Night & Demons
by David Drake
Cover Artist: Alan Pollack
Review by Mario Guslandi
Baen Paperback ISBN/ITEM#: 9781451638479
Date: 02 October 2012 List Price $13.00 Amazon US / Amazon UK
David Drake is especially known as an author of military science fiction (Hammerís Slammer series) and fantasy (Lord of the Isles books), but eclecticism is one of his main features. His fictional work encompasses every subgenre from dark fantasy to classical horror and traditional SF.
Night & Demons is a mega-collection of more than 500 pages, reprinting twenty-eight short stories which represent an ample showcase of Drakeís versatile fictional work. For those scarcely acquainted with his copious output, the book constitutes an excellent opportunity to taste a good chump of his short fiction and his storytelling ability.
Drake is not a refined stylist, his prose is often a bit rough and his characters sometimes only coarsely carved. On the other hand he knows how to hook the reader's attention thanks to a vivid and powerful narrative style.
Among the many tales included in the present collection some really stand out, such as "The Red Leer" an excellent thriller in which an evil creature gets loose after an ancient Indian mound is disturbed. Also, the World Fantasy nominee "The Barrow Troll", an unsettling piece of barbaric horror featuring a priest haunted by a terrible troll.
"The Shortest Way" is another superb, dark tale about a bandit-infested disused road. The creepy "Smokie Joe" is an effective mix of crime, horror and eroticism.
"A Land of Romance" is a good SF piece revolving around an experiment trying to send a man and a sheep into a different dimension while "The Waiting Bullet" is a solid, traditional ghost story set in the North Carolina mountains and "Blood Debt" a disquieting story of witchcraft. "Something Has To Be Done" is a little gem depicting the unusual death of a soldier endowed with peculiar, deadly abilities.
Every story is preceded by lengthy comments by the author, which make the book even more interesting by drawing the portrait of a man whose personal life was deeply marked by his war experience in Vietnam at the time when he was a law student and of an author whose professional life was shaped by his encounters with some masters of the fantasy genre.
A word of warning to the readers who already possess a copy of the Drake collection Balefires published a few years ago by Night Shade Books. The overlap between the contents of that book and the present volume is almost total.