Bookshots: 'Dead Letters: An Anthology of the Undelivered, the Missing, the Returned…' edited by Conrad Williams
Bookshots: Pumping new life into the corpse of the book review
Dead Letters: An Anthology of the Undelivered, the Missing, the Returned…
Who wrote it?
Joanne Harris, Maria Dahvana Headley & China Miéville, Michael Marshall Smith, Lisa Tuttle, Ramsey Campbell, Pat Cadigan, Steven Hall, Alison Moore, Adam L.G. Nevill, Nina Allan, Christopher Fowler, Muriel Gray, Andrew Lane, Angela Slatter, Claire Dean, Nicholas Royle and Kirsten Kaschock.
Plot in a Box:
The Dead Letters Office: the final repository of the undelivered. Love missives unread, gifts unreceived, lost in postal limbo. Dead Letters: An Anthology features new stories from the masters of horror, fantasy and speculative fiction, inspired by these objects.
Invent a new title for this book:
I would call it: Reading Other Peoples' Mail
Read this if you like(d):
Any of the Dark Screams anthologies or 21st Century Science Fiction, edited by David G. Hartwell and Patrick Nielsen Hayden.
Meet the book’s lead(s):
One of the stories that’s stuck with me (not the only one, by any means) was Andrew Lane’s ‘Buyer’s Remorse’ and its unnamed protagonist with a fondness for “strange place names, lost villages and ambiguous locations”. We don’t know much else about him, but it’s obvious the adage about curiosity and the cat doesn’t always sink in when he goes to the strange village of Winterbourne Abase and finds himself at a “bring-and-buy” sale that isn’t exactly normal.
Said lead(s) would be portrayed in a movie by:
Setting: would you want to live there?
As most of the stories are set in England, once upon a time, yes.
What was your favorite sentence?
There was something about her, the apprentice who took over the business. Even now, I find her irritatingly enticing. Enticingly irritating. You know.”
—From ‘Ledge Bants’ by Maria Dahvana Headly and China Miéville
Based on the idea of found objects in a dead letter office, or the ‘National Return Letter Centre’ in the UK, Conrad Williams sent each author something in the post to spark off a story. Ramsey Campbell’s ‘The Wrong Game’ even uses the artifact to mix reality with fiction, explaining to Conrad what happened when he got it in the post.
As the writers of the stories in this collection are largely from the horror or speculative fiction arena, a number of these stories are disturbing and thought provoking. From Pat Cadigan’s ‘Cancer Dancer’, about dealing with a diagnosis to Michael Marshall Smith’s ‘Over to You’ and its mysterious chess piece to Maria Dahvana Headly and China Miéville’s ‘Ledge Bants’, concerning the culmination of Merlin’s centuries-old search for his lost magic in a dead letter office, the stories range from the macabre to the outlandish, but that isn’t necessarily a bad thing. And for me, the aforementioned ‘Buyer’s Remorse’ is a great look at the odd little villages that populate dark corners of England — it reminded me of James Herbert’s ‘The Secret of Crickley Hall’, strangely enough.
Even though I’m not a huge consumer of short stories, I enjoyed this collection immensely and really like the conceit of the project. That, combined with some of my favorite storytellers and familiar UK settings made this a great read for me. If you like thought-provoking stories with a distinct twist, give it a read.
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