Tartarus Press should need no introduction by now, given the number of times they’ve now appeared on Tele Read as purveyors of fine independent fiction. Their blurb describes their recent production, Mercy and Other Stories by Rebecca Lloyd, as “tales of unease with a sprinkling of the ghostly, menacing and fantastical. The stories inhabit the fragile space between fantasy and reality, where the landscape is in constant flux and things are not quite as they seem.”
Rebecca Lloyd, born in New Zealand but now based in Bristol, began writing while working in Africa as a medical parasitologist and has already published one novel, Halfling, but this is her first story collection. The 16 strange stories in this book, 9 unpublished, range from straight monstrous or ghostly horror to less overtly supernatural tales of psychological disquiet, where pacing and a deft leadup to ultimate revelations plays a big part in building up the atmosphere. The creepy abnormality in the title story, for instance, is mostly a matter of baroque psychology, and the ultimately fatal events of “The Reunion” unfold from otherwise quite mundane, though psychologically charged, beginnings. There’s also quite a bit of droll humor scattered around the stories.
In a collection with a very wide range, some of the stories are going to come across as more assured and memorable than others, and that’s certainly true here. Not every tale delivers on its promise. “The Gathering,” on the other hand, reads like Robert Aickman at his best, while “Gone To The Deep” comes across like a modern version of a folk tradition in the spirit of The Wicker Man that could make almost as good a film. Tartarus produce their usual fine quality ebook, which saves ebook readers 90 percent of the paper edition cover price, and this marks another contribution to their range of weird fiction.
TeleRead rating: 3.5 out of 5