If you love spellbound, creepy tales of unbound terror and dread that comes from the soul, do not miss Lebbon's collection put together here in "White & Other Tales of Ruin." This is the first book of Lebbon I have read, and believe me I am running to the bookshelves for more.
His monsters are typically unseen but felt deep within your senses, rousing your inner level of safety to an alarming state of anxiety and trepidation. The prose is poetic in its telling of what the protagonists feel and taste and smell and see, the dialogue flowing and smooth, and the terror huge and real.
With a wonderful introduction by author Jack Ketchum, he mentions that Lebbon's stories have "teeth", and indeed they do; trust me, you will feel the bite. Also notable to me was the use of Caniglia's "On The Edge Of Paradise" artwork used for the jacket cover, and preceding each story is another horrendously beautiful sketch of Caniglia, whom I think is one of the most talented modern day artists.
There are six tales here in this collection, and I will give a brief summary of each.
White - Some people called it "The Doom", others called it "The Ruin", but either way it spelled a change in the world as we know it. Seven people find themselves trapped in a large manor house, each having initially gone there to get away from the haunts of their past. When the snow came, it didn't stop, and now everything is completely frozen, as the snow piles up higher and higher. There is no working transportation to take them back to the town 10 miles away, so they wait for the snow to stop.
Tension grows as one by one, each admit to having seen something in the snow; a deer perhaps, or a seagull or a cat, flitting just outside their peripheral vision. The only thing they know for sure, is that it's white. The story begins with the first death, and will lead us through to the conclusion, with the things that dart and flutter just outside our vision.
From Bad Flesh - One of my favorites. After The Ruin, diseases of different sorts are spread throughout the world, with names like Numb-Skull, TGD, and QS. Our protagonist Gabe has what is just referred to as The Sickness, and his friend Della tells him of a man named String who lives on the island of Malakki near Greece who could possibly have a cure for his deadly illness. So Gabe travels to Malakki, where the dead are piled up in the harbor like cordwood and the Lordships still do their fly-by's. Here he meets Jade, a beautiful woman, who saves him from an insane crowd and promises to take him to String.
Their journey up into the mountains is hellish and gripping in its intensity, revealing horrors to Gabe that he had not thought humans capable of. They reach the little village where String lives, surrounded by a glass moat, and Gabe and Jade are welcomed into the village. Who is String, and where does he come from? What is the secret to his cure? How does he have this power? Will Gabe receive the cure? Lebbon will suck you into this tale and not leave you disappointed in the end.
Hell - Not necessarily my favorite, but I think only because I was spoiled by Edward Lee's vision of hell in his book City Infernal. Lebbon's vision of hell is just as disturbing though, as voyeurs take a tram journey through hell, watching the horrors through the shaded windows while strapped into their comfortable seats; all to prove that "things could be worse in their own life".
After Nolan's wife dies, his daughter Laura suddenly goes missing; and imagining her under the sway of some religious cult, Nolan takes the tram into hell to search for her. When he sees her actually inside hell, strung up upon a barbed wire fence, he fights the demons who control the tram with the help of Chele, a woman who lost her son, and manages to escape the tram and enter hell itself. Together they save Laura from the fence, but now they are stuck in hell, and don't know the way out.
The First Law - Incredibly creepy story of five survivors adrift in a lifeboat after their ship is torpedoed during the war. Their lifeboat has been aimlessly drifting for five days, and the five men are sunburned and dehydrated when the oceans currents pull them straight to a strange island. Right at the start, one of them behaves very strangely, and although there is fresh water and the signs of available food about, something about the island is just...not right. This is the creepiest tale of unseen monsters and inexplicable tragedies with such an overbearing sense of dread and ruin, that this story alone makes the price of the book worthwhile. Follow our survivors to the end of their journey, and you will not leave unshaken by the horrid revelations and hidden terror prevalent on this strange island that does not belong to the normal world.
The Origin of Truth - The scientists have done it again, and this time they have unleashed millions of "nanos", microscopic man made organisms that stripped any type of matter down to the atoms and used it to replicate themselves. The entire world was being eaten, bit by bit. Doug flees the city with his wife Lucy-Anne and daughter Gemma, spilling out from the city along with everyone else. They wind out taking refuge in Scotland with Lucy-Anne's mad uncle Peter, to wait out the last days together. Very well told apocalypse tale, original and deeply moving.
Mannequin Man and the Plastic Bitch - Can Artificials love? Tom had once belonged to The Baker, and long ago that eccentric man had implanted a rogue program into Tom to allow him to love. Years later, after The Baker is dead, Tom falls in love with a hooker named Honey, an Artificial herself.
He must steal her away from her pimp, Hot Chocolate Bob, who follows them through the city and into the underground. But surprisingly, Honey doesn't want to leave right away, insisting on visiting a club called The Slaughterhouse first, to see her friend Doug Skin and get him to release her. Very interesting tale of a futuristic landscape where "chop-shops" are common, sort of a plastic surgery gone awry trend where people can add or remove body parts, or make themselves ten feet tall, or intensify their vision, or become a human spider. Anything goes.
Honey and Tom try to find love in all this, but if Tom is the only Artificial that really has love, will he be able to share it? Great story, don't miss out on this fast paced futuristic horror story that will make you feel for those who are incapable of it.
Don't miss out on this masterful collection of stories. Enjoy!