This ambitious volume of horror storiesin the words of the publisher ``an anthology that explores new directions in speculative literature''is marred by several pretentious or deliberately cryptic entries; there are, however, many that are excellent. The book does not break new ground, despite its aspirations, but it's well worth a look. Among the best stories: Peter Straub's ``Blue Rose,'' about a disturbed youth whose violence finds its inevitable expression in the insanity of Vietnam; Joe Haldeman's account of another Viet vet, ``The Monster,'' whose ability to adopt different personalities gets out of control in a spectacular manner; George Clayton Johnson's ``The Man with a Hoe,'' a tale of the worm turning, with a vengeance; Ramsey Campbell's almost unbearably claustrophobic chiller of a traveling book salesman who wanders into a particularly loathsome Hell; Charles L. Grant's ``Out There,'' which tells of a man who has drawn the web of his life so tightly it cuts him when he tries to break free; and Clive Barker's horror-detective story, ``Lost Souls,'' an unusually restrained tale for this author. Literary Guild, Mystery Guild, Doubleday Book Club and Science Book Club alternates. (October 17)
In reaction to the morbid direction horror fiction and films have taken recently, sf and fantasy writer Etchison has compiled a remarkable collection of horror and fantasy stories for the 1980s. The list of contributors is formidable: Peter Straub, Ramsey Campbell, Charles L. Grant, Chelsea Quinn Yarbro, and others. The focus is not on possessed children, demonic mass murderers, or terrors from beyond the grave, but instead on the breakdown of the mind or soul, the darker side of sexuality, and other internal horrors. The stories range from the traditional to the avant-garde; some are sexually explicit; all are noteworthy. An exciting and satisfying collection that could well mark a turning point for the genre, this is recommended for all contemporary fiction collections. Alternate selection of the Literary Guild, Mystery Guild, Doubleday Book Club, and Science Fiction Book Club. Eric W. Johnson, Univ. of Bridgeport Lib., Ct. De Vries, Peter. Peckham's Marbles.