The End Of The Line edited by Jonathan Oliver (book review).

December 20, 2021 | By | Reply More

Using the London Underground as a setting for the bizarre or horrific has a venerable and significant history. Doyle, of course, used the discovery of a body on the tracks of Metropolitan Railway to start the story known as ‘The Adventure Of The Bruce-Partington Plans’, while James Herbert’s sets some of the most horrific scenes in ‘The Rats’ on tube trains. There’s something about being underground that means, even in a busy city, humans are out of their element.

This collection of eighteen short stories in ‘The End of The Line’ come from a selection of authors both new and venerable, including Nicholas Royle, Paul Meloy and Rebecca Levene, among others. While many are on London’s tube network, others are set elsewhere, including Paris and New York.

Ramsay Campbell sets his story on the Liverpool Metro and like some of the others, it’s as much a satire as anything else. Kicking off with the narrator attempting to be sympathetic to two young Muslim women before breaking into a breathless race to deal with what might be a bomb or might simply be a lost briefcase.

On the whole, the stories fit more into the weird fiction genre than plain vanilla horror. Adam Nevill’s ‘On All London Underground Lines’ exemplifies this. Nothing supernatural or even scary actually happens but, instead, the narrator describes his every experience in the language of the grotesque, from fellow passengers to the sensations so characteristic of underground travel.

Interspersed, staccato-style, are the familiar messages conveyed by the PA system. It’s exhausting, but if you’ve ever struggled to make up for lost time on the Underground, you’ll be entirely sympathetic to the protagonist’s struggles.

Natasha Rhodes’ piece, ‘Crazy Train’, pushes this to the max, with the narrator already dead by the time the story starts. Things get weird, not so much when a tourist offers the narrator a cigarette, but he takes one and lights it up. From there on it’s a cynically dry take on the LA metal scene, from drug use to professional incompetence.

There’ s a whole bunch more like this and, if you enjoy weird fiction with an urban twist, you’ll likely enjoy most if not all of them.

Neale Monks

December 2021

(pub: Solaris/Rebellion Publishing/HarperCollins, 2010. 374 page small enlarged paperback. Price: £ 7.99 (UK). ISBN: 978-1-907519-31-1)

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Category: Books, Scifi

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