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3 of 5 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars a few noteworthy entries in this 'Haunted Subway' collection, January 6, 2012
This review is from: The End of the Line: An Anthology of Underground Horror (Mass Market Paperback)
`The End of the Line' (Solaris, 2010, 358 pp.) features 19 stories all centered on the theme of modern underground transportation as the setting for supernatural encounters. All stories were originally written for this anthology. As most of the contributors are English, there is an emphasis on the subway and rail systems of the UK.

My thoughts on the entries:

The best story in the collection is Nicholas Royle's `The Lure' which is not a horror story per se, but rather, a Hitchcockian tale about a young British man who, during a year abroad in Paris, encounters a mysterious and alluring older woman. The story is carefully crafted to deliver a subtle, but powerful, ending.

Also earning high marks is Simon Bestwick's `The Sons of the City', a clever updating of the 1973 film `Death Line (aka `Raw Meat'). Al Ewing's `The Roses that Bloom Underground' is a neat effort at placing a Lovecraftian netherworld within the confines of the subway system.

`In the Colosseum', by Stephen Volk, brings graphic sex and violence to a tale of the London CCTV system and decadent voyeurs. It's splatterpunk stylings give it genuinely disturbing character, that is otherwise absent among the other entries in `End'.

More restrained, but also effective, are James Lovegrove's `Siding 13', about the physical horrors of a too-packed subway car, and Mark Morris's `Fallen Boys', which eschews the subway system altogether and instead places its action within a creepy old mining tunnel.

Paul Meloy's `Bullroarer' brings satirical humor to the story of a downtrodden subway rider who gets a unique chance to undo his torments.

Natasha Rhodes also injects some sardonic humor into `Crazy Train', about an LA rocker who finds himself traveling the city's subway system in the company of a spooky Goth Chick.

However, the bulk of the stories in `End' settle for rather conventional plots and themes, in which riders find themselves transported to unsettling stations or stops that lie outside the boundaries of the `real' Underground. Entries by John Probert, Rebecca Levine, Jasper Bark, Conrad Williams, Pat Cadigan, Adam Nevill, Michael Marshall Smith, and Christopher Fowler all are competently written, but unremarkable.

Inevitably, Ramsey Campbell makes an appearance; here it's `The Rounds', about a man who believes he is witnessing suspicious behavior in the Liverpool subway system. While Campbell has in some respects curtailed the florid nature of his prose style, a style that made him a chore to read throughout the 70s and 80s, his story's oblique ending gives it a flaccid character that suffers in comparison to the more assured denouements provided by his fellow authors.

Unfortunately another contribution, Joel Lane's `All Dead Years', tries to emulate the approach used by 'vintage' Campbell, as well as writers like Dennis Etchison and Charles L. Grant. But while `All Dead Years' starts off promisingly, it loses momentum and slouches into an inconclusive, overly oblique ending.

Gary McMahon's `Diving Deep' with its Antarctic locale, represents one of the more imaginative entries in the anthology; unfortunately it, too, suffers from too vague a denouement.

In summary, like most anthologies, `End of the Line' has a few real gems, but otherwise, the bulk of the contributions lie in the middle percentile of worthiness.
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