A review that originally appeared in The Third Alternative #24:-
Edited by Peter Crowther
Victor Gollancz hb, 216pp, £16.99
Falling in that no man’s land between the short story and the novel, novellas are, by reputation, notoriously difficult to find a market. Editor Peter Crowther has hit on the neat trick of packaging four of the wee, cowering, timorous beasties in one volume.
Graham Joyce opens the proceedings with ‘Leningrad Nights’, which reads like Ballard’s Empire of the Sun condensed , given a harder edge and relocated to the Russian front. While the starving people of a city under siege struggle to survive, the child Leo embraces madness and crime in a beautifully written tale that plumbs the depths of despair and transmutes it into a work of art. ‘How the Other Half Lives’ by James Lovegrove offers us a disturbing picture of an amoral billionaire who prospers only as long as a clone remains locked and suffering in the basement of his mansion, but while the story is well written and entertaining it has a slightly superficial feel, with the moral dilemma implicit in the scenario left largely undeveloped.
‘Andy Warhol’s Dracula’ by Kim Newman, set in the same world as his Anno Dracula, is the prize of the collection, lacking the emotional charge of the Joyce but a pure delight to read, a witty, revisionist text that offers a tour de force of invention as a vampire comes to New York and infiltrates its art scene, selling his own blood as the ultimate designer drug. The story is punctuated with quotes from academic works that explore Warhol’s obsession with vampires, cleverly satirising the fads and follies of modern art, and riddled with enough characters from fiction and history to inflict the thrill of recognition on ingenue and genre anorak alike. Finally there’s ‘The Vaccinators’ by Michael Marshall Smith, the story of a man who negotiates with aliens to prevent them abducting human beings. The idea is novel and it’s well written, with some nice touches of humour, but slightly let down by the lack of a convincing rationale for what is taking place.
A further volume is planned, this time with an SF bias. Let’s hope the project is a success.