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Masques IV (1991): Know When to Hold ’em

J. N. Williamson (ed.), Masques IV (Maclay and Associates, 1991)
[originally posted 12Jun2000]

photo credit: Amazon

When it was good, it was very, very good. When it was bad…

There’s something about horror stories. Everyone has one good one in them, but with the exception of a handful of writers (Ellison, Kathe Koja, a few others) whose work is consistently well above the bar, you’re more likely to come up with a writer whose work is usually medicore, but who every once in a while lets fly with something so wonderful that the whole world needs to know about it. And thus the continuing popularity of the horror story anthology; the quest to try and find all these truly great stories from any given time period and collect them all into one large volume.

I’m sure you all have short lists of the truly great stories from otherwise mediocre short story writers, at least as long as you’ve read enough horror to know them. King’s “Survivor Type.” Barker’s “In the Hills, the Cities.” Morrell’s “Orange for Anguish, Blue for Insanity.” The king of all horror stories, Richard Christian Matheson’s stunning “Red.” Masques IV, while full of stories that are average or slightly above average at best, manages to add a new story, and a new author, to the hallowed canon. His name is David T. Connolly, “Julia’s Touch” is his first published short story, and if he’s got a drawer full of this kind of stuff at home he’s destined for the kind of greatness that Stephen King and John Grisham can only dream about. Interestingly, while trying to write this review last week (this mailing has been held up by my inability to find this info on the web), I went looking for every review of Masques IV I could, and the vast majority focus on the mediocrity of the stories by the more established authors. Go figure.

Yes, certainly, there’s some other good stuff here, most of it from the usual above-the-bar suspects (Chet Williamson, Lois Tilton, Dan Simmons), but it’s the Connolly story that makes this worth the price of admission, no matter what that price is. Beg, borrow, or steal a copy of this anthology to get at that story, for you will walk away from its few, sparse, painful words a changed person. As for the rest, well, like any other anthology, you win some, you lose some. ** 1/2

About Robert "Goat" Beveridge

Media critic (amateur, semi-pro, and for one brief shining moment in 2000 pro) since 1986. Guy behind noise/powerelectronics band XTerminal (after many small stints in jazz, rock, and metal bands). Known for being tactless but honest.

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