Review: ‘The Booking’ by Ramsey Campbell

booking-cover-mockupThe Booking by Ramsey Campbell
Dark Regions Press (2016)

75 pages; $13.00 paperback; ebook $3.99
Reviewed by Anton Cancre

The Booking is a tight little yarn about Keifer, a man flailing to find his place in a new job. Simple enough idea. Of course, that new job is putting together a website for a bookstore that seems as reclusive and crotchety as its owner. A mess of disjointed words cloistered in shabby isolation from the surrounding world that seems to drag Keifer deeper into itself as he tries to bring its contents out to the public.

Though quite short, this is a very slow moving story. For most of it, very little occurs and much of that is quite mundane. Personally, I like how long Campbell took setting up the character and the situation and really cementing the atmosphere of Books Are Life. We spend so much time in the head of Keifer and in the abode of Mr. Brookes that they begin to feel as if they have wrapped themselves around us. The whole bears the feeling of Campbell slowly, meticulously setting up an array of dominoes, full or whorls and loops and inwardly spun spirals. The process is dizzying, but fraught with anticipation.

However, the culmination is where I ran into my biggest issue with this story. In the last five pages, I wasn’t treated to the deft flick of a finger I expected to set the whole line tumbling. Instead, it felt more like a madman running into the room and throwing the table into the air. There is a shift that is somewhat built towards, but comes too abrupt and it felt a bit too much like a cheap shock borne of a desire to just make the damn thing end. Which is too bad, because I well and truly adored the buildup to that point.

Now, it is impossible to talk about a Black Labyrinth book without mentioning the artwork. Santiago Caruso’s ability to place the absurd and surreal amid the mundane is showcased marvelously in images that perfectly capture the atmosphere and emotion of the scene without resorting to literal interpretation. I would buy these books for his work alone.

Leave a Reply