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Dark Entries Paperback – September 13, 2016
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THIS book, DARK ENTRIES, is so easy to read.
Aickman's stories are some of the best "strange stories" ever written. Once you have read, them many will remain strongly in your mind.
The latter is a beautiful example of Aickman's mastery of the genre of the "strange tale" (as he preferred to call his work--he didn't care at all for the descriptor "horror fiction"). The story opens with a couple, mismatched in age, making a vacation trip to an out-of-the-way town in East Anglia that had been an important seaport in medieval times, before the harbor had silted up and pushed the town away from the sea. The town is largely deserted, and the few citizens the couple come across make oblique references to the couple being in danger; in the mean time a local old church begins ringing its bell for no apparent reason, and as the day wears on and the mystery of the town deepens, the ringing bell is joined by others, which intensify the overall sense of dread. When the truth about the town's abandonment and the reason for the bells is finally revealed, it is so almost offhandedly, as a kind of throwaway cliche: but then the truth of the statement (and the inability to turn back) digs in for both the couple and for readers. As is typical for Aickman's fiction, no other explanation is overtly given for the horrific event other than that it is happening, and the reader must try to make sense of it based on the circumstances of the story: the city's position almost displaced from time, the couple's age gap, the psychological condition of the husband and wife, etc. Even then you're never sure--and thus Aickman's story lingers longer in the imagination than the basic plot might in the hands of another fantasy writer (even H. P. Lovecraft, who also deals with a visitor stumbling onto the horrific truth about a seemingly nearly-deserted coastal town in his fine story "The Shadow over Innsmouth"). Robert Aickman is one of the finest British writers (and international masters of the strange tale form) in the 20th century: it is terrific seeing him made available to a broader audience.