Science fiction and fantasy
The End Of The Line
edited by Jonathan Oliver
In 23:45 Morden (via Bank) Rebecca Levine takes the sense of entering another world a stage further with a story about a man who takes a train that shouldn't exist, only to end up living a life that has turned hateful in every way. The Underground is almost like a portal to a different kind of reality in some of these tales.
In Simon Bestwick's The Sons Of The City the Manchester underground system is home to hidden creatures which operate by their own rules. The corrupt councillors may try to control them, but there are some things that still can't be tamed. Al Ewing's The Roses That Bloom Underground is equally creepy with its shiny, perfect new Tube system that always runs on time. But in this subtle yet horrible tale there are things living in the tunnels that define it as a place that's still as alien and hostile to us as ever.
There's a great atmosphere of claustrophobia in Adam Neville's On All Underground Lines, and James Lovegrove's Siding 13 really takes our fear of stifling, crushing crowds and multiplies it a hundredfold. There are stories here that intensify the feeling of being trapped, lost, and caught in an endless loop. If that isn't scary enough, in The Rounds Ramsey Campbell reminds us of the paranoia that came in the wake of the terrorist attacks on the London Underground. Altogether there's a lot to be afraid of, whether those fears are physical or something that works on a subconscious level, as in Nicholas Royle's Oedipal The Lure.
I'm hard pressed to choose a favourite out of this collection. Whether the tone is moving, horrifying, or simply shockingly cruel they're all well written and intelligent. The sheer variety of sticky ends is enough to make you think twice about travelling on the Tube, and the inventiveness of these stories make them a twisted pleasure. They're dark and unexpected, like descending into the underworld and finding Postman Pat in charge.
22nd December 2010
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