Sunday, February 19, 2012

Caliban and Other Tales, by Robert Devereaux

(pb; 2002: horror anthology)

From the back cover:

"His mother was a sorceress, and his master is a powerful magician. His home is a dark, wild island of enchantment, spells. . . and evil. He is Caliban. Is he human, spirit or demon? Who can say? All he knows is that he burns with a lust for revenge and his growing powers may soon make it possible. But even he cannot predict the nightmarish shape his vengeance will take. . . or the tempest of terror it will unleash."

Overall review:

Most of the stories in Caliban and Other Tales sports the same audacious, carnal and maleficent spirit of Devereaux's genre milestone, Santa Steps Out.

This gleefully debauched and sometimes sublimely horrific anthology isn't for those who find Stephen King or Dean Koontz "too scary or gory" - those readers should not read this ferociously graphic and often-funny work; Caliban is for true, unrepentant, sex-and-gore horror fans.

Worth owning, for the aforementioned latter group.

Review, story by story:

1.) "Bucky Goes to Church": A shooting spree takes an even more disturbing plot detour.

Excellent, vivid, with its colorful and sometimes laugh-out-loud language: fans of a certain 1970's Larry Cohen film will probably enjoy this.

2.) "Ridi Bobo": Hilarious, ultra-violent, clown-centric piece about a cuckolded clown (Bobo) who takes revenge on his wife (Koko).

Clever, greasepaint-with-noir horror story.

3.) "Clap If You Believe": A young, philosophical man (Alex) tries to impress the parents of his fairy diminutive girlfriend, Titania Jones, at a get-to-know-you family dinner.

Solid, amusing, sometimes raunchy - like the other stories in this anthology - work.

4.) "The Slobbering Tongue That Ate the Frightfully Huge Woman": A back-office molestation of a female pharmacy employee (Sally Holmes) by her employer (Baxter) leads to a grotesque, lascivious and kaiju-eiga-esque confrontation.

Slobbering is a hilarious and ferociously anti-P.C.story that takes a morally icky subject and turns it into a gloriously salacious b-movie.

5.) "A Slow Red Whisper of Sand": Lust-, death- and greed-constant story about Los Angeles bloodsuckers. Solid, orgiastic and intense/emotive piece.

6.) "Caliban" (novella): Caliban, an ugly supernatural being, plots against Prospero, a magician who murdered Caliban's witch mother, as he grows in power and age.

The lead-in to this Shakespearean-sourced tale feels comparatively long to the other pieces in this anthology - logical, considering it's a novella, not a short story - but in the last quarter of its two hundred and twenty-two pages, it gets intriguing, its slow-build plots/motivations and character-based twists coming to devious, understandable and surprisingly sympathetic finishes.

Good piece, for those who appreciate a well-written, slow-burn work.

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