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Stories 216-219

All four of these entries come from The Ghost Quartet, a new anthology edited by Marvin Kaye.

Story 216:  The Place of Waiting by Brian Lumley.  This one takes place on Dartmoor.  Now, I'm a little sketchy on the topography of Dartmoor; like many Americans I'm more familiar with the way it is portrayed in the Holmes story "The Hound of the Baskervilles" than from anything else. Still, Lumley uses that lack of familiarity on the part of most readers to conjure a great mood.  The story is strong, moody, and almost relentless in its pacing (relentless in the sense that it is always moving forward, even when it seems not to be moving at all).

Story 217: Hamlet's Father by Orson Scott Card.  Everyone here knows how much of a Card fan I am.  This one majorly disappointed me.  In an effort to put a new twist on a timeless tale (as he's done successfully in the past), Card goes for the cheap shocker at the end and telegraphs it almost from the first page.  I hate to say it, but I expect more from the talented Mr. Card.  Anytime he's used traditional boogeymen in the past (as in "Lost Boys," "Homebody," and "Treasure Box") I've mostly enjoyed how he's worked with the cliches.  This time, it seemed like the cliche you see is the cliche you get.  Shame, because there's some good character work on Hamlet in here, and on Claudius and Horatio.

Story 218: The Haunted Single Malt by Marvin Kaye.  I'm not sure Kaye has ever included himself in one of the anthologies he's edited before, but his friend Lee coerced him into it this time, and I for one am glad.  Not just because he set his story in Scotland and steeped it in Scottish history, but really because it's a well-told story-within-a-story.  Multiple layers, and the shorter stories within the main story actually do have a point and connect to the main narrative.  Too often, authors get lost in the layers they are trying to create.  Kaye pulls it off.

Story 219: Strindberg's Ghost Sonata by Tanith Lee.  I have to admit, I've never read August Strindberg's play "The Ghost Sonata."  After I read this, I had to do a google search just to see how Lee's story intersected with the piece she was influenced by.  Her story is not a strict retelling, although it matches in structure and lots of the outward details.  She takes it layers deeper, though, and it seems like she's making a point different from what I understand Strindberg was trying to say.  Unlike the Card story, this retelling does work.  She sets it in an "alternate universe" Russian city ("Petrograva" she calls it in the author's notes).  I liked the main characters, and the supporting characters left me kind of queasy, which I suspect they were intended to do.

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