If there is a better writer of psychological horror than Ramsey Campbell, let them step forward! This collection of short stories (mostly [but not all] reprints of fiction found in a variety of magazines) is a strong statement to the horror genre that Campbell still reigns supreme.
The fourteen stories in this collection are:
“Passing Through Peacehaven”
“Getting It Wrong”
“The Room Beyond”
“Holes for Faces”
“Chucky Comes to Liverpool”
“With the Angels”
“Behind the Doors”
“Holding the Light”
“The Long Way”
Starting off with “Passing Through Peacehaven” we immediately understand that we are in the hands of a master — one who can expose us to horror without resorting to copious amounts of blood and gore. Campbell expertly works on the psychology of the human mind and takes us to places that we can understand but generally don’t go.
Campbell creates characters that are all too real. Characters that are identifiable… often ourselves…and it’s that identification that scares the crap out of us…because we too could go to those dark places Campbell’s characters dwell.
If there is a theme that runs amongst these stories, it is youth and age. Our main characters in each story is either a youngster, or an aged person (is the working-class age group too busy to notice the horror around them?).
In “Peep” we experience what it must be like to be that older, slower grandfather, tasked with watching his grandchildren for the day, not being able to keep up. But one of my favorites in this collection is “Getting It Wrong.” This story hits every anxiety nerve just so, surprises a little, and truly gets under the skin. It definitely struck me that this could easily have been an Outer Limits or Twilight Zone episode … in a good way … as it was easy to visualize.
One of my other favorites (it’s actually quite hard to choose as they are all so good) was the last piece “The Long Way.” Although I’ve no experiences quite like this, I couldn’t help but think Campbell somehow knew me and wrote about my youth.
As the publisher’s website proclaims:
Holes for Faces collects many of his best tales from the first decade of this century. An attempt to avoid a haunted house leads into worse danger. The announcements at a railway station deal with stranger things than trains, and is that another railway station in the distance or a different kind of destination? A childhood game becomes a source of terror, and so does a radio quiz show. Even Christmas decorations may not be trusted, and beware of that Advent calendar! A hotel provides amenities you mightn’t welcome, and a visit to a tourist attraction attracts an uninvited follower. A train journey may never end, unless it already has, and a visit to a hospital brings back more than memories. A myth about a horror film has unwanted consequences. There are angels you mightn’t want to see too clearly, if that’s what they are. And you’ll have to decide if it’s better to stay in the dark or see what’s waiting there. You’ll find uncanny dread in these pages, and disquiet and terror, but also poignancy and comedy of paranoia.
If you are new to Ramsey Campbell… this is a great place to start. If you’ve read Campbell before, you won’t want to miss this collection. If you ever thought about read horror but don’t know where to start, this is a great introduction.
I can’t recommend this highly enough.
Looking for a good book? It doesn’t get any better than this.
* * * * * *
Holes for Faces
author: Ramsey Campbell
publisher: Dark Regions Press