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Night Visions 9

Introduction by F. Paul Wilson

Stories by Thomas Tessier, James Kisner and Rick Hautala

Dark Harvest

US Trade Hardcover

ISBN 0-440-21114-X

Publication Date: 1991

260 pages; $21.95

Date Reviewed: 1991

Reviewed by Rick Kleffel © 2002




08-26-02, 12-06-02, 01-07-03

The "Night Visions" series has, since 1984, been one of the best places to find ground-breaking new fiction by new and established authors, accompanied by fine illustrations from the field's best artists. In "Night Visions 9", Dark Harvest once again breaks new ground, with excellent fiction by Thomas Tessier, but also in a more unfortunate fashion -- by omitting the illustrations. Yes, I know that they weren't all up the fine work of Rick Gervais in "Night Visions 3", but I liked those darn pictures. It was part of the "Night Visions" charm. Now it appears that the "Illustrated by Phil Parks" credit on the title page refers to the cover illustration and that's it. I guess if I want horror fiction with illustrations, I'll have to buy "Knight Magazine".

Of course, if that were the only loss, and the fiction was all up to snuff, then I could more easily shrug and and let it pass. So what about the fiction in NV9? Well, the good news is Thomas Tessier's "The Dreams of Doctor Ladybank". It's the gripping, scary, hilarious story of two scum-sucking lowlifes and the vile psychologist who uses them in an unethical experiment. It seems that the title character, the inestimable Dr. Ladybank, has found two people that he can kind-of control with his mind. Unfortunately, these two people are a drug-dealing pimp and a male hooker. The story concentrates on the everyday, gritty details of the low-lives and not on some arcane and unrealistic psychological experiment. The result is a sort of "Carrion Comfort" meets "Midnight Cowboy" that is notable in that it succeeds in making three despicable characters enjoyable to read about for 90 or so pages. It's certainly the standout story in this collection.

The next contributor,James Kisner, has a number of good stories published in the small press. This makes me inclined to re-read his entries in NV 9. The best of the bunch was a distasteful tale titled "Moose Oysters". Those of you who are hunters will quickly glean just how horrible this story was, but it was told quite well, with the abandon of a "I-knew-a-guy-that-this-actually-happened-to" tale. "Jack's Demon" was yet another moderately interesting story of Jack the Ripper, but rather predictable. "Fugyu", a story about a madman who specializes in killing the homeless had an interesting psycho-POV, and won additional points for being very politically incorrect.

Unfortunately, Rick Hautala frankly did not make the grade. His set of stories is a sort-of sequel to his novel "Little Brothers", which is apparently about tough little monsters that tear up and kill people every five years in some part of Maine. Now, on the face of it, this is an interesting premise -- it guarantees monsters, and that gives it bonus points in my book. However, the sameness of the tales wears thin, especially since nothing happens. People go somewhere, they get killed. End of story. Repeat ad inifitum, no ad nauseum, and you get "Untcigahunk". There's no attempt to tie in the characterization of the victims to their fate, and none to characterize the monsters except that they're small, they're somewhat reptilian, and they kill people. Even a dedicated monster-lover like myself needs something more. Maybe I'll try that novel, who knows. I mean, it guarantees monsters, right?

All in all, "Night Visions 9" is another step down for this once great series. It's worth buying and reading, but gone are the glory days. Maybe it's time for the editors to go the distance -- out of the horror genre -- for some truly fresh blood.