Now Reading, or, Peril the Third

Now Reading: Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers by Mary Roach.

Just Finished: Prayers to Broken Stones by Dan Simmons.

I chose this book for the RIP challenge. I have now completed “Peril the Third,” which is to read one suitably scary, eerie, mysterious, or gothic book between September 1 and October 31. I have also technically completed “Short Story Peril,” although I have a particular other short story in mind for that challenge.

On with the review. It is always interesting to read an author’s earlier work, especially when you’ve started with later stuff. The stories in Prayers to Broken Stones were originally published in the Eighties (mostly), and a few of the stories have an air of the time about them. (One or two even engage in parody of televangelists.)

Now, I enjoyed some of these stories a lot (some less so). I’ll just go through and mention a few that stood out to me. First of all, “The River Styx Runs Upstream,” was the story that launched Mr. Simmons’ career. (The story of that is in the introduction.) Death can be reversed through technology, but the process apparently isn’t without its flaws. A distraught father brings a boy’s mother back changing the remaining lives of the family forever.

Next, “Death of a Centaur” was a story about a schoolteacher who moved to a small town and became dear to his students. Although the story is not particularly spooky, part of it is a story within a story that the teacher would tell to his students. I immediately recognized some of the imagery— a sea of grass crossed by ships, farcaster portals, and even a version of the Shrike— from the author’s Hyperion series.

“Metastasis” was a story about a man whose head injury allowed him to see things that were out of phase with everyday reality. He discovered that aliens or creatures from another dimension were haunting the human world. The beings randomly sow humans with worm-like creatures: their food. Side effects include, of course, cancer.

Two more short stories, “Remembering Siri” and “Carrion Comfort” were developed into longer works. “Carrion Comfort” is about three old friends who have the power to control others with their minds. For sport, they induce their victims to kill one another. Suddenly, one of the three tires of the game, and suddenly finds herself under attack from an unknown adversary.

If you are looking for dark, Twilight Zone style fare, with undead creatures, visitors from other planes, and occasional gruesome violence, this book may be right up your alley.

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