First, I should make clear that We Fade To Grey was sent to me for free, after I reviewed one of the stories in it: ‘The Narrows’ by Simon Bestwick. Given how spectacular I thought that story I was, I had no hesitation in agreeing to review the rest of the book. However, if you think my judgement might seriously be clouded by £7.99’s worth of free book, look away now.
I should probably also mention that I had the pleasure of meeting some of the authors involved, and the publisher, at the World Horror Convention. I liked them. They’re nice people. Again, this perhaps puts me in the realms of the hideously corrupt, drawn by my twisted morals into a twilight world where values like truth, honesty, and virtue have lost all meaning. It may well make me a fundamentally lost scrap of 21st-century flotsam, adrift in a relativist ocean of competing philosophies, the only connection between which is their ability to satisfy my selfish desires. I am a human ring-tone.
Still. I liked the book.
The Introduction, from Mark Morris, gives a helpful overview not just of the book itself, but also of the state of the industry. It whets our appetite for what we are about to read, and reminds us why it is important. I was feeling mightily aggrieved and vengeful by the end of it, always the sign of a good Introduction.
The stories are from Paul Finch, Stuart Young, Gary McMahon, Mark West, and Simon Bestwick. They are almost-uniformly excellent: well-written, chilling, and utterly, utterly depressing.
The collection as a whole feels, in the best possible way, grim. No one gets out of it alive. Or at least, if they do, they’re bleeding heavily. The horrors range from the exceedingly visceral to the nebulous and haunting. Despite the range of imagery, however, there is a certain unity to the feel of the stories. They all seem steeped in grief, or despair, and are truly heart-rending in places.
It’s a book, sodden with grey pizzle, that will come into your house, and drip sullenly on your doormat. It will give you a baleful look, shove past you into your kitchen and start to make a cup of tea in a chipped Royal Wedding mug. Not one of the good ones, either. Andrew and Fergie, probably…
Only one of the stories didn’t really work for me, and I suspect that that one would have, had I encountered it in a different anthology. It is one that’s slightly thematically out of place, and whilst it fizzes and pops with ideas and vitality, it seems to be an uncomfortable bedfellow for the rest of the stories in the book.
This, then, is an excellent anthology. It’s a dreadful romp through the back-corners of the mind from some of the most exciting British writers in the field today. Ah yes, British… That much is unmistakable.
It’s redolent of Britain in all the right ways: its despair at the modern world; its grief for a better past; its tawdry, rain-filled heartbreaks. This is British horror, and a great book, from an exciting small press.
We Fade To Grey is available from Pendragon Press, priced £7.99.