Author: Graham Masterton
In eleven chilling tales horror-master Graham Masterton skewers our imaginations with our darkest terrors. Evoking primordial fears, each tale takes us back to the glowering nights of childhood, swaddled in sweaty bedclothes and staring into the shifting shadows of our rooms, waiting for reality to slide into the demonic world of nightmare. Each story has an aura, a promise of grimness and doom that will shadow your steps during the day, your lonely cold metro rides in haunted cities, and the unfathomable horror of your secret, silent hours. Similar in atmosphere and creativity to a gorier version of Night Gallery, Figures of Fear is an anthology that will work its way under your skin all the way to the shuddering heart.
Starting this anthology late one crisp fall night, cuddled in bed, was a very bad and yet very good idea. The long-forgotten fears of the dark, for instance the semi-sentience of life that robe hanging from a bedroom door, took on in the magic of nighttime. In one of the collection’s first stories, “What the Dark Does,” Masterton captures us by bringing the original, primitive fear to life when a young boy finds his parents inexplicably garroted in their own beds, a vision that haunts him into adulthood and leads him to seek answers in the mystic realms of dark energy.
“Underbed,” another personal favorite story from this partly psychological and partly visceral collection, dissects the terrors of overactive imagination as a young boy imagines worlds and monsters beneath the safety of his own bedclothes only to fall into the crevice between sheet and bed and discover a whole other realm.
“The Night Hider” is perhaps the most creative work in this mélange of dark gems. When a young woman receives an old wardrobe later discovered to belong to C.S. Lewis, she realizes the answers behind the author’s inspiration: a burned spirit seeking rape and vengeance. How then to dissolve the terror and find the answer? C.S. Lewis fans (yours truly dear reader) will enjoy the morbid twist on authorial inspiration as it merges with our present day world.
“Witch Compass” details a story with some African flare as a failing business man is given the answer to achieve all his dreams – but at a very steep price. The story not only delivers some thrills and chills, but examines the depth of humanity’s own evil and what we are capable of given the power and the inclination.
“Resonate Evil” throws some science our way as a married couple moves into an old mansion where the neurologist husband discovers records produced by a leader in the field – records that can stimulate sensation. This gothic tale of obsession and anguish was one of my personal favorites and evokes all five senses as we descend into the abyss of knowledge.
And last, but by no means least, “Beholder” from which the cover is derived (believe me, you will never look at it the same way after reading the story!). This particular story was almost too much for me with the graphic sequence of a tortured and dying cat and then, the ultimate sacrilege of trust and family. And yet, despite my cringing, the images stay burned into my own eyes, the aura and gravity of the story something I will never be able to truly forget or expunge.
This collection contains several other stories as well. I’ve just given you a sampling of the ghoulish goodies to come. Graham Masterton was a favorite author of my childhood and remains the master of horror as displayed through the haunting stories in this collection. The sad news? It’s not going to come to the US until March 2015. The good news? You can cheat. Amazon.uk already has the title available and, as Masterton fans well understand, why wait to indulge yourself in yet another delectable offering? It’s worth the shipping. Highly recommended – viewer discretion advised for before bed reading, however! (First link is for the US pre-order, second link for the available copy in the UK.)
- Frances Carden