The Wine-Dark Sea by Robert Aickman
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Having been a one-time lover of traditional stories by some of the greats of the last century or century and a half, I was much more at home with these tales than I might have been otherwise, assuming that I was in for tales of horror and the macabre.
What we have here are subtle tales that evoke more with atmosphere and themes of travel and disturbing discoveries than outright hack and slash.
My personal favorite was a retelling of Death in Venice with a particularly fantastical bent and no sign of Mann's character's other proclivities in "Never Visit Venice".
Indeed, most of these must be fantastical retellings of classic short stories and novellas, or at least it seems so, with the twists of bygone days, of tourists of different flavors, and even of stories such as the "Wine-Dark Sea" itself which appears to be a modernized retelling of the Isle of the Lotus Flowers or sometime quite similar.
Trains, vacations, buisiness trips, unexpected strangers... all of these things make a collection of stories filling us with awe and wonder even when we're steeped in the commonplace. Indeed, it's the commonplace that leads us to our dooms when we're pushed right off the ledge or when we experience something completely inexplicable, patted on our heads, and then sent on our way.
The author doesn't hold our hands. In fact, he insists that we ponder and try to figure out just what we had experienced. I have to say I like it.
Again, if you're looking for a pat collection of stories, look elsewhere, but if you love detailed and niggling-darkness creeping up on you with stories that harken back to all the more traditional mainstream stories from the turn of the last century through the fifties, then look no further. We've got advanced horror techniques going on here mixed fully with old-style classics. :)
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