by Christopher Fowler
Cover Artist: Graham Humphreys
Review by Steve Sawicki
Solaris Mass Market Paperback ISBN/ITEM#: 9781907992445
Date: 27 December 2011 List Price $8.99 Amazon US / Amazon UK
A young girl takes out a game she finds in the attic when left home alone. A young, American screenwriter is given the job of a lifetime but must complete a horror script, B movie of course, in just a few days. A group of people find themselves on a very unusual train. All three of these things are related and it appears that the people on the train are the one thing all have in common. They are all very different people and yet one thing brings them all together. So is the stage set for a ride through the dark, midnight country side. The conductor is a bit off, the passengers more so, the rules of the train odder still. And while the train does make frequent stops, no one ever seems to get off. The time is World War One and the location is Eastern Europe. The train is called the Arkangel and no one wants to talk about it, or where it's going.
Hell Train is written in the classic style, moody, slow to develop, descriptive. If you like Eddings, Cummings, and even R.E. Howard then you will most likely enjoy the pacing and the plotting here. The horror is more supernaturally and psychologically based and less blood spattered although there is certainly enough blood, guts, and gore to go around. However, Fowler does not dwell overly long on these, taking a more Loveccraftian approach to description as more of an effect of an action than an end in itself.
At first I was not sure about the bridging of the three fairly disparate sections which all lead to the same ending. But Fowler makes it work so it's hard to say it was a bad choice. Fowler's been at this for some time and it shows in his pacing and story crafting. It appears that he set out to write a period piece and I would have to say that he succeeded with it. As mentioned above this one is for those who love the classically written horror/fantasy tales reminiscent of Weird Tales. If that is you then you should definitely go out and grab a copy.