Figures of Fear: An Anthology

Figures of Fear: An Anthology
by Graham Masterton

Rating: 2.9/5

By reading the prologue I can tell this book is very personal. The author has put fears which had been with him for years on paper. There are some pretty intriguing and exciting ideas here.

Here’s how I felt about each story:

Ex-Voto

It started well but then the middle and ending seemed rushed. Shame, it had potential to be truly horrifying. It needed to be developed a lot more to have an impact, I felt there was no progression.

What the Dark Does

This was interesting. It preys on childhood fears of the dark, making them real, and was pretty scary. A couple of things didn’t make much sense to me. If the theory is that the item takes on the personality of the person who wore it previously, like the dressing gown belonging to a murderer, why was Sticks evil? Did someone evil use the wooden spoon he was made of or the sticks? Also, why would it want David to get to his parents room so the gown could kill him? If it wanted to, wouldn’t the dressing gown have already killed him before heading out to his parents’ room?

Saint Brónach’s Shrift

Not really scary but disorientating. The end made me wrinkle my nose. I don’t get why Kate ended up having a baby with her brother in the alternate reality. It was bad enough that they had that ‘incident’, if it really was just one time, but this is just too sick.

The Battered Wife

Well, we all know bad things happen to domestic violence victims. This story approaches a new take on it, creating a whole new consequence to a woman not getting away from her abusing husband. Again, not a scary story per se and it felt rushed as well. There was no transition in at least one important scene towards the end. One minute Stephen is hitting her, the next she has her kids in the car. I have no idea how she even got away from him, let alone get the kids there.

The Night Hider

This story had a great buildup, and the premise was very interesting. Using CS Lewis’ wardrobe was brilliant. But I found the ending utterly disappointing. I found her calling the fireman Aslan and he replying ‘no, Alan’ particularly cheesy.

Underbed

This one started really slow for me. At some point I was like ‘yes ok, very imaginative, but let’s go back to the story now’. It took me a while to realize that that was the story, and then I finally started getting into it, about the same time it started to get interesting (after all the squeezing through rocks). It was scary and thought provoking and had some really interesting concepts, like a Word of Ideas. The notion of the darkest fears chasing you anywhere you go for the rest of your life is pretty terrifying.

Night of the Wendigo

Meh, it was ok. Some scary bits. At this point I am resigning myself to average stories. I mean seriously, a husband calls his wife telling his brother’s killer is on the loose and no one will arrest him and what does she do? Grab the kids and go meet him, of course! Sure, makes perfect sense!! I had a hard time comprehending the Wendigo concept too. How a being covered by so much stuff like animal pelts and feathers and whatnot could be 2 dimensional. And how it could be unseen so easily. Seems to me that it only takes the angle being off by a bit for people to be able to catch a glimpse of it. The most obvious moment to me was when Bill’s family could see him with both elbows up – if they could see him like that, then they should be able to see the Wendigo too, right? How else could he be holding Bill if not facing them?

Spirits of the Age

Very sad. Puts a whole new perspective on death and how when someone is gone, they should stay gone.

Witch-Compass

What would you do to wash your worries away? And what might you become?
Interesting story, well thought out but, again, some plot issues. He knew neither he or his parents could afford a dinner like that but he just went along, instead of making an excuse? And if Katie killed herself in her aunt’s house, wrote her a note and all, why would she be lying on the bed naked? Knowing her aunt would find her? It makes no sense to me. The effect could have been achieved having her wear a sexy dress or whatever.

Resonant Evil

This one was very intriguing. The first half was especially good. I’d still like to have known how exactly they were able to reproduce their family members and other things, again there doesn’t seem to be a proper explanation, just a ‘they figured out how to’ and I am left again lacking full closure. But it’s the story, out of the whole bunch, which felt the most complete to me.

Beholder

This one was utterly gross. Interesting, but gross.

Conclusion:

This collection plays with people’s fears. Dark themes like incest, domestic abuse, what a person can do when most vulnerable, their moral choices and the price of their wishes, things that can happen in the dark, etc. The stories are not all scary but definitely disturbing. As I mentioned before, the ideas/concepts are intriguing and exciting. However, in order for me to fully enjoy a story, horror or otherwise, things need to make sense. It’s something which is not easy to achieve, particularly in short stories. But some things were missing in these short stories that were easily achieved, in the sense that they would not require many words to make it happen, just some investment in better execution. At times, I felt the author took the easy way out of a situation and that was enough to disengage me.
The stories were interesting, but not mind-blowing and that, along with those little things gnawing in the back of my mind, caused the 3 star review. There were also a few misspellings and typos and several hyphenized words for no apparent reason.
I wish I could share the enthusiasm written in other reviews. But to me it was only ok. Maybe if I had read them at night I would have been more scared.

Read from December 16 to 19, 2014
GR Review

I would like to thank the publisher and Netgalley for providing a free copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

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