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Revelations Hardcover – May 1, 1997
"Neverworld Wake" by Marisha Pessl
Read the absorbing new psychological suspense thriller from acclaimed New York Times bestselling author Marisha Pessl. Learn more
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Pestilence, floods, war, social upheaval, drug-related crime, wicked leaders, birth defects, conspiracies, corruption, even visions of death-dealing aliens--this superb anthology is a timely reminder that destructive forces and fantasies of destruction are not just a millennial phenomenon; they've been with us all along. Douglas Winter writes in the afterword: "I chose the writers whose words had moved me, surprised me, remained vibrant in a time of repetition and glut. I wanted assurance that the fiction nominally known as 'horror' would survive into the twenty-first century; and I wanted Revelations to offer that reassurance to readers." These 11 long tales--one for each decade, plus a frame story--succeed brilliantly in doing so. The writers are Clive Barker, Joe R. Lansdale, David Morrell, F. Paul Wilson, Poppy Z. Brite, Christa Faust, Charles Grant, Whitley Strieber, Elizabeth Massie, Richard Christian Matheson, David J. Schow, Craig Spector, and Ramsey Campbell.
From Kirkus Reviews
An original story anthology and mighty hymn to a coming apocalypse by 14 leading horror writers, gathered here by inspired editor Winter (Prime Evil, 1988, etc). Each decade of the 20th century is assigned to a writer or writers (in two cases they work in tandem) who evoke the particular madness of that decade as it contributes to a prophecy for the next century. Winter tells us that the end of the present millennium, now upon us, is ``a time of revelation,'' as in the apocalyptic revelations of St. John. He has spent seven years assembling this book, looking for genuinely original writing that rises above genre clichs, and he has largely achieved his objective. Clive Barker, in top form, offers two works: the introductory ``Chiliad: A Meditation--Men and Sin,'' about the thousand years of guilt leading up to this century; and the anthology's wrap-up short novel, ``Chiliad: A Moment at the River's Heart,'' a parable about guilt that rises magnificently above genre. In Joe R. Lansdale's ``The Big Blow,'' black boxer Jack Johnson fights for his life against the toughest white man he's ever met, while a wave as big as the Great Wall of China hits Galveston. In F. Paul Wilson's ``Aryans and Absinthe,'' a Jewish bookseller in Berlin in 1923 has an absinthe hallucination, foresees the death camps, and attempts to assassinate Hitler. Poppy Z. Brite and Christa Faust offer the immensely stylish, crystalline ``Triads,'' featuring two boys sold to a Peking Opera troupe who later, going go out into life as women, get mixed up with Chinese mafia/revolutionaries and witness the Japanese bombing of Shanghai. Other big names on hand include, among others, Whitley Strieber, Charles Grant, and Ramsey Campbell. Astute, entertaining mainstream fantasy. -- Copyright ©1997, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved.
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In the United Kingdom, Revelations has an alternate title: Millennium. This 1997 anthology does indeed consider the (then) impending Millennium, in Clive Barker's exquisite fictional discourse on storytelling, "The Chiliad--A Meditation." Composed of two interlocking stories set one thousand years apart, this framing device puts forth the notion that the future influences the past, that the river of time "flows both ways." The true focus of this collection, however, is the twentieth century, perhaps the most turbulent in all of human history. Over the course of ten stories, each dealing with a specific decade, twelve writers focus on the human element involved in cataclysmic events.
The first story, "The Big Blow," by Joe R. Lansdale, is set in 1900. Two hurricanes hit Galveston, Texas, one a natural phenomenon, the other taking the form of big John McBride, a vile, profane man hired by racist members of the Galveston Sporting Club to wrest the club's boxing title from its present owner, a black man named 'Lil' Arthur (Jack) Johnson. Their intense battle is matched only by the ferocity of the hurricane that strikes during the match, leveling the city.
The next story takes place in 1918. "If I Should Die Before I Wake," by David Morrell, tells the story of Dr. Jonas Bingaman, whose heroic efforts do little to assuage the devastating effect of the Spanish Influenza on Elmsdale, the small town where he practices. Morrell reveals a sobering fact at the end of this touching story: while World War I caused the deaths of 8.5 million, the estimated number of those killed by the Spanish Influenza was 40 million.
F. Paul Wilson's entry, "Aryans and Absinthe," takes us to Germany, circa 1923. Here, Karl Stehr, a Jewish bookseller, is befriended by the mysterious Ernst Drexler, who counsels him on avoiding the debilitating effects of Germany's runaway inflation. Drexler also introduces him to absinthe, which causes the bookseller to hallucinate during an impassioned speech by rising political figure Adolph Hitler. During this episode, Stehr has a vision of the Holocaust, and, believing it to be true, decides to kill its architect. This is a "If you could stop Hitler before he came to power story" with a delicious twist.
"Triads," by Poppy Z. Brite and Christa Faust, is the story of two young boys, Ji Fung and Lin Bai, lovers caught up in the corrupt and exotic world of 1937 Hong Kong and Shanghai. Sold to a performing troupe by their families as children, the pair escape their brutal master only to become involved with Chinese gangs. This stylish tale, set against the backdrop of the Sino-Japanese War , ends tragically, but on a note of optimism.
We next visit the forties and fifties, courtesy of Charles Grant and Whitley Streiber. In "Riding the Black," Grant takes a prototypical Western plot and stands it on its head. Here, one of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse perceives the end of the world not in the creation of the atomic bomb, but in the advent of the television age. Streiber's story "The Open Doors," is a stream of consciousness reflection on the atomic bomb and (surprise!) alien visitation which demands rereading.
The sixties are handled by Elizabeth Massie. I felt sure that "Fixtures of Matchstick Men and Joo," Massie's story on hippie cults and culture, would end up dealing with the Manson family, but I was dead wrong. Her twist ending reminded me of a bumper sticker I saw recently, which read "I know I'm Paranoid, but am I Paranoid ENOUGH?"
The seventies are covered by Richard Christian Matheson's epistolary "Whatever," the eighties by "Dismantling Fortress Architecture," a collaboration between David Schow and Craig Spector. Matheson's knowing story follows the rise and fall of seventies supergroup Whatever through a series of magazine articles, press releases and interviews (I especially liked the name of the band's debut album, Know Means Know). Schow and Spector use the fall of the Iron Curtain as a backdrop in their piece, an eclectic summation of over sixty years of German history. This piece is unique to the anthology in that it refers to events in another story in the collection, Wilson's "Aryans and Absinthe."
Ramsey Campbell brings readers into the nineties with "The Word," which chronicles the career of writer Jess Kray, as seen through the eyes of Jeremy Bates, a curmudgeonly reviewer/critic. Kray, a sub mid-list author, writes a bestseller called The Word, which literally means all things to all people. Bates, skeptical of Kray, hopes to expose him as a fraud, but unwittingly bestows Messianic status on him during a live television broadcast.
Winter should be commended on the uniform quality of these stories--after all, the nature of the anthology did not permit him the luxury of arranging the stories to maximum advantage. The book is indeed a revelation, a thought provoking reflection on the century just ended. Rather than dealing with thousand year cataclysms, the stories focus on individual apocalypses, reminding readers that horror takes many forms--prejudice, natural disasters, disease, runaway inflation, technology, social upheaval and ignorance are just a few of its aspects. This emphasis gives Revelations an intimacy and power it might not otherwise have had.
Winter points out in his afterword that the end of a century is "a global anniversary, and inevitably a time of summing up and looking ahead." Revelations does just that: it tells us where we've been, while raising a number of disturbing questions about where we are going.
This is definitely not in line with The Dark Descent which is my favorite anthology of all time.
These stories just kind of sicken me.They are mostly about mans cruelty to other man(or women).I don't like stories like these at all.I find them very depressing and upsetting.If I want to read about things like the above I would read more nonfiction.This is not my idea of entertainment.It made me want to take a shower after reading just a couple of the stories.There is also very little supernatural elements in the stories which I think makes stories fun.All around a very unpleasant anthology.