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While the Black Stars Burn Paperback – November 15, 2015
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Snyder (Soft Apocalypses) excels in her depictions of characters struggling desperately--and often futilely--to extricate themselves from terrifying snares set by loved ones. Readers will find her stories a cut above most other tales of interpersonal and supernatural horror.
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Top Customer Reviews
My favorite from this collection is the titular “While the Black Stars Burn.” It hits all my buttons including the destructive nature of art, along with its ability to revel the darkness underneath everything. “Cthylla” follows right behind by exuding a love of giallo and other beautiful films, and showing the murk and murder beneath.
“Spinwebs” is a great seed for a larger story. The bit where the egg changes is excellent. “Dura Mater” has delightful resonance with stories such as “The Jaunt” and “Alien.” “The Still-Life Drama of Passing Cars” is a heartbreaking musing on regret.
One of the more unexpected delights from this collection is “Fable Fusion” which is a bit of fiction about the 7th Doctor and his companion Ace. This was a good Doctor Who story, and the characterization of Ace was particularly effective. I would read more stories like this from the authors.
Some of the stories we find inside are:
“Spinwebs” – a weird little fantasy tale about a family encountering prejudice because of the giant telepathic spiders that live in their home.
“The Still-Life Drama of Passing Cars” – a quiet tale of a woman and her children driving in the car — but something isn’t right about any of them...
“Through Thy Bounty” – an old favorite — the aliens invade, and a captive is ordered to cook for the invaders. Their favorite dishes? Let’s just say they prefer all kinds of human meals.
“Cthylla” – the untalented daughter of a computer genius and a celebrated actress befriends an artist marked for death by a doomsday cult.
“While the Black Stars Burn” – a talented but tortured violinist is used to open the way for the terrible King in Yellow.
“Jessie Shimmer Goes to Hell” – in which the lead character of Snyder’s Jessie Shimmer novels goes to Hell, faces a monstrous demon, and must claw her way back home.
“Fable Fusion” – a story originally written for a Doctor Who fiction anthology, this features the Seventh Doctor and his companion Ace investigating creatures of myth running around Prague.
If this collection has a theme, it’s the disintegration of families — and Lovecraftian monsters.
Lovecraftian horror tends toward the nihilistic — but in this case, what really carries that nihilism banner is the rampant destruction of family units. Sometimes, the ends of these families are deeply sad — the families, no matter how small or poor, were loving and caring, and the survivors will be left without their loved ones and the people who they turned to for support. And in other cases, the destructing families should’ve been put to the torch years ago. Sadistic fathers, cultist parents, two-faced spouses, and more. And the end of those families still leave the survivors in bad places — and the non-survivors in much, much worse places, too.
But there are plenty of great monsters in here, too. And while not all of them are Lovecraftian, quite a few are. And actually, more than you’d expect have deep connections to Robert W. Chambers’s “King in Yellow” mythology. Chambers’s turn-of-the-century surreal horror has been a big thing for the last few years, and it’s great to see that Snyder is able to make lost Carcosa’s favored son work so well. It’s always a thrill to see well-done stories about the King in Yellow, the Yellow Sign, and all the associated figures.
On top of all that, I’d just like to say that, as a non-Doctor Who fan, I really enjoyed the Whovian “Fable Fusion” story.
So you like grim nihilist horror? You like the King in Yellow? You like Jessie Shimmer and Doctor Who? Go pick this up.
All of the stories feel original and fresh, even the couple I’ve read before in other places. In addition to rereading those stories, it was fantastic to read “Abomination of Fensmere” and “The Girl With the Star Stained Soul” in the order they seem to be meant to appear in.
If I wasn’t already in awe of the rest of the collection, the final story is a Doctor Who story with two of my favorite companions from the old television series: Ace and Liz, who in reality were separated by decades of the show’s filming. I think that Liz in particular is an interesting choice since she was only briefly on the show, and is one of the earliest examples of a strong female character on television. Both characters are well utilized in Snyder’s story, as is the often underrated seventh Doctor.
From horror, to weird fantasy, to scifi, Snyder touches all the bases in this collection.