Science fiction and fantasy                                            

The End Of The Line

edited by Jonathan Oliver


It may not be a traditional location for horror stories, but the Underground is so well suited to fear it's a wonder it hasn't become as much a cliché as the haunted house or the graveyard. It has darkness, claustrophobia, a certain sense of otherworldliness, and the paranoia that comes from the close proximity to so many strangers. It's a potent mixture.

Paul Meloy's Bullroarer emphasises the Underground's strangeness with a story that mixes memories of school bullying with art and Greek gods. Bloodthirsty pagan deities also feature in John Llewelly Probert's The Girl In The Glass, where they charge a high toll for the use of their underground routes.

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

Book Details

Year: 2010

Categories: Books


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5 star rating

Review © Ros Jackson