital backstory, or at least he does. And he loves M.R. James stories. Well, who doesn’t? And this itself is indeed well-characterised amid an engagingly atmospheric landscape, with knots of pigs and caramel cliffs in its genius loci, as well as that pub and church. With a unique flavour along with — as well as beyond — James as frissons of melting identity. A summoning beyond weak whisky’s colour.
    I, too, much prefer Michael Hordern to John Hurt.

    “Back in the living room I drank wine and read whilst the darkness gathered outside.”

    “I like drinking red wine until the edges of the world blur…”

    My previous reviews of Andrew Humphrey: and
    He wrote something called ALSISO as well as ALISON. Nothing about Addison, though!


    “‘That’s if he didn’t stash more collectibles in the flour.’
    Marco blanched. ‘Oh god. How did I not think of that?’”

    This is a contrived work, but also it becomes — as a specific result of that contrivance as ‘coincidence’ — a haunting novelette that certainly haunts me, with memories of TV shows as a child, even though my childhood is more the 1950s, rather than, as here, the 1980s, and as well as haunting me gives a powerful reflection of telling lies as a force for believing it is true, a force that has beset our troubled world today whenever you were born and whenever you watched children’s TV.
    Thus, ironically, the somehow believable character of Stella is built up with her need to track her own lies by means of a cuckoo nesting within her own brain, and Marco whom she knew at school and today she helps him clear the hoarded detritus left by his late elder brother Denny, in the house where all three played as children. Detritus, give or take the off valuable R2d2 hidden with the rest. And Stella’s own concoction comes true in a thus contrived gestalt memory of an ‘Uncle Bob Show’ with its weird host telling, in hindsight, weird tales as truths about the actual kids who were let into the studio with him, where they fought over a ‘toy pit’ that reminded me of the 1970s UK show called TISWAS that I watched with my own children — if indeed I had children of my own. And, thus, ineluctably and frighteningly, my own inner truth about the nature of my book reviewing seems to have already been built up by this very story, even while it is still being told… that ‘forward echo’ of a dinner gong, of that boy I once planted as me.

    “They started out like fairy tales, but somewhere in the middle he shifted into first person.”

    My previous review of this author:

    • “…but her breath didn’t lie.”


      “…when their quarry would be easier to find.”

      A story as controlled dream.
      Bestwick’s quarry, Pinsker’s lies, the character of Alison as a Bowenesque ‘shadowy third’, as she is due to become in truth as well as in literature, a third to her brother and her brother’s boy friend, amid Russian Arctic conditions just with tents and Olga with her sled of huskies and a suspicious träumtrawling guide called Eric, all tempted towards fossil trove in Russian Siberia if not to reach some cosmic gestalt with the stars and the unimaginable vastness therefrom, a snow blindness with new eyes for old, a new light show, not a climate change so much as a veritable spiritual metamorphosis. But like Alison, we readers “had no desire to fall foul of the Russian…” with huskies, as a telepathic dog-bed, dogs that talk in yips, not with Cyrillic letters from under a bark. Fall foul of the Russian what? Or some mighty meat-eating BoWendigo? — that gestalt, “a single creature with multiple heads and myriad gleaming eyes.” All with the still inspirational backdrop of a breath’s tinkling and the song of wolves. And maybe the stars’ stage-aside whispers about we humans and our folly’s body-bags. Levelling with us.

      “Only the stars mattered.”

      (My previous reviews of this author:


  28. Pingback: Only The Stars Mattered | The Des Lewis Gestalt Real-Time Reviews (from 2008)

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