I began to comb picture morgues and newspaper files, turning up hundreds of photos with similar figures in them. Most depicted disasters or near disasters; I began to notice that the number – and demeanor – of the figures often depended on the amount of destruction that surrounded them. Their faces glowed with pleasure in ratio to the amount of mayhem and carnage. This was by no means a strictly quantifiable thing, but the correlation, in general, seemed to exist.
Al Sarrantonio, The Cult of the Nose
Stories is the much talked about anthology edited by Neil Gaiman and Al Sarrantonio, featuring 28 new tales by a variety of authors. Although not all of the writers featured are known for Gaiman’s home genre of fantasy with a dash of horror, this is the general theme that runs through the book. in some cases it works very well, for example Roddy Doyle’s Blood is very out of character for him but nevertheless outstanding.
Other stand out stories include Jodi Picoult’s Weights and Measures, which is a subtle and eerie tale. Kurt Anderson provides an old school slice of science fiction with Human Intelligence. Gaiman’s own contribution, The Truth Is a Cave in the Black Mountains, is as good as expected. By far the best, however, is Al Sarrantonio’s The Cult of the Nose . This is a disturbing story that plunders the depths of obsessive madness. It demands more than one reading.
I have to admit that I found many of the stories disappointing, and the editing could have been better (for example Fossil-Figures by Joyce Carol Oates and Wildfire in Manhattan by Joanne Harris both deal with a similar subject – twins – and are clumsily presented back to back). In general there appears to be an over readiness to please Gaiman, writing the type of story that might pander to his wishes. Not the dream anthology it could have been.