Subterranean: Tales of Dark Fantasy 3 edited by William Schafer
Subterranean Press (July 2020)
234 pages; $40 hardcover; $150 limited edition hardcover
Reviewed by Blu Gilliand
Like most anthologies, Subterranean: Tales of Dark Fantasy 3 is a bit of a mixed bag. There are no bad stories here, but some resonated with me more than others. No doubt each reader will have his or her own favorites; rather than try and predict what those will be, I’m just going to share a few of mine.
First up is “Razor Pig” by Richard Kadrey. This begins as a fairly straightforward, familiar tale of a father hunting his daughter, a strong-willed young woman who has either run away with—or been taken by—a carnival. Kadrey gradually slips in surreal, supernatural elements, like the father’s “secret heart,” and a shadowy figure called Mr. Umbra. By the time father catches up with daughter and meets the titular character, a nightmarish construct of flesh and knives, you’ve slid fully into the land of the surreal.
“Twisted Hazel” by Stephen Gallagher is a quiet, almost quaint ghost story. A lonely spirit watches helplessly as the estate she calls home is dismantled and sold off by a mysterious military group. Stricken with grief and loneliness, she does her best to reach out for some kind of contact, some bit of recognition, worried that when these people are gone, no more will come. Gallagher sticks the landing with a graceful, poignant ending.
“Death Comes for the Rich Man” by Robert McCammon is an easy inclusion in this list of highlights. The story follows Matthew Corbett, McCammon’s Restoration-era problem solver, as he is taken to an estate and asked to confront and delay Death while a dying man ties up the loose ends of his life. Corbett, a practical man driven by insatiable curiosity, has his doubts about the assignment, but is compelled to go along. McCammon’s amazing attention to detail and lush descriptions draw you in without compromising the pace of the story. This is a dark, suspenseful tale with a nice twist that you might see coming but won’t be able to resist.
While I enjoyed the other stories in this collection, these are the three I can see myself revisiting in the future. Subterranean Press consistently maintains one of the most exciting, diverse publishing slates in the business, and this anthology is a great microcosm of the breadth and variety they offer. Definitely recommended.