Angel on the Beach Kindle Edition
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|Length: 193 pages||Word Wise: Enabled||Enhanced Typesetting: Enabled|
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Unsurprisingly, the better stories here are the ones more openly defiant of categorization, as good dark fiction so often is. Some of these entries make subtle use of the femme fatale trope by suggesting the possibility of psychic control, as in "Window Across the Street" and "Eudaemonic", or by merging the lines of the psychological, the psychotropic and the supernatural in the absinthe-fueled narrative of "The Green Lady". But what keeps these stories from truly elevating to the heights of dark fiction reached by the likes of Darren Speegle Spiegel and Joel Lane is the consistently workmanlike prose. Fiction that shifts the edges of ordinary perception should, optimally, also convey its strangeness through both the means and manner of telling. "Dreams Unfathomable", with its relatively more evocative descriptions of a mysterious, old mansion situated amidst urban ennui as well as the clever meta-fictive turn of its second-person perspective at the very end, probably comes closest to accomplishing this ideal alignment of concept, narrative and prose style required of the finest dark fiction.
And as for the pieces that enter more obviously speculative territory, such as "The Secret Properties of Glass" and "Iridescence", they aren't conjecturing truly new worlds or even making new observations about the present or the impending future; the former story unfolds the truth of the emptiness of perception told more compellingly many times before by more insightful authors, while the latter spends more time forging bland emotional connections rather than fully developing the world of the story.
Overall, there's nothing flagrantly wrong with Caselberg's work. But, considering he was hovering around the age of fifty when many of these stories had been published, I think most readers would expect a stronger, more distinctive prose style threading his frequent modulations between vaguely related genres. I can't honestly recommend this collection even to the general reader of dark speculative fiction who, caring little to nothing about the subtleties of mood and style, at least demands carefully-drawn characters and surprising plots.