Outsiders: 22 All-New Stories From the Edge
by Nancy Holder
Review by Nicki Lynch
Roc Trade Paperback ISBN/ITEM#: 0451460448
Date: 04 October, 2005 List Price $14.95 Amazon US / Amazon UK / Show Official Info /
The collection starts out with a major name in horror fiction - Neil Gaiman - not with a story but a poem about a person's obsession with another to the point of "collecting" them.
Steven Rasnic Tem's "The Company You Keep," as a number of the stores do, deal with a man who suddenly discovers something about himself that, while unique at first, turns out to be shared with an unknown group of people. In another of the person-who-discovers-he/she-is-different-but-part-of-a-group stories, Yvonne Navarro's "Craving" is a slight variation on the voyeurs who always show up for accidents.
It isn't often that an original story anthology has a story translated (unless the whole anthology is), but French fantasy writer Lea Silhol's "Under the Needle" is a dandy introduction to this writer. It's a modern twist on the idea of a voodoo doll and very well done.
If you're looking for a variation on vampires, look no further than Tanith Lee's "Scarabesque: The Girl Who Broke Dracula." Subtitled as "A chapter from the as-yet-uncompleted fourth novel of The Scarabae: Blood Opera," the story follows a woman who finds herself in a fantasy of vampires.
For those who like their horror with gadgets, David J. Schow's "Expanding Your Capabilities Using Frame/Shift TM Mode," where a tech-head explores ALL the capabilities of his new DVD player, especially the undocumented features. And for those interested in better living through genetic engineering, Caitlin R. Kiernam's "Faces in Revolving Souls" asks the question of how human do we remain when we can change that part of us.
Freda Warrington's "Cat and the Cold Prince" is an thoughtful story about political correctness taken to extremes and one of the unexpected consequences. Jack Ketchum's "Lighten Up" is a story about a group who meets to exchange trivia and a little bit of blackmail.
Elizabeth Massie's "Pit Boy" is a raw story about child slavery that does not have a happy ending. Elizabeth Engstrom's "Honing Sebastian" is a story of a young boy who dreams of a better future in the bleak world he was born into. John Shirley's "Miss Singularity" is a fanciful and entertaining story of what happens when a depressed teen looks into the void ... and the void looks back.
One of the few stories that really seems to be from the edge is Melanie Tem's "The Country of the Blind." Sometimes when someone asks you to join their society, the answer should be no.
While Kathe Koja's "Ruby Tuesday" is a nicely written story, it is far to close to the actual The Rocky Horror Picture Show fandom to be as effective as it should be. Katherine Ramsland's "Grim Peeper" is a story that anyone who follows the current crop of CSI and CSI-type TV shows will appreciate and may find more than a little disquieting. It could easily be turned into an episode on one of those show.
Brett Alexander Savory's "Running Beneath the Skin" has an interesting premise, but the reader doesn't get quite enough back-story on the society or the main character to be really drawn in.
For a rousing story of a none too bright poseur looking to become part of a gang, Thomas S. Roche's "Violent Angel" is a fun read, although the reader looking for the SF/fantasy elements will be disappointed. What it lacks in SF/fantasy elements, the story more than makes up in lively telling.
Michael Marano's "...And the Damage Done" is the story of a man who sees ghosts of the future in the people of the present.
Bentley Little's "Pop Star in the Ugly Bar" is an ugly tale of a poptart who wanders into the reality that she pretends to inhabit in her music videos.
Poppy Z. Brite's "The Working Slob's Prayer" is a vignette about a New Orleans restaurant and the people working in it. As she has a novel out about these characters, the story reads more like a first chapter than an actual stand-alone story.
Brian Hodge's "If I Should Wake Before I Die" is a grim tale of the beginning of the end, possibility of mankind.
Lastly, is Joe R. Lansdale's "The Shadow, Kith and Kin" story of a man who slips, literally, into darkness.
Many of the stories feel more like vignettes or ideas for a longer story if only the writer could figure out where to go with the idea than actual short stories. On the whole, it's an OK, uneven collection of stories that may or may not shock/thrill the reader depending on how much SF and fantasy has been read previously.