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Postscripts #28/29: Exotic Gothics 4
Edited by Danel Olson
Cover Artist: Photo Bella Muerte by Apolinar Lorenzo Chuca
Review by Sam Tomaino
PS Publishing Hardcover  ISBN/ITEM#: 9781848633339
Date: 01 July 2012 List Price £29.99 Amazon US / Amazon UK

Links: Postscripts 28/29 / Pub Info / Table of Contents /

Here is Postscripts #28/29 – Exotic Gothics 4 with stories by Margo Lanagan, Adam L.G. Nevill, Kaaron Warren, Reggie Oliver, Lucy Taylor, Simon Kurt Unsworth, Stephen Dedman, Tunku Halim, David Punter, Genni Gunn, Robert Hood, Steve Rasnic Tem, David Wellington, Isobelle Carmody, Terry Dowling, Paul Finch, Ekaterina Sedia, Anna Taborska, Nick Antosca, Joseph Bruchac, Cherie Dimaline, Brian Evenson, E. Michael Lewis, Scott Thomas and Stephen Volk.

The people at PS Publishing have given me access to review PDFs of their anthology/magazine Postscripts. Here's my review for #28/29, subtiltled "Exotic Gothics 4". The stories are sorted by locale, so here we go:

Australasia

"Blooding the Bride" by Margo Lanagan - Loriane loves Lucas Greave and is excited about marrying him. During their wedding banquet she blacks out and wakes in a strange place. What follows is an overlong passage until the finale which capitulates a familiar old tradition about the lord of a land and a newly wedded maiden. Way too long. "Pig Thing" by Adam L.G. Nevill – Hector, Jack, and Lozzy (Charlotte) had moved to a remote part of New Zealand when their father lost his job in England right after the Queen's Silver Jubilee. Things began to get odd. Their dog disappeared and Lozzy talked about 'the pig thing' that she had seen. Their father had scoffed at it until it appeared on their patio. Police and neighbors were no help, so their father went out to start the car. He did not come back. Their mother went out and did not come back. What's next? This one had a bit of an unexpected ending, but a good one.

"The Lighthouse Keepers' Club" by Kaaron Warren – Peter is a young man who has been chosen by his town to he the latest lighthouse keeper. This is not the normal kind of lighthouse whose purpose is to warn ships approaching land. It is a prison where convicts are held forever. For their crimes, they have been made immortal, but their bodies decline so they can barely move. Every year, for two weeks, someone is sent to tend to them, but not help them very much. The town is paid money for maintaining the facility. This was an imaginative and very unsettling story.

Africa

"The Look" by Reggie Oliver – This is a reprinted story from 2011. Our narrator is a young man pursuing a career on the stage. He has found himself in Nairobi, Kenya performing in a theater run by a white woman, a holdover from colonial times. His father had told him that a friend, named Jumbo Daventry, who had been a fellow prisoner in Burma during the war lived in Kenya and he had written his friend about his son. The son goes to visit the man, in his sixties, and his wife at their estate called Cloud's Hill. While there, he sees some strange things, including a mist which seems to form a face with a certain look. The young man winds up looking into a famous murder case in 1947 that involved Jumbo's wife. This had a great sense of place and history to it which added to the mystery of what happens.

"Nikishi" by Lucy Taylor – Blacksburg, in possession of diamonds that are not his, is shipwrecked off the coast of Namibia, but finds his way to shore. First, he encounters a hyena that he scares off by hitting it with a stone. Then, he meets a young woman named Aamu and her crazy uncle who raves about nikishi – shape-shifting demons. He bribes the girl with a diamond to take him to Angola in her jeep. If you can't see where this leads, you haven't read much. Still, a pretty good story overall.

"The Fourth Horse" by Simon Kurt Unsworth - The setting is Zambia where Richard Atkins owns a gymkana in which he keeps three horses and an uneasy peace with the soldiers stationed nearby. A truck driven by a man and a woman breaks down nearby. In it is a spectacular looking horse that the couple is delivering to a Colonel Nicholas who is the real ruler of the country. Atkins finds out that the horse, named Ore, is something else and must make a decision on what to do. A very nice, effective little tale.

Asia

"The Fall" by Stephen Dedman – Wilson is an Australian comic book writer who has traveled to Tokyo to meet his collaborators. Kyoko and Yoshi. They had created a web-based comic called The Conqueror Worm. "Wilson had written most of the story, Kyoko had translated it into Japanese and drawn the human characters, but Yoshi had designed the distinctive steampunk hardware, the elaborate deathtraps, the architecture of Hell, and most of the dreaming demons." Kyoko tells Wilson that meeting Yoshi is problematical. He is hikikomori someone who cannot leave his bedroom unless there is no one around. Wilson manages to meet with Yoshi, who is something of a Poe-like recluse whose only company is a sex doll that he calls Midori. Things go downhill from there. Nice use of elements from Poe in this seriously disturbing story.

"In the Village of Setang" by Tunku Halim – Malaysia - Yan is a young girl whose mother has died. She has been invited by her aunt, Mak Ina, to come to live with her in Setang, where she cooks for the territorial chief, Dato Nan. Yan has no marriage prospects because of her club foot and a black birthmark the size of a guava on her cheek. Even the Japanese soldiers she sees on the way leave her alone. She is warned by her aunt not to venture out at night alone. Of course, she needs to and sees a tiger. It seems to disappear and then she sees Dato Nan. Her aunt says to tell no one about it but tells her a story. More I won't say except that this was a well-done very mythic piece.

"Carving" by David Punter – Our narrator is a young man attending college in Hong Kong in 1997. He does not quite understand the English Literature courses he is taking but is attracted to Sally McLennane. But there are other things going on with him beneath the surface. A subtle little chiller.

Latin America & the Caribbean

"Water Lover" by Genni Gunn – Marissa returns to her home in Vancouver with her mother's body. She had died in a bus accident on a trip to Mexico, one on which Marissa had refused to go. She had bad memories of a vacation in Mexico when she was 16 and a romance with a Mexican boy which had ended disastrously. Home in Vancouver, she hears a dripping sound at night and cannot discover where it comes from. Then, a man emerges from the sea with diving gear. A nicely haunting tale and a good character study.

"Escena de un Asesinato" by Robert Hood – Morley Turrand is a photographer artist and one of his special prints is called 'Escena de un Asesinato', which means murder scene. It is a picture of a place where a Mexican revolutionary, called El Roto, was shot and killed in 1994. Before he had taken the picture, he had been given a doll that might have been modeled on El Roto by a beautiful mysterious woman who calls herself La Coronela, the name of a heroine of the Revolution of 1910. One of the prints of the picture seems to show a mysterious figure in it but that must be a flaw in the print. A woman buys the print and her and her husband are found mysteriously murdered. So are others who buy unblemished versions of the print. All have a connection to Mexico. A truly chilling story.

"The Old Man Beset by Demons" by Steve Rasnic Tem – Josiah is an old man who misses his wife, Hannah, who died a year ago. They had moved to the Bahamas after retirement at her request. Josiah had been a good man with her, but he finds himself haunted by demons that reflect his own inner demons. Tem, once more, brings forth one of his masterpieces.

"Atacama" by David Wellington – Ferman is an unscrupulous sort who wants to steal one of the Chinchorro mummies in the Atacama desert in Chile and sell it. He needs help from a scientist named Whitman, but he refuses. He tells Ferman of how the Chinchorro did not let anyone die. They mummified everyone even fetuses, so they could still be around. Ferman hatches a plot to make Whitman cooperate. While the outcome is not entirely a surprise, it still makes for a good solid story.

Europe

"Metro Winds" by Isobelle Carmody – When her parents are divorcing, a young girl is sent from her native Australia to an unnamed city in Europe to live with an aunt. The girl is strange and withdrawn. Even her own mother does not understand her. Less, so, the plump frowsy aunt she is sent to. The girl has dreams of a tunnel and something white which lives in it. On a day out with her aunt, she is unexpectedly on her own and must make her way home on the subway. Her dreams and her purpose in life come to fruition in this dark, moody, tale.

"Mariners' Round" by Terry Dowling – Three boys (Davey Renford, Riley Trencher and Frank Combs) ride on a classic Charles Carmel merry-go-round at Sydney's Luna Park on a cool autumn night in 1977. A blue glass jewel pried out from Davey horse results in dire circumstances for one of them. Twenty-five years later, they are reunited through the vicious machinations of one of them. He is obsessed with a story of the jewel, a carousel and magic. This all results in a fantastic fantasy that was a joy to read.

"Oschaert" by Paul Finch – During World War I, one of Lieutenant Cavendish's first assignments is to supervise the execution of a private for cowardice. Inexplicably, he hears the howling of what sound like a dog just before he delivers the final coup de grâce. He later sees a horrific battle and winds up recuperating from battle fatigue in a convent in Belgium. There, he is haunted by a dog-like thing, one he finds a name for. This does a good job of adding supernatural horror to the all-too-real horrors of war.

"Helena" by Ekaterina Sedia – Ivan Sechenov is a real-life physiology professor in St. Petersburg in the late 19th century. In what the author says is a liberal take on the man, he is interested in the effect of salts on the brain. But it is his experimenting with his own blood on the cancerous tumor of a dead woman that brings forth something startling. She calls herself Helena. Nice little science-fictional horror tale to round out this issue.

"Rusalka" by Anna Taborska – Our narrator is an unnamed young man who, escaping an abusive father after his mother dies, goes to her native Poland to seek out the maternal side of his family. In a small village at Midsummer's Eve, he sees a beautiful flaxen-haired girl and instantly falls in love. His friend, Piotr, warns him that she is a Rusalka, a nymph or sea-demon. Does he listen? What do you think? Not very original, but well-written with a good sense of location.

North America

"Candy" by Nick Antosca – Marty returns home from his Freshman year in college to find the neighborhood changed. Everyone has bought swimming pools. Connecting with Megan, a girl he liked in high school and her younger cousin Jessie, they all go on a tour of the neighborhood's swimming pools. But something is wrong. The problem here is that the set up is not very believable and the explanation for what is wrong is ridiculous. Add to that a lot of words about unimportant details and you get a story that is just annoying.

"Down in the Valley" by Joseph Bruchac – John Sundown is a Native American living in Maine just after World War I. He had been educated in his early years at a repressive boarding school and had learned how to appear to be subservient. He had learned to be valiant during the war when a voice had come to him telling him that he had a job to do to help heal his people. Now, an old friend in Canada had written him about seven bodies that had been found picked clean to the bone. Sundown uses all his skills to fight what had killed those people. A fine story and John Sundown is a hero akin to Manly Wade Wellman's John the Balladeer. That's high praise. I would like to see more stories with this character.

"Wanishin" by Cherie Dimaline – A woman has an odd dream of giving birth to twins. That is followed by disturbing visions during her waking hours. A return to her native roots is what is called for. Not bad.

"Grottor" by Brian Evenson – When 13-year-old Bernt's father dies and his mother sent to a sanitarium, he must live with his grandmother. In her house also lives a boy calling himself Grottor. His grandmother insists he follow Grottor's instructions to the letter and also that he sleep during the day in a nearby cave. Then, things get seriously weird. This was another one that makes you uneasy.

"Such a Man I Would Have Become" by E. Michael Lewis – In turn of the century (19th to 20th) Seattle, the author Henry James is staying at his nephew's house when a stranger offers to tell him a very different ghost story. It's about a man named Grey who was very successful but who had made a change in his lifestyle in his youth. Now he is haunted and menaced by the man he would otherwise have become. A crackling good little ghost story.

"The Unfinished Book" by Scott Thomas – In the 18th Century Massachusetts, a young boy barely able to read is forced to read an odd, hand-written book. Years later, he returns to it, adds to it himself and is changed by it. Nicely atmospheric, but not much of a story.

"Celebrity Frankenstein" by Stephen Volk – Our narrator has his brain transplanted into someone else's skull and the rest of his body is constructed of body parts from people willing to donate them. All done in front of television cameras. Some of the classic Mary Shelley story is duplicated, all going to the usual type of conclusion. Very clever and very funny.

This is the third issue I've reviewed of Postscripts and it remains a great deal!. Go to www.pspublishing.co.uk and buy it!

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