My rating: 3 of 5 stars
I liked this second issue fairly well, although the four featured stories here all seemed a bit too opaque for me to truly fall in love with any of them. I see that they’re good stories, though, even if they left me a little cold. Ramsey Campbell’s “At Lorn Hall”, a not-quite-interesting-variation on the haunted house story where the haunted house is part automated museum, was the only real miss for me (just too much description of beds, bureaus, and drapes, oh my!), but even that story had great atmosphere (in fact, it’s all atmosphere–ponderous, ponderous atmosphere!). I did like the nice touch of showing another anonymous character escaping halfway through the story (a great choice, and one that has had me thinking ever since).
Poppy Z. Brite’s story, about a man accompanying a woman to have an operation, was my favorite this month — some beautiful prose, and the characters worked for me. I don’t entirely buy the reaction to the events at the end of the story, but for me it’s all about the evidence the guy sees that the woman fell on the sidewalk. The story achieved a real sense of melancholy and loss. Liked this piece a lot, even if some of its final moments seem unlikely to me.
“Construction Project” was cute and experimental, but the ending struck me as a little ordinary. “Graves” would have been perfect without the bookends referencing the contrived nonsense of the narrator’s sleep disorder.
Not sure what to make of “The H Word” this month. Didn’t really dig it, I guess.
Overall, though, another interesting group of stories, and I enjoyed the second half of the Peter Straub interview.