Monday, May 22, 2006

Shock Rock edited by Jeff Gelb

(pb; 1992: horror anthology)


Overall review:

Excellent short story anthology melding rock and horror, from the co-editor of the Flesh & Blood (noir) series. Alice Cooper’s "Foreword" is one of the best I’ve read in a long time: erudite and warm.


Review, story by story:

You Know They Got a Hell of a Band” – Stephen King: A road-tripping husband and wife find themselves in small-town hell after taking a “shortcut” through Oregon. Solid, almost-classic King tale that runs a little long.


Bob Dylan, Troy Jonson & the Speed Queen” – F. Paul Wilson: Jonson, a musician who can’t write his own music, time-travels back to 1964 to steal famous rock songs from their author-musicians before they write them. Complications, time line- and otherwise related ensue. Good tale, with a Twilight Zone-worthy end-twist.


Odeed” – David J. Schow: Gasm, a hard rock band, plays longer than they’re supposed to (contractually-speaking). Will this destroy the band's career, or will it increase their already-incredible popularity? Schow’s prose is electric, exhilarating. This tale has an immediacy that grips the reader and doesn’t let go.


Vargr Rule” – Nancy A. Collins: Well-written story about Varley, a charming slut, whose search for a one-night stand goes horribly (and fittingly) wrong.


Blood Suede Shoes” – Ronald Kelly: Ruby, a plain-Jane bobby-soxer, catches a ride with Rockabilly Reb, a famous rock star. But Reb’s more than he seems to be, Ruby discovers... Solid tale, one that makes clever use of rock history.


The Dead Beat Society” – Don D’ammassa: This reads like a late 80's heavy metal horror flick – fun, dumb and pot-friendly. Decent tale, though D’ammassa could’ve improved it by explaining how Mark Walton, a dead music geek, becomes a video/music ghost. D’ammassa eschews logic for atmosphere (which is serviceable, if perfunctory).


Voodoo Child” – Graham Masterton: When Jimi Hendrix, dead for fifteen-plus years, reappears to his friend Charlie, Charlie sets out to discover why Jimi is so determined to return to his death site. Highly original, sad work – and one of the best entries in this anthology.


Rites of Spring” – Paul Dale Anderson: Attendees at a Rites of Spring concert act accordingly, though more wildly than they expected. Good tale, up until the meant-to-be-symbolic-but-lame finish.


Dedicated To The One I Loathe” – Michael Garrett: Quirky morbid-funny tale about two cops investigating some backwood murders, somehow linked to an oldies radio station. Good read, worth a chuckle.


Requiem” – Brian Hodge: An aspiring folk singer and a club concert promoter check out the airplane crash site that killed the members of the 80's prog-rock band Grendel. An excellent morality tale about greed, bootleg recordings and earnest desire. One of the best entries in this collection.


Heavy Metal” – R. Patrick Gates: Laugh-out-loud funny homage to Edgar Allan Poe’s “The Tell-Tale Heart.” Gates recreates, with hilarious accuracy, the hysterical tone-language and structure of Poe's famous tale. The ending’s not unexpected, but it works.


Bunky” – Rex Miller: I have no idea what this story’s about. The hip-hyperactive slang of the narrator alienated me instantly.


The Black ‘59” – Bill Mumy and Peter David: A guitar, possessed by the spirit of a dead malevolent rock star, finds new victims. Good story until the dumb finish.


Groupies” – Richard Christian Matheson: By far one of the most sexual and disturbing works in the anthology. Memorable, sporting an innovative deconstructionist structure (in the first half) and a nasty end-twist, this tale stands out from the other entries in this collection.


Reunion” – Michael Newton: So-so story about a reunion tour of a Grateful Dead-like band. It’s too illogical to be effective, with no set-up for its Psycho-like twist.


Bootleg” – Mark Verheiden:
Videodrome
meets Ghost World with a supernatural heavy metal element. Suitably bizarre and compelling, with a finish that doesn’t quite work.


Weird Gig” – Ray Garton: A washed-up 70's band gets hired to play a financially-lucrative but otherwise troubling concert. Predictable but entertaining.


Hide in Plain Sight” – John L. Byrne: A cocky club rock singer is seduced by a woman who may or may not be a werewolf. Sexually explicit, trashy fun with a clever end-twist.


Addicted to Love” – Thomas Tessier: Enjoyable story about a lonely music snob who attempts to win the favor of a woman with great gams and execrable music taste. Sly, memorable conclusion.


Flaming Telepaths” – John Shirley: A strange psychic war erupts between a televangelical group and a mysterious rock singer in a concert bar. Another solid entry, highlighted by Shirley’s intelligent, blunt humor.

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