Visit the shadowy places where monsters and demons roam in this collection by the New York Times– bestselling author of the Nightside and Secret Histories series. Welcome to the worlds of Simon R. Green. In this wide-ranging collection, the bestselling urban fantasist opens doors into hidden places: strange realms bordering our own mundane existence and prowled by creatures of fancy and nightmare. Here are the strange, frequently deadly—and sometimes even dead—things that lurk in garbage-strewn city alleyways and grimy subway stations after midnight, visible only to the most perceptive human or inhuman eye. In these tales, Green revisits the ingenious worlds within worlds that he created for his wildly popular novels. Take a stroll on the Nightside with a jaded street wizard, an underpaid government functionary responsible for keeping demons, vamps, and aliens in line. Enter the hidden recesses of Drood Hall, where the aging family member who creates powerful weapons that protect humankind recalls his long and bloody career. Join a squad of no-longer-human soldiers dispatched to combat the all-consuming jungle on a distant planet. Visit a house at the intersection of two realities that serves as a sanctuary from the evil of all worlds. Confront the unstoppable zombie army of General Kurtz in a brilliant homage to Apocalypse Now. And whatever you do, never forget that there are monsters out there. Really. Here are seventeen tales—each accompanied by an afterword by the author—of magic, sorcery, and the supernatural by a master of all that is dark.
|Publisher:||Open Road Integrated Media LLC|
|Product dimensions:||5.10(w) x 7.90(h) x 2.30(d)|
About the Author
Simon R. Green is the New York Times –bestselling author of Blue Moon Rising , Beyond the Blue Moon , the Adventures of Hawk & Fisher, the Novels of the Nightside, the Secret Histories Novels, and the Ghost Finders Novels. He is a resident of Bradford-on-Avon in England.
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Tales of the Hidden World
By Simon R. Green
OPEN ROAD INTEGRATED MEDIACopyright © 2014 Simon Green
All rights reserved.
QUESTION OF SOLACE
There really are monsters out there. But you don't need to worry about them, because the Droods are out there, too. This very, very old family exists to protect Humanity, to stand between you and all the secret things that threaten you. From their hidden home at Drood Hall, tucked away somewhere in the wilds of England, they watch over the world, monitor the secret frequencies, and stand ready to do ... whatever's necessary. They have field agents in every major city, in every country, ready to throw down with all the supernatural or super-science menaces ... that you're better off not knowing about.
The Droods, your last chance for protection, and peace of mind. They answer to no one but themselves. The shamans of the human tribe, the shepherds of human civilization. And no, you don't get a say in the matter.
Jack Drood, Armourer to the Drood family for many years now, sat slumped in his special chair before his personal workstation, looking at his latest invention and wondering whether it was worth all the time and effort he'd put into it. As Armourer to the Droods, it was his job to come up with all the powerful weapons, sneaky gadgets and nasty surprises that the family's field agents needed, to help them bring down the bad guys. The Armourer had been doing that very successfully for decades now, and he was getting really tired of it.
He looked middle-aged but was actually a lot older. He kept up appearances by following a carefully balanced diet of protein and pasta, doing as little regular exercise as he could get away with, and abusing a whole bunch of exotic medications of dubious provenance. He liked to joke that when he died there'd be so many pills in him they'd have to bury him in a coffin with a childproof lid. He was tall and thin, growly and grumpy, and not nearly as full of nervous energy as he used to be. Two shocks of tufty white hair jutted out over his ears, below a bulging, bald pate. He had bushy white eyebrows, a prominent nose, and steely gray eyes. His face looked lived-in and hard-used, and he scowled a lot. Particularly when he had to talk to people.
He did have people skills. He just mostly couldn't be bothered.
When he occasionally forced himself up out of his chair, to go prowling around the massive stone cavern that held the Armory, and all its dangerous wonders, it quickly became obvious he was bent over in a pronounced stoop, legacy of so many years spent leaning over workbenches, creating things designed to make people place nicely with one another, whether they wanted to or not. He wore a long white lab coat, decorated with stains and chemical burns, and the occasional explosives residue, over a grubby T-shirt bearing the legend Guns Don't Kill People, Unless You Aim Them Properly. Armourer humor.
He still liked to think of himself as an engineer, rather than a weapons designer.
He sat there in his favorite chair, right at the back of the Armory, where people wouldn't bother him. The Armory was buried deep in the bedrock under Drood Hall, so that when things inevitably went wrong, usually suddenly and loudly and violently, the damage wouldn't reach the hall. The Armourer was thinking, and scowling, and doing his best to ignore the general racket going on around him. Dozens of lab assistants filled the Armory, working on dozens of projects, their terribly inventive minds limited only by the laws of science and probability. The laws of the land, or even basic morality, didn't get a look in.
To become one of the Armourer's lab assistants, a young Drood had to prove they were way above average intelligence, incredibly and indeed foolishly brave, and basically lacking in all the usual self-preservation instincts. Their job was to produce all kinds of weird weapons, and outside-the-box inventions. And then test them extensively, often on one another, before they could be passed on to the field agents. Output was high, and so was the turnover of assistants.
The Armourer couldn't help noticing that not quite far enough away, two lab assistants equipped with personal teleport devices were dueling inside a circle. They flickered in and out, appearing just long enough to throw a blow, or dodge one. Obscenities, blasphemies, and sounds of pain hung on the air long after they were gone. Beyond them, a statue in a corner moved, ever so slightly. From when a lab assistant had slowed down his metabolism so much that for him, decades passed between each tick and tock of the clock. He'd gone under in 1955, and showed no signs of coming out. The Armourer kept him around as a cautionary example. Beyond the statue, two invisible fighters were trying to find each other inside a circle. And someone ... had just blown up the firing range again.
Lab assistants. Always in such high spirits.
The Armourer mostly just left them to it. Safer that way. He considered his workbench. His personal computer, wrapped in long strings of mistletoe. (It had seemed like a good idea, at the time.) Set out in no particular pattern were a bonsai wicker man, a working miniature Death Star that he'd built for a bet (with himself), a stuffed poltergeist with a very startled look on its face, and an iPod full of music he never seemed to have the time to listen to. Along with all kinds of bits and pieces from half a dozen projects he was still tinkering with. On and off. Some of the electronic workings and alien-derived tech had been there so long he'd forgotten what they were for. Though of course he'd never admit that.
He glared again at his latest project, sitting insolently on the edge of his desk. A long metal rod, with all kinds of spiky projections, ending in a precarious array of lenses and crystals, powered by a miniature reactor with rather less safety features than was probably wise. It looked like a hand torch that had just limped home from an evening out at the local BDSM club. The Armourer called it a Boojum Projector, because when you pointed it at someone, or something, they softly and silently vanished away. So far, so good. The problem was: the Armourer didn't know where the projector sent them. Or, if they might come back again, someday. The math remained stubbornly ambiguous. So until he could work out some answer to this very basic problem, the Armourer couldn't in all good conscience sign off the damned thing.
And besides, when you got right down to it, the Boojum Projector was really just another gun. He'd made so many guns, down the years. And they couldn't have been that good, because the family kept coming back to him, demanding he come up with new ones. Bigger, better, badder guns ... The Armourer sniffed, sourly. Ideas for things used to come to him so easily. They still did, but more slowly now, like squeezing blood out of a stone. He could still do it. He still had it. But when did it all become such a strain ...?
Somebody close by cleared their throat; quietly and politely and just a bit relentlessly. A real I'm not going away till you notice me noise. The Armourer sighed, inwardly, and looked up. If anything his scowl deepened, just a little. Standing before him were two of his most intelligent, and irritating, lab assistants. Maxwell and Valerie Drood. Bright and cheerful and endlessly enthusiastic, and full of enough nervous energy to run a small country between them, they both wore gleaming, pristine white lab coats. Entirely unmarked and unaffected by all the messy mayhem going on around them. The lab coats were one of Maxwell and Victoria's most useful, if boring, creations. The coats never caught on. The other lab assistants refused to wear them, because they saw their accumulated electrical burns and chemical stains and the odd bullet hole, as badges of honor and experience. Look what I survived! Maxwell was tall, dark, and handsome, Victoria was tall, blonde, and sweetly pretty. They held hands all the time and didn't care who noticed.
"Sorry to bother you, Armourer," said Maxwell, once it became clear the Armourer had nothing to say to them. "But we really do need to get our hands on the Boojum Projector thingy. To try it out, see what it can do. All that sort of thing ..."
"Love the name," said Victoria. "We love classical allusions, don't we, sweetie?" "Well, of course!" said Maxwell. "But ... You have been hanging on to it for rather a long time. Armourer. Sir."
"So we've been sent to ... take it off your hands," said Victoria. Who could get away with not calling people sir because she was so pretty.
"Not our idea!" Maxwell said quickly. "We wouldn't bother you for all the world, but the pressure is coming down. From above."
"From on high, actually," Victoria said diffidently. "You know how it is."
"I held them off for as long as I could," said Maxwell. "Made all kinds of excuses, on your behalf ..."
"He did! He really did!" said Victoria. "You wouldn't believe how brave and steadfast he was, on your behalf!"
"Well," said Maxwell, "I wouldn't say that, exactly ..."
"Well, you should, Maxwell!" Victoria said immediately. "You mustn't put yourself down, because I won't have it. You need to stand up for yourself, Maxwell sweetie."
"You're so supportive, Victoria. I don't know what I'd do without you."
They smiled into each other's eyes, lost in each other, completely forgetting the Armourer and why they'd come to see him.
"Young lab assistants in love," growled the Armourer. "The horror, the horror ... Who's been putting the pressure on you? As if I didn't know?" "The Matriarch has been very insistent that we move the Boojum Projector on to the next stage of testing," said Maxwell.
"Mother is always impatient, when it comes to new weapons she's taken a fancy to," said the Armourer. "You tell her she'll just have to wait, until it's ready. Still more work to be done yet."
Maxwell and Victoria looked at each other. Maxwell cleared his throat, searching for the right tactful tone.
"I'm very sorry, sir, but ... Your mother, Martha, hasn't been Matriarch for some time. She died, a few years back."
"We have a new Matriarch now, Armourer," said Victoria. "Margaret. Remember?"
"Ah," said the Armourer. "Yes. Of course." He squeezed his eyes tight shut, just for a moment. "Of course I remember. Just, force of habit ..." He sniffed loudly and glared at them both. "You're getting a little old to be lab assistants, aren't you? You must be well into your twenties. More? Damn, how Time flies. And takes advantage, when you aren't looking.... Why haven't you left the Armory, like all the others? You need to specialize in ... something, and move on! Fly the nest!"
"We like it here," said Maxwell. "Don't we, Victoria?"
"Oh yes, Maxwell! Ever so much! It's all so exciting.... I don't think we'll ever want to leave the Armory!"
"Well, you should," the Armourer said crushingly. "Get out while you can. I used to think like you, and look what happened to me. I got old when I wasn't looking."
Maxwell and Victoria looked at each other again. They thought he didn't notice.
"We'll come back again later, Armourer," said Maxwell. "When you're feeling a bit more ... focused."
The Armourer kept his gaze fixed on the Boojum Projector on his workbench until he was sure they were both gone. And then he sighed, just a little, to himself. Of course his mother was dead. He'd been to her funeral. And now, news of his little slip would be all over the Armory in minutes. Gossip moved so quickly among the lab assistants that sometimes it arrived before the event that triggered it. The Armourer leaned back in his special chair and looked around the great stone cavern that just about contained the Drood family Armory. Huge machines crowded up against one another, like animals competing for territory, surrounded and interrupted by long rows of workstations, combat areas, and proving grounds. Plus a whole bunch of snack machines and soft drink dispensers.
The Armourer was pretty sure there was a working still, somewhere. There certainly had been, when he'd been a lab assistant. He built it himself.
And lab assistants, lab assistants everywhere, running around doing unwise things, raising hell and havoc and generally having a good time. They did so love to test out a new theory, often suddenly and violently and all over the place.
The Armourer was pretty sure they all respected him, in their own way. If only for his seniority and his proven track record in creating weapons of mass unpleasantness. But it did worry him, just a little, that he had no idea how they felt about him, otherwise. He'd never cared about being liked, or popular. That wasn't the job. He wasn't even there to oversee discipline. That wasn't what the assistants needed. He was there to inspire them, drive them on, and provide the right reckless atmosphere for them to function in. But how long had it been, since he just sat down and had a talk with any of them?
His gaze drifted back to the Boojum Projector. Bloody thing. Maybe the family could use it for garbage disposal.... Did it matter where garbage went, once you made it disappear? Well, yes, he supposed it might. If you didn't know where you were sending it, and whether someone there might object. And there was always the chance it might reappear ... unexpectedly. No, no ... Forget the projector. Too many unanswered, and perhaps unanswerable, questions. Not every idea is a winner. Like the time he'd crossed chocolate and cheese to provide the perfect snack. He could still make people vomit, just by reminding them of how it has tasted.... The Armourer sniffed moodily. He hated it when Good Ideas turned out not to be practical.
He tugged thoughtfully at the tuft of hair protruding over his right ear and then stopped abruptly when some of the hairs come away in his hand. He studied the loose white hairs for a while, before opening his hand and letting them fall away. He'd have to be more careful. He didn't have much hair left to lose. It didn't seem that long ago, that he used to have a fine head of hair. Like his brother, James. But he lost it all years ago, to stress. The Armourer pouted, sulkily. He missed having hair. But then, he missed a lot of things.
One hell of a loud explosion shook the entire Armory. Things fell over, cables dropped down from the ceiling, and a dusty cloud of smoke rose up everywhere. Lab assistants ran frantically back and forth, yelling at one another to do something, instead of doing it themselves. A few fires flared up, briefly, before the targeted sprinklers cut in and put them out. A voice rose above the general chaos.
Order was quickly restored, someone was smacked hard around the back of the head, and everything returned to normal as everyone went back to work. Sudden loud noises and material damage came as standard when you worked in the Drood family Armory. That's why there were always stretchers and body bags piled up unobtrusively in one corner. If only because they helped concentrate the mind wonderfully. The Armourer hardly enough noticed the explosion. He had other things on his mind.
There was a time, when he had been a field agent. People tended to forget that Jack Drood had been one of the best secret agents the family ever had, back when he and the world were a lot younger and things seemed so much simpler. And those who did remember what he did out in the world preferred to forget the kind of things field agents had to do, back in the day. In that Coldest of Wars. All the hard and necessary things Jack Drood did to keep the world safe.
All those years, running around broken Europe, chasing and being chased back and forth across the Iron Curtain. Stamping out supernatural brushfires, before they could get out of hand. Blowing up super-science villains in their hidden bunkers, before they could let loose something unspeakable, if they couldn't get their own way ... Killing people who needed killing. But had any of it really made any actual difference? Had he even killed the right people?
Excerpted from Tales of the Hidden World by Simon R. Green. Copyright © 2014 Simon Green. Excerpted by permission of OPEN ROAD INTEGRATED MEDIA.
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Table of Contents
ContentsQuestion of Solace,
Death Is a Lady,
Down and Out in Deadtown,
From Out of the Sun, Endlessly Singing,
It's All About the Rendering,
Find Heaven and Hell in the Smallest Things,
Jesus and Satan Go Jogging in the Desert,
Food of the Gods,
He Said, Laughing.,
Awake, Awake Ye Northern Winds,
In the Labyrinth,
About the Author,
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
I have mixed feelings about Simon R. Green. I don't care for his Nightside series, but I thoroughly enjoy his Drood series, so I was excited to receive a review copy of Tales of the Hidden World, the cover of which trumpets, "Includes a Brand-New Story of the Droods!" Unfortunately, both the new Drood story, "Question of Solace," and the collection as a whole fell far below my expectations. Even the best stories, "From Out of the Sun, Endlessly Singing" and "Find Heaven and Hell in the Smallest Things," barely garnered 3.5 stars. According to an interview with Riffle, this is Green's first short story collection and contains all of his non-Nightside stories; all I can say is that Green should stick to novels because short fiction is clearly not his forte. His voice throughout this collection is dry and detached, as though he were simply going through a set of intellectual exercises: write a zombie story, retell a classic fairy tale, etc. This is, in fact, borne out by his author notes, according to which at least 6 of the 17 stories were written at someone's specific request. While I can't single out any one story as especially strong, I can point to one which was appallingly bad: "He Said, Laughing," a laughable (if you'll pardon the word choice) retelling of Joseph Conrad's Heart of Darkness - with zombies. "Soldier, Soldier," Green's first published story, is not any better, with its dismissive allusion to the 1968 My Lai massacre. Green claims in his author notes that his intention in "Soldier, Soldier" was to explore the idea of governments getting involved in others' wars "for their own purposes," which would seem to be a timely theme as Americans question our ongoing involvement in the Middle East. Far from prompting serious thought, however, Green's refrain of "a kid is worth two women; a woman is worth two men" just made me sick. Fans of Simon Green will be depressed by the poor quality of this collection, while those who have yet to discover him will be scared away. Whichever camp you fall in, give Tales of the Hidden World a pass. I received a free copy of Tales of the Hidden World through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
If you are a fan of Simon Green hen this is a must read. Stories are a little different yet as enjoyable as his other series.
These were seventeen of the best short stories I have read in a long time. There was a fine assortment of zombies,werewolves,demons,wizards and Droods. I would recommend these stories to all fantasy and science fiction readers. ***I received this book in return for an honest review****