Alone With the Horrors
Ramsey Campbell is perhaps the world's most decorated author of horror fiction. He has won four World Fantasy Awards, ten British Fantasy Awards, three Bram Stoker Awards, and the Horror Writers' Association's Lifetime Achievement Award. Three decades into his career, Campbell paused to review his body of short fiction and selected the stories that were, to his mind, the very best of his works. Alone With the Horrors collects nearly forty tales from the first thirty years of Campbell's writing. Included here are "In the Bag," which won the British Fantasy Award, and two World Fantasy Award-winning stories, "The Chimney" and the classic "Mackintosh Willy." Campbell crowns the book with a length preface which traces his early publication history, discusses his youthful correspondence with August Derleth, illuminates the influence of H.P. Lovecraft on his early work, and gives an account of the creation of each story and the author's personal assessment of the works' flaws and virtues.In its first publication, a decade ago, Alone With the Horrors won both the Bram Stoker Award and the World Fantasy Award. For this new edition, Campbell has added one of his very first published stories, a Lovecraftian classic, "The Tower from Yuggoth." From this early, Cthulhian tale, to later works that showcase Campbell's growing mastery of mood and character, Alone With the Horrors provides readers with a close look at a powerful writer's development of his craft.

Alone With the Horrors Details

TitleAlone With the Horrors
Author
LanguageEnglish
ReleaseMay 1st, 2004
PublisherTor Books
ISBN-139780765307675
Rating
GenreHorror, Short Stories, Fantasy, Weird Fiction, Fiction, Anthologies, Collections

Alone With the Horrors Review

  • J.G. Keely
    January 1, 1970
    Style is a curious thing in writing: the words we use, the tone of our voice, the images we create, the themes we love to explore. Every author has their own style, even though some don't realize it--indeed, it is those writers who are least aware of their style who will be dominated by its little vicissitudes.We spend our whole careers cultivating our style, improving it--and yet, style is also a crutch, a limitation. As Bruce Lee observed: the best style is no style at all--to be able to move Style is a curious thing in writing: the words we use, the tone of our voice, the images we create, the themes we love to explore. Every author has their own style, even though some don't realize it--indeed, it is those writers who are least aware of their style who will be dominated by its little vicissitudes.We spend our whole careers cultivating our style, improving it--and yet, style is also a crutch, a limitation. As Bruce Lee observed: the best style is no style at all--to be able to move fluidly, unpredictably from one moment to the next, doing precisely what is required when it is required instead of falling back on tired old habits.It is what we all would be, if we could: equal to any genre, any mood, any audience--but alas, far-flung ideals are not to be held in our meager grasp. Style develops not only through our strengths, but our weaknesses: through practice, we become increasingly aware of what we do well, and what trips us up, and we modify our style to take advantage of that.Of course, it tends to become self-fulfilling, since the more you work within your area of comfort, the more skilled and specialized you become. Many authors who distinguished themselves by turning their years of knowledge and experience onto their preferred type of story end up stumbling awkwardly when they step outside of that, and discover that their chosen voice is not universally applicable. Style is always a trap--but it's also a necessity.Campbell has the enviable reputation of being the 'greatest living horror writer', named a worthy successor to the likes of Lovecraft, Blackwood, Chambers, Bierce, Poe, and M.R. James. Certainly, he demonstrates an able pen here, but this collection is not the one to convince me that he belongs in the Pantheon of Terrors.The lead story gets a pass, since it's the first one he ever submitted for publication--a plot-free mass of explanations and worldbuilding that apes the worst of Lovecraft's style. It inspiring for any writer to see just how far Campbell has come from these early roots, that he does eventually develop the ability to tell a story, and not a bad one.However, unfortunately the key term in that compliment is 'a story'--almost all the tales in this collection could have been created by my patented Ramsey Campbell Story Generator:John is a (Writer/Literary Agent/Publisher/Editor) and he likes (Jigsaw Puzzles/Hiking). His favorite music is (Bach/Mozart/Schubert). He has no children, no wife, no girlfriend--not really any family to speak of. He just doesn't really connect with people, he prefers to be alone. His few 'friends' are jerks who he avoids, when he can. He finds people on the street threatening--especially youths--though he often finds himself watching them from his window.On the way home from work, he has to walk by a dark and dingy (Underpass/Bus Shelter/Abandoned Building/Alleyway), lit only by the (Sodium/Mercury) light of the streetlamps. He heard that someone died there, once. He finds part of a dead (Cat/Pigeon), but the next day, it isn't there. In the shadows, he hears sounds like (Armor Clinking/Rustling/Scratching).He tells himself it's 'probably (Old Papers/Bags/Rats/Birds)' making the sounds. He sees something in the shadows: a (Plastic Bag/Heap of Clothes/Pile of Trash)--at least it 'must be a (Bag/Heap/Pile)'. A little later, he realizes something is following him--probably the teens, he thinks, but no, it's something else. He tries to stay calm, but panics and runs, then slips and falls, hurting himself. He has a sudden, inexplicable revelation of just what this thing is, what's happening to him, and why.He thinks for a moment he's gotten away--but no, it's right next to him. It's a lumpy hobo shape, its body the wrong shape for a person. It's reaching for him, making moist noises. As it closes in, he's thankful he can't see its face.Now, this isn't a bad story--indeed, taken on its own, each story is perfectly good: well-written, well-structured--but that doesn't make it any more interesting to read it over a dozen times in a row with slight variations. It's almost as if Campbell is trying to refine a very specific, focused style--a one-story style, as we develop in the process of drafting and editing: ever focusing, tightening, improving--this collection provides an apt example for why we don't include all our early drafts alongside the final copy.Now, there are a few stories that stand out, but not always in good ways. There is precisely one female narrator in the collection, but it's still the same story, just with a perspective shift: we still have our standard Campbell Protagonist, while the woman narrator seems to be one of his various jerk friends.Tellingly, the woman is alone, like all of Campbell's narrators, but unlike the men, she doesn't prefer it that way, instead falling into the tired role of the old maid, desperate to make a connection, but too afraid to do so. She's also the only narrator allowed to survive, in the end--women are too delicate to kill off.Otherwise, the women in the stories stick close to archetypes: they are either mother figures, nagging wives, sex objects, or witches. While the default villains are men (even when inhuman, they take the shapes of male hobos), the female villains are all witches. Additionally, while the male threats seem to be evil and powerful unto themselves, the witches are portrayed as secondary, having power only through sexual relationships to men, a la the old 'Bride of Satan' trope, they are not evil objects themselves, but merely its subjects.There are some cute novelties in the collection: an evil hack author, an evil story collection editor, an evil vacation slide show--which do help those individual stories stand out a bit more.The oddest thing is that the last two stories in the collection are completely different from everything that came before: experimental, unpredictable, unusual--with variance in voice and tone that are estimable. To end such a repetitive book on an incongruous change felt almost like a punchline--though what the joke might be, I couldn't say.Whatever it was that woke Campbell from his literary slumber, it should remind all of us of the necessity of being shaken up, driven from safe pastures and forced to fend for ourselves for a bit, to figure things out all over again. We never know when these moments will come, or where they will come from, but that is the other side of the coin when we are developing a style: first we labor narrowly, focus, recreate, rehash, perfect--and then we must be thrust outside of that, forced to come to terms again, lest we grow too complacent, too narrow in our view, too satisfied with what we have.Whether Campbell deserves his laurels, this collection is not fit to demonstrate, but the fact that it does demonstrate growth is a good sign--I only wish the thing had been edited down more effectively--hitting the high points and leaving out the in-betweens, as a 'best of' collection should.
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  • Andy
    January 1, 1970
    Not every story here is a masterpiece, but a few are, and there's enough good ones to make this one of the better horror story collections I've read.I love Campbell's style, he's one of the few writers who still occasionally creeps me out. Some of these are really viscerally unsettling, like "The Brood" or "The Interloper" for example. Others like "The End of a Summer's Day" lingered in my mind and only hit me a little later while I was lying in bed, and kept me up for some time after. Meanwhile Not every story here is a masterpiece, but a few are, and there's enough good ones to make this one of the better horror story collections I've read.I love Campbell's style, he's one of the few writers who still occasionally creeps me out. Some of these are really viscerally unsettling, like "The Brood" or "The Interloper" for example. Others like "The End of a Summer's Day" lingered in my mind and only hit me a little later while I was lying in bed, and kept me up for some time after. Meanwhile, "The Voice of the Beach" isn't exactly a terrifying story, but it has to be one of the best, most skillfully written horror stories of any era.That said I really don't think Campbell's writing style is suited to everyone, like Ligotti, you either "get" him or you don't (probably even more true in Ligotti's case.) Also this is a collection I'd recommend reading over time, Campbell's writing definitely has certain tropes which recur. There's certainly a share of duds here, and a lot of the more surreal, over-stylized later stories aren't to my taste.There's 37 stories here, I'm just going to give a quick review of my favorites...Cold Print - This is one I read some years ago, this story brings Lovecraft into a gritty, seedy urban landscape.The Interloper - I read this one about a year ago, and at first I thought it had some creepy moments, but felt a bit rushed. Still though, it definitely left an impression and was one of only a handful here that genuinely creeped me out. Two school friends wander into an underground catacombs full of spider webs and a horrible beast. The End of a Summer's Day - This story really creeped me out later when I thought about it. A newlywed couple are taking a guided tour of a cave when the guide turns out the light for a minute. When he turns it back on her husband has been replaced by a stumbling blind man.The Companion - Stephen King loves it, that's gotta mean something right? This is another good creepy one, this one has a great, very scary ending I thought, it really holds it's punches until then, building effectively. A man interested in old fairgrounds explores one and starts seeing the ghosts of his dead parents in the distance, and reliving childhood fears.Call First - This is one I read years ago, it's a fairly basic horror story, but effective. A man who works in a library is curious why an old man always calls his house before he returns home.Baby - This was a good one, gritty urban horror, great generation of atmosphere. The horror elements are kept rather vague and unpredictable, it's more subtle and effective by holding it's punches until the end too. A bum decides to kill an old woman who lives below him and pushes a baby carriage around, and is rumored to be a witch. The Chimney - This is a very creepy story, one of the best non-Lovecraftian Campbell stories I've read. The end is a little vague, but I like it. A timid boy fears something lurks in his bedroom chimney. He is told about Santa and fears the idea, but knows he will have to face the presence eventually. The Brood - THIS is one of the scariest stories I've ever read by anyone. If you only read one story by Ramsey Campbell, let it be this one. It’s powerful, atmospheric, absolutely skin-crawl-inducing and I just enjoy it beginning to end. A man notes a crazy, sinister old woman who wanders the street in front of his apartment and seems to be collecting animals and taking them into her dilapidated old house across the street. The Voice of the Beach - I read this several years ago and still consider it Campbell's best Lovecraftian work. It's very subtle in how it transitions us from a pretty bland situation to one of somehow utterly believable otherworldly weirdness. Two friends vacation in a seaside cottage and discover the ruins of a city, and an old diary. One of the men becomes obsessed, or perhaps possessed by a presence of the beach.Out of Copyright - This story is both creepy and utterly hilarious. A horror anthologist tries to take credit for re-publishing the wrong author and finds himself plagued by a dusty presence.The Show Goes On - This was Campbell at his best, this is the type of story/setting where his creepy touches and details really work to create a supreme atmosphere of dread. One of the best in the book. A man suspects thieves are able to enter his shop at night through a storeroom connected to a long-shuttered theater nextdoor. He spends the night and explores the creepy old place. Hearing Is Believing - This was a VERY weird story, I actually liked this one a lot more than many other stories in here which I would say are probably better stories, but something about this one really appeals to me; the wet, the decay. A man hears a strange, rainy, dripping broadcast on his radio where two people are pursued by something, which starts to parallel his own life. The Hands - Very strange story, I don't know exactly what happened here, and normally I don't like stories that leave this much vagueness, but this one has a great creepy atmosphere and also enough creepy imagery to keep the reader interested. A man stranded in a strange small town finds himself lost in a giant, seemingly endless building, with horrors behind every door. Again - This felt like good, old-fashioned "Tale From the Crypt" type horror; suspenseful, gross, not trying to be overly original but it's very impressive. A man enters the window of a house to let the old woman in who owns it and has forgotten her key, but while trying to open the door he discovers increasingly creepy things. Old Clothes - This was a great story, I really love the concept here and I thought it was well-executed and creepy. A man hired to clean out an old spiritualists' house takes a raincoat and starts discovering things which are somehow transported to the pockets. The Other Side - Great story here, this one has a neat "Rear Window" feel to it that works very well, the atmosphere of urban decay is well-done and it's got a creepy clown in it, what more can you ask for? A teacher observes a figure dancing in a burning building through his binoculars, and continues to see it attacking people near the ruins after dark. There's other stories with good, original ideas in them. Stories like "Where the Heart Is" about a man who loses his memory as his old house is remodeled, or "Boiled Alive" about a man who finds himself living in the horror film that his phone number was featured in -- good ideas, but I didn't think they were as effective ultimately as the others.
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  • Bandit
    January 1, 1970
    This was a book I really wanted to like. Up to now I've had very mixed experiences with Campbell's work. I really liked Ancient Images, although more so for the subject matter than the execution. Overnight and Secret Story were just ok, never great, and the short stories of his that I read varied in quality. With this volume I think maybe now I have read enough Campbell to make up my mind. This volume was for the most part an excruciatingly tedious read. Great Short Fiction...I don't think so. T This was a book I really wanted to like. Up to now I've had very mixed experiences with Campbell's work. I really liked Ancient Images, although more so for the subject matter than the execution. Overnight and Secret Story were just ok, never great, and the short stories of his that I read varied in quality. With this volume I think maybe now I have read enough Campbell to make up my mind. This volume was for the most part an excruciatingly tedious read. Great Short Fiction...I don't think so. The stories go in chronological order and as such the reader can definitely easily observe Campbell's progress as a writer. The earlier works, about the first third of the book, ranged from dull to insipid to soporific. At this point I've put the book down and read a different, better book, but, alas, my OCD and/or overwhelming need to complete the book once started, has led me to pick up this snoozefest once more and persevere. This time I've read it to finish. The later stories did improve significantly in plots and quality, but (with very few exceptions) they never seem to capture that sense of awe that Campbell speaks of in his foreword to the book. I'll give him this...Ramsey Campbell is the king of bleak, the master of dreary. He sticks to his guns never once lowering himself to using gore or sex to cheapen his work (according to him that is, personally I think there is time and place for those things in books). He often doesn't bother providing any explanations for the horrors he writes about, which is a conscious and deliberate choice of his (according yet again to foreword), but to me just seems lazy. More importantly he doesn't seem to bother with creating likable or sympathetic characters, so how is the reader to care about what happens to them. He writes well of tedium and banality of life, he has plenty of original ideas of making everyday things horrific or finding the horror in everyday things, but essentially it is almost always tales of unpleasant things happening to unpleasant individuals and told from such a distance that it never fails to come across as overwhelmingly unengaging. Campbell's obviously been inspired by works of classic horror, Machen, James, etc., he stick to his guns on writing subtle insidious gore free tales, but they lack, quite consistently, and, more tragically, bore. There is a thing with the endings too. Having read the entire collection of his short fiction, it is easy to see how incredibly formulaic his endings are, which is quite disappointing to see from someone who obviously has the imagination to do better. Again, all that's been said in this review doesn't apply to every single story in this book (although aspects of it do, unfailingly so), there are some exceptions, some genuinely scary pieces, some stories where disturbing factor wins over the tedium, but as a general impression of the whole, this book bored me, occasionally annoyed me and took up much too much of my time having offer barely any entertainment and enjoyment in return. Moreover, it has disappointed me and probably put me off reading the author's work for a while. So, in fact, it did the opposite of what a good book is suppose to do and therefore can't be recommended.
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  • Lauren
    January 1, 1970
    I feel somewhat redundant reviewing Ramsey Campbell. The horror field has spoken: he’s a genius, especially in his short fiction, and he excels at mixing creeping dread with the mundane. I even knew this already, since I’d read a smattering of his short stories and a handful of novels, but since I didn’t get the full effect before reading Alone with the Horrors (a thoughtful early All Hallow’s Read gift from my sister), I’ll risk a full, if obvious, review.Firstly, this is a genuinely excellent I feel somewhat redundant reviewing Ramsey Campbell. The horror field has spoken: he’s a genius, especially in his short fiction, and he excels at mixing creeping dread with the mundane. I even knew this already, since I’d read a smattering of his short stories and a handful of novels, but since I didn’t get the full effect before reading Alone with the Horrors (a thoughtful early All Hallow’s Read gift from my sister), I’ll risk a full, if obvious, review.Firstly, this is a genuinely excellent collection of horror short stories.Secondly, this is not going to work for everyone. Not because naysayers will be intimidated by Campbell’s sheer excellence—this isn’t a snide second point—or because I think Campbell’s smart and people who don’t like him are therefore stupid, but because Campbell has a slightly detached, bloodless view of his situations and characters. The overall feeling is somewhat chilly. Oftentimes, I think this works in the stories’ favor, but it’s true that it isn’t always an effect that I care for, nor one that’s universally loved, workable or not.I’ll even add the additional caveat that since this is a fairly large collection of fairly short stories, there’s some repetition of themes and imagery throughout—unsurprisingly, since it covers a large section of Campbell’s career and all writers have their particular and distinct preoccupations, especially when it comes to writing about fear—that may mean that this book will work better if you don’t try to read it all at once. Take a break between stories and come back refreshed.Broad praise and caveats out of the way, I want to focus on just a few stories that I thought were particularly terrifying and/or amazing.“The End of a Summer’s Day” is part of a horror subgenre that I think is really horror-tragedy, where a vulnerable woman without much confidence in herself goes into a cave with her new husband and loses something that belongs to her and gains something that doesn’t—at least, she’s fairly sure that’s what happens. Campbell cultivates great ambiguity, here and elsewhere, and it rarely feels manipulative or uncertain, as if he’s pulling the supernatural out of a bag and shrugging at it. Rather, it’s the ambiguity that stems from the very real mystery of the unknown, both causal and interpretative.“The Man in the Underpass” is one of the most effective pieces, rooting a very old terror in a very ordinary location—some graffiti in an underpass. I love how the mythic feel increases even as the story stays grounded in prosaic details, like the “red paint” on the lights, and I love the children here, in all their naïve knowingness. It also has a terrific punch of an ending. Campbell’s good at endings in general, but a lot of these stories follow similar patterns in that area, and “The Man in the Underpass” takes a slightly different approach, making it all the more valuable.“The Chimney” pairs with “Just Waiting” for two stories where fears and wishes combine with uneasy, poisonous effects in the minds of two separate children. They’re also among the scariest stories, with the grubbily menacing idea of Santa Claus in “The Chimney” and the haunting “feed me a wish” in “Just Waiting.”“The Voice of the Beach” is the perfect antidote to Campbell’s serviceable-but-dull Lovecraft pastiche that opens the collection (it’s good to know where he comes from, but it’s a slow start to an otherwise great set of stories): cosmic horror themes in that grounded, dispassionate documentary prose. I’ve always liked horror based in the idea that even noticing something is enough to get it to notice you back, until you trip and slide into insanity—Lovecraftian madness, no less—and it’s done brilliantly here. You probably shouldn’t read it if you’re going to a beach anytime soon.“The Fit” and “Apples” also pair well together—both stories centered around supernatural revenge, but with audience sympathies askew because the dead were unlovely people to begin with. Again, as always, Campbell does a marvelous job pairing the ghostly with real world details such as clothes and rotten fruit: even before the supernatural comes into “The Fit,” the reader is already uneasy from the dresses made with human hair woven into the fabric.Finally, “Another World” is almost uncomfortably bleak, a story of a man so rooted in his father’s obsessive religious fixations—which included washing all their food with disinfectant and refusing to allow his son out of the house—that he is too broken to cope with the outside world. I said before that Campbell only rarely seems to try for the reader’s sympathy, either for his “good” or “bad” characters, but I think this qualifies as an exception, if only because the circumstances are so terribly and (unfortunately) realistically desperate.In it’s own way, the history of Ramsey Campbell’s career, as represented here, is the history of horror short stories at large: from Lovecraftian imitation to stories that place the ghosts and monsters in the ordinary (and often low-rent) neighborhoods, from there to stories that deal with how those horrors spring from and interact with real life horrors, then a side-track to experiment with Lovecraft on our own terms, then on to weird fiction, genre-blurring, trope revisions, etc. These stories aren’t fun—they’re bleak and icy, unlikable almost—but they are necessary. And, as I said before, brilliant.
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  • Marvin
    January 1, 1970
    This definitive collection deserves at least three stars for it extensive retrospective of 30 years of Ramsey Campbell's short fiction. It collects 35 of his best including all of an earlier anthology titled Dark Feasts. It is the perfect collection to discover and assess Campbell's literary output.But that's not an easy thing to do. While Campbell can be a eerie but effective writer, he is also a bit frustrating. At his best, he can evoke a form of urban unease. He may be one of the first horro This definitive collection deserves at least three stars for it extensive retrospective of 30 years of Ramsey Campbell's short fiction. It collects 35 of his best including all of an earlier anthology titled Dark Feasts. It is the perfect collection to discover and assess Campbell's literary output.But that's not an easy thing to do. While Campbell can be a eerie but effective writer, he is also a bit frustrating. At his best, he can evoke a form of urban unease. He may be one of the first horror writers in which the term Urban Fantasy may fit but it is a totally different type of urban fantasy from the kind we are used to now. Campbell combines urban blight, suburban malaise, and the post-modern socio-psychological angst and combines it with psychological and supernatural horror. His first writings were Lovecraft imitations but he then became adept at mixing the Lovecraftian horrors with everyday British family and culture. It's a nice mix when it works.But that's the problem. It often doesn't. The author's style can be obtuse and over-introverted. His descriptions can be mangled and he sometimes stops the action with a bevy of descriptive phrases. The average horror readers raised on King and McCammon will find his tales too introverted. However those who like their horror to be atmospheric and implied will find much to like. Campbell is clearly an acquired taste.So I can recommend this as a good introduction to Campbell. If you enjoy these stories I would recommend you read one of his novels. I greatly prefer his longer fiction. I'm going to call this one at three and a half stars.
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  • Kevin Lucia
    January 1, 1970
    So this, of course, was absolutely fantastic. I discovered Ramsey Campbell around the same time as T. M. Wright, Charles Grant and Al Sarrantonio, and it's not hyperbole to say these writers shaped and molded me and re-mapped my brain when it came to writing horror. What's so powerful about Ramsey's work is the subtle dread it inspires, and how achingly human his protagonists - and victims - are. Even in the stories featuring supernatural phenomena, the protagonists often fall victim to their ow So this, of course, was absolutely fantastic. I discovered Ramsey Campbell around the same time as T. M. Wright, Charles Grant and Al Sarrantonio, and it's not hyperbole to say these writers shaped and molded me and re-mapped my brain when it came to writing horror. What's so powerful about Ramsey's work is the subtle dread it inspires, and how achingly human his protagonists - and victims - are. Even in the stories featuring supernatural phenomena, the protagonists often fall victim to their own frailties, they are their own worst enemies. And the slight TWIST that slips Ramsey's stories from the mundane into the ethereal is so slight, if you're not paying attention, you might just miss it.There's a reason the OED lists Ramsey as the "greatest living British horror writer," and this is it.
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  • Jim Smith
    January 1, 1970
    Campbell is an amazing writer of short horror tales, and many of his finest tales are included here –my favourite being the unforgettable 'The End of a Summer's Day' from his masterful Demons by Daylight book.
  • Jeremy
    January 1, 1970
    Only five stories really pierced me out of the thirty-seven(!) included here: "Mackintosh Willy", "The Tower from Yuggoth", "The Man in the Underpass", "Again", and "Apples". Those fiendish stories are worthy of a "Great" story collection.
  • Shane
    January 1, 1970
    I'm not putting this on hiatus(turns out I lied and have put it on my hiatus pile anyway), even though I've only got half way through, for the simple reason it'll be there forever. I've a tendency to do that with anthologies and collections. I'll read a few stories then put it to one side for years, and I'll happily do this with anthology after anthology and collection after collection until it comes full circle and I pick up one I put down years earlier, whereupon I'll proceed to read a few mor I'm not putting this on hiatus(turns out I lied and have put it on my hiatus pile anyway), even though I've only got half way through, for the simple reason it'll be there forever. I've a tendency to do that with anthologies and collections. I'll read a few stories then put it to one side for years, and I'll happily do this with anthology after anthology and collection after collection until it comes full circle and I pick up one I put down years earlier, whereupon I'll proceed to read a few more stories before starting the whole cycle again.Anyway, I got about 40% into this before getting distracted enough to have to give up getting it renewed and take it back to the library. It's collected in date order, so I probably only reached the mid seventies I think, but what I read was good enough to hold my interest and I recognize a couple of other stories from later in the collection that I've read previously and loved('Down There' in particular is worth hunting out a copy for if nothing else). I suspect this would have turned out to be a 4 star collection had I not been diverted by Richard Laymon novels.This isn't generally considered to be his best collection as far as I can tell so I'll no doubt dive into a couple of other collections by Mr Ramsey Campbell before too long. I'd still recommend dipping into it, especially if you're a little less likely to be as easily distracted as I tend to be.Go for it. I liked what I saw.
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  • Nancy Oakes
    January 1, 1970
    Ramsey Campbell is one of my favorite horror writers, because, for the most part, he writes horror that is cerebral -- much like Lovecraft, this man has the ability to set the scene and build up the feelings of horror in the pit of your stomach, then leave it all to the reader to figure out what's just happened or is going to happen next. I bought this one because of the Lovecraft influence on some of Campbell's stories and was not at all disappointed. However, beyond Lovecraft's influence, Camp Ramsey Campbell is one of my favorite horror writers, because, for the most part, he writes horror that is cerebral -- much like Lovecraft, this man has the ability to set the scene and build up the feelings of horror in the pit of your stomach, then leave it all to the reader to figure out what's just happened or is going to happen next. I bought this one because of the Lovecraft influence on some of Campbell's stories and was not at all disappointed. However, beyond Lovecraft's influence, Campbell has a wonderful style all his own which will leave you wanting more at the end of most of these stories. I didn't like a couple of these, but you know, when you have an anthology, you can't expect to like each and every story between the covers. However, if you want a good sampling of Campbell's work, then this is definitely the book to start with before you branch out (and you will...this man is a genius).There are 37 stories here so I can't possibly comment on all of them. Suffice it to say that I definitely recommend this for those who like to think about what they're reading as far as horror goes; if you are into the slasher/guts/gore crap then you may find this one tame.
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  • Emma Audsley
    January 1, 1970
    One of my favourite anthologies within the horror genre. Recommended highly to fans of horror, suspense & terror!
  • T.A.
    January 1, 1970
    I've been reading this over the course of the year, sometimes two or three stories at a time. Sometimes there'd be a good four weeks between reading. Considering this collection spans Campbell's career from his early work until 1991, I thought taking some time to digest it would be a good move. There's some substantial changes alongside themes which span the covers. The majority of the stories pay their way, offering a kind of chill that is characteristic of Campbell's writing. Ramsey Campbell s I've been reading this over the course of the year, sometimes two or three stories at a time. Sometimes there'd be a good four weeks between reading. Considering this collection spans Campbell's career from his early work until 1991, I thought taking some time to digest it would be a good move. There's some substantial changes alongside themes which span the covers. The majority of the stories pay their way, offering a kind of chill that is characteristic of Campbell's writing. Ramsey Campbell stands in the tradition of the great English ghost story, and much of his work fall well within that geneology. Few characters, single locations and an unwelcome intrusion of the uncanny are the elements for this kind of story. Which isn't to say he is churning out formula works, it's always clear these are Ramsey Campbell versions of English ghost stories. In later years he would slide more toward cosmic horror of the Lovecraft/Derleth school. The best, or at least the truly unsettling stories, belong somewhere between the two influences. Occasionally he takes stabs at "modern" problems, some of which feel a bit dated and hard to judge. These stories feel like barely masked editorials or morality plays. Even so, there is always an interesting character at the heart of it all. Childhood is the dominant theme in all of these stories. There are a handful which don't dwell or refer to childhood in some way. Whether a recollection of horrors experienced in childhood or an examination of the horrors of childhood, it's clear that young people are the key to Campbell's bevy of nightmares. At times I found this a little limiting and hoped for a point-of-view that was more worldly. When the grown-ups came back I enjoyed it all the more knowing that they wouldn't be around for long. A Children of the Corn-type scenario. Anyway, ti's not cutting-edge stuff, but it is a solid look at the development of one writer's approach to short fiction. Alongside that, it's a chronicle of how the things that frighten us have changed over the years. Fans of short fiction in particular will enjoy the discipline and craftsmanship apparent in the strongest pieces in the book. The best selections push aside the many years that have passed since they were written and offer a sharp insight into shadows that will linger as long as there is light in the sky.
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  • Martin Mcgoey
    January 1, 1970
    This book was one of the longest, most tedious reads I've encountered in quite some time. It was certainly one of the worst collections of short stories I've ever read. Really it's only saving grace is that Campbell seems to have come up with an effective formula for his fiction: a guy with a sketchy and mysterious past finds himself becoming increasingly isolated throughout the story and encounters terror along the way before facing a disturbing realization. Obviously Campbell's a huge fan of L This book was one of the longest, most tedious reads I've encountered in quite some time. It was certainly one of the worst collections of short stories I've ever read. Really it's only saving grace is that Campbell seems to have come up with an effective formula for his fiction: a guy with a sketchy and mysterious past finds himself becoming increasingly isolated throughout the story and encounters terror along the way before facing a disturbing realization. Obviously Campbell's a huge fan of Lovecraft in this respect, but whereas Lovecraft's fiction creates atmosphere and has a sense of continuity, Campbell tries to cram it all into stories that are seldom more than 10 pages. That's quite a lot to ask of any author. I feel like Campbell's formula works for a few of the stories, which is why I'm not giving this one star. He clearly has a talent for prose as well. But the formula isn't fun to read over, and over, and over, and over. I first came across Campbell's fiction in another anthology and enjoyed it because I didn't go through it 37 times. What a bunch of crap. Hands down, one of the worst horror collections I've ever read. For all the acclaim he's gotten, I feel as if there's something I genuinely don't understand about this guy's work.
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  • Alessandro
    January 1, 1970
    Horror fiction works when it manages to provoke an emotional response. Something needs to jump out of the pages and affect the reader emotionally in some way. That's all. Horror fiction don't need elaborate conclusions or morals. These tales don't need elaborate characters or context. It succeeds when it evokes an atmosphere of dread. Ramsey Campbell's Alone with the Horrors compiles some horror short fictions of the aforementioned author. It doesn't pretend to collect his best works but to orde Horror fiction works when it manages to provoke an emotional response. Something needs to jump out of the pages and affect the reader emotionally in some way. That's all. Horror fiction don't need elaborate conclusions or morals. These tales don't need elaborate characters or context. It succeeds when it evokes an atmosphere of dread. Ramsey Campbell's Alone with the Horrors compiles some horror short fictions of the aforementioned author. It doesn't pretend to collect his best works but to order some of them chronologically. His early tales are badly written lovecraftian fan fiction. They are not good at all. Later, Ramsey then graduates into writing stories that would feel right at home in sunday mid-afternoon 90's TV shows like Tales of the Crypt or Goosebumps. Eventually, he manages to compose excellent tales like Voice of the Beach or Down There.Don't read this collection pinning for awesome horror tales. You will find some. But most of them will fall short. Read it to observe how Ramsey Campbell's writing evolved. You might even learn from his mistakes if you are interested in writing your own short stories.
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  • DeAnna Knippling
    January 1, 1970
    An amazing view of thirty years of short stories, and watching Mr. Ramsey's style and skills develop. I think, however, if you're looking for the monster that jumps out at you and says, "Boo!" this is not the collection for you. Almost every story is driven by the reader's slow realization of what's going on, on a fictional level, and what the author's really talking about--which means that some stories you're left with questions, and other stories feel a little flat, depending on whether you ha An amazing view of thirty years of short stories, and watching Mr. Ramsey's style and skills develop. I think, however, if you're looking for the monster that jumps out at you and says, "Boo!" this is not the collection for you. Almost every story is driven by the reader's slow realization of what's going on, on a fictional level, and what the author's really talking about--which means that some stories you're left with questions, and other stories feel a little flat, depending on whether you have the realization at the perfect moment or not. Mostly I did.Favorite: "The Other Side." I picked up on this one almost immediately and could see how it was probably going to play out, and yet I found it the most moving of the stories.
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  • Dan Kelly
    January 1, 1970
    Campbell is certainly one of the best horror writers out there, though I think I would have been more impressed by his prose when I was younger. I'm not sure why I never read him before. Stephen King's praise in Danse Macabre tip the scale for me. The earlier stuff is all right, if thin; and being heir to Lovecraft doesn't seem like such a high offic these days. Still, the stories toward the end of the book are gripping and genuinely creeptastic. "Again" made me say "Yeaggh!" out loud on the tra Campbell is certainly one of the best horror writers out there, though I think I would have been more impressed by his prose when I was younger. I'm not sure why I never read him before. Stephen King's praise in Danse Macabre tip the scale for me. The earlier stuff is all right, if thin; and being heir to Lovecraft doesn't seem like such a high offic these days. Still, the stories toward the end of the book are gripping and genuinely creeptastic. "Again" made me say "Yeaggh!" out loud on the train. "Boiled Alive" was delightfully meta AND disturbing. Campbell has a knack for creating monsters as well. We're not scared of vampires and werewolves anymore, but masked noodlemen and stench-ridden gingerbread mansters can put the fix on you. Bravo.
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  • Mike Driver
    January 1, 1970
    An excellent collection that captures the cream of his short stories, from his early 1960's Lovecraftian efforts right through the dystopian territory he made his own around the streets and urban wastelands of Liverpool. My personal favourites include; The Guy, In The Bag, the Chimney and Mackintosh Willy, but you could pretty much choose anything here and be satisfied with what you get.No one shows the bleak streets of Britain with all their pathos, humour and deep seated fears any better than An excellent collection that captures the cream of his short stories, from his early 1960's Lovecraftian efforts right through the dystopian territory he made his own around the streets and urban wastelands of Liverpool. My personal favourites include; The Guy, In The Bag, the Chimney and Mackintosh Willy, but you could pretty much choose anything here and be satisfied with what you get.No one shows the bleak streets of Britain with all their pathos, humour and deep seated fears any better than Ramsey Campbell. He should be placed in a chamber of his own choosing and declared a National Treasure. The campaign starts here.
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  • Claudia Piña
    January 1, 1970
    Ramsey Campbell me recuerda a esos profesores pedantes pero cool que hablan como si siempre tuvieran la razón... porque la tienen. Y éste libro es como tener un álbum de su etapa emo de la adolescencia.
  • Gary
    January 1, 1970
    Superb. A definitive collection from the best horror writer the world has ever seen.
  • Chris
    January 1, 1970
    Some seriously scary short stories in here, folks. Not the kind of thing you want to be reading right before bed.
  • David Stephens
    January 1, 1970
    If you're looking to trace the trajectory of Ramsey Campbell's career, you might enjoy this collection. It contains thirty seven short stories that he wrote over three decades. The first third or so show his indebtedness to Lovecraft. In fact, the opening story imitates one of Lovecraft's tales so thoroughly, Campbell might as well have just slapped his name on one of Lovecraft's writings; though, perhaps this can be forgiven seeing as how Campbell was only fifteen when the story was first publi If you're looking to trace the trajectory of Ramsey Campbell's career, you might enjoy this collection. It contains thirty seven short stories that he wrote over three decades. The first third or so show his indebtedness to Lovecraft. In fact, the opening story imitates one of Lovecraft's tales so thoroughly, Campbell might as well have just slapped his name on one of Lovecraft's writings; though, perhaps this can be forgiven seeing as how Campbell was only fifteen when the story was first published. These early stories show promise but are underdeveloped and tend to be a bit too predictable overall. The middle third become more noticeably psychological; there are still some whiffs of eldritch terror, but by this point Campbell has managed to create his own style. The final third are more akin to Robert Aickman's strange tales in that they are bizarre and off putting but still obscure. That is, readers can follow the story but may have a hard time attributing a clear cut message to them.For as talented and creative a writer as I think Campbell is—there are some borderline classics here—I have the same problem with his writing that many others do: it's often just too vague. This problem became apparent to me with stories like "The Show Goes On" and "The Hands." They both contain gripping psychological aspects—a man trying to live up to his father's expectations while running a family store and a nontheistic man fearing he may have already been condemned to hell—but Campbell spends so much time fumbling around in the dark, allowing his protagonists to spot what must be a dark figure off in the distance only to find out it's nothing more than a pile of clothes that by the time they get to their creepy endings I've mostly lost interest.I'm all for ambiguity in stories. I even agree with Campbell's own statement that too many horror tales are "weighed down by explanation," but I still feel that stories like these need some kind of framework before the writer begins questioning what is real and what is imagined, and in many cases here, that framework is missing.Perhaps, I should have stuck to a handful of Campbell's best writing rather than an overview of his work because by the end of this collection, his tropes and formulas had worn pretty thin.
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  • Richard Schaefer
    January 1, 1970
    Truly great stories from an excellent writer. Many are genuinely creepy and most are exceptionally written. Campbell is a caliber of writer that transcends the horror genre (though all of these stories are horror, wonderfully so); you can read his stories to learn about short story craft in any genre. You will see recurring themes and archetypes (characters lost in endless hallways or shadowy alleys, locked in houses or lost in the woods; main characters who are writers, mean spirited teachers, Truly great stories from an excellent writer. Many are genuinely creepy and most are exceptionally written. Campbell is a caliber of writer that transcends the horror genre (though all of these stories are horror, wonderfully so); you can read his stories to learn about short story craft in any genre. You will see recurring themes and archetypes (characters lost in endless hallways or shadowy alleys, locked in houses or lost in the woods; main characters who are writers, mean spirited teachers, or editors), but this never bothered me, because the stories themselves always bring some unique twist to the type.The introduction, by Campbell himself, provides insight into his mind and into each specific story, and the first two stories are “early” stories in a more transparently Lovecraftian vein than his later work (Lovecraft never stops being an influence, but, after these early attempts, few of the stories would be considered part of the Lovecraft Mythos). The majority of the stories focus on more contemporary, quiet horrors, more terrifying for their implications than for explicit gore (Campbell is a writer who values nuance and subtlety, and it pays off in more lingering horror).If you are a fan of horror or a fan of the short story, I highly recommend this collection as an overview of a great writer.
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  • Matthew S
    January 1, 1970
    I had heard many good things about Ramsey Campbell as an author and decided to check this book out. Stories like "The End of a Summers Day" "The Brood" and "Mackintosh Willy" succeed in creating a strong unnerving atmosphere and images that stick with you after the story is over. I also like the introduction by the author. It shows a great sense of humor and self awareness that made me chuckle a little, especially when Campbell was critiquing his earlier stories. The problem is that many of the I had heard many good things about Ramsey Campbell as an author and decided to check this book out. Stories like "The End of a Summers Day" "The Brood" and "Mackintosh Willy" succeed in creating a strong unnerving atmosphere and images that stick with you after the story is over. I also like the introduction by the author. It shows a great sense of humor and self awareness that made me chuckle a little, especially when Campbell was critiquing his earlier stories. The problem is that many of the stories start to run together, especially if you're like me and you read the book in one sitting. Many feature introverted protagonists who live in a dirty London setting and work in writing or the publishing industry. They are usually scared of teenagers or hooligans of some kind. They wander around for a bit and meet something supernatural at the end. A typical ending for a story in this collection would be "This scary thing is going to kill me, but I'm glad I can't see its face."Overall: It's a mostly average collection with several gems, but I would recommend reading a few stories, taking a break, and coming back to it later to avoid it becoming repetitive.
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  • Christopher
    January 1, 1970
    Being a rather large survey of independent short stories from Campbell's career, its a bit of a mixed bag. All of them build atmosphere and setting perfectly and absorbingly. Quite a few of them, however, do nothing else and so the build is kind of for nothing. The stories that are fully fleshed out though are truly masterfully crafted. The most notable of which come to mind as:Cold Print, The Man in the Underpass, Call First, Baby, The Chimney, The Brood, The Voice of the Beach, The Hands, Agai Being a rather large survey of independent short stories from Campbell's career, its a bit of a mixed bag. All of them build atmosphere and setting perfectly and absorbingly. Quite a few of them, however, do nothing else and so the build is kind of for nothing. The stories that are fully fleshed out though are truly masterfully crafted. The most notable of which come to mind as:Cold Print, The Man in the Underpass, Call First, Baby, The Chimney, The Brood, The Voice of the Beach, The Hands, Again, and Boiled Alive. These stories would all get straight 5's by my reckoning.
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  • Richard
    January 1, 1970
    Rating a short story collection is always a little fraught, as I really liked some stories (Mackintosh Willy) and others left me underwhelmed (Cold Print). Also, several of the stories are variations on the same trick of pacing into a horrifying swerve. Like any time you see the same trick done a dozen different ways, sometimes you'll see the sleight. Don't mistake me though, this is a highly enjoyable collection of creepy tales, and, taken in bits, allows the reader to wallow a bit in Campbell' Rating a short story collection is always a little fraught, as I really liked some stories (Mackintosh Willy) and others left me underwhelmed (Cold Print). Also, several of the stories are variations on the same trick of pacing into a horrifying swerve. Like any time you see the same trick done a dozen different ways, sometimes you'll see the sleight. Don't mistake me though, this is a highly enjoyable collection of creepy tales, and, taken in bits, allows the reader to wallow a bit in Campbell's rich descriptions of tawdry people.
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  • Nickvlad
    January 1, 1970
    I don't get itI enjoyed very few of these stories. Most of the protagonists were unlikeable, their responses to their situations didn't make sense, and the endings rarely finished the story. Just kind of left you trying to figure out what happened. Nothing in this volume was good enough to make me want to read it a second time.
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  • Brett Grossmann
    January 1, 1970
    It’s a lot. It’s also written in a foreign tongue called English. Haha. It’s all very proper and such. A lot of the older work can be very dry and have a lot of build up. It took me a long time to get thru. It’s well written. It’s just can be tough getting into his rhythm.
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  • Catherine
    January 1, 1970
    A collection of short stories, not really scary.
  • Ben Fitts
    January 1, 1970
    I really tried to love this collection, but I just wasn’t able to connect with it.
  • Father Longlegs
    January 1, 1970
    CANNOT get enough Ramsey Campbell in my life!!!! His stories are scary, depressing, and entertaining all in one.
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