Bits and Pieces

Strange Things and Stranger Places by Ramsey Campbell containing Cat and Mouse, Medusa, Rising Generation, Run Through, Wrapped Up, Passing Phase, A New Life, The Next Sideshow, Little Man and Needing Ghosts (collected 1993) : A rather odd collection from Campbell, seeing as nearly two-thirds of its length comes in two novellas (“Medusa” and “Needing Ghosts”) while most of the rest of the stories are homages of some sort to classic horror tropes that include the Mummy, Frankenstein’s monster, cats from hell, and zombies.

Of necessity, the two novellas are the main attraction here. “Medusa” is unusual in that it’s straight science fiction, a genre Campbell writes within infrequently at best. It’s an interesting story, reminiscent in some ways of Stanislaw Lew’s Solaris. The short stories are fine for the most part, though mostly brief. The longest of them, “Little Man”, could really be longer — the put-upon teenaged protagonist’s plight could use more fleshing out, especially given the unique, creepy weirdness of the supernatural entity in the story.

“Needing Ghosts” is one of Campbell’s great short works, a novella in which the presence of the seemingly surreal in the midst of daily life gains greater and greater terror as the novella progresses. As in many of Campbell’s strongest works, reality itself seems perched on the edge of dissolution throughout, with the most normative things and events weighted with frightful portent. Recommended.

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