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19 of 19 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A criminally-overlooked horror writer.
It asonishes me that a writer of the abilities, and possessed of the sheer story-telling power of Robert Aickman, is so neglected these days. Getting hold of a copy of his 'strange stories' (as he so aptly called them) can be like looking for a needle in a haystack. The fact is that Aickman wrote some of the most haunting fiction that has come out of this country in the...
Published on 15 Sep 2003 by S. Hapgood

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15 of 16 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Some of His Best, and Some Others
This book, the second of the four reprint collections of Aickman's short stories, was published in New York in 1988 and London in 1990. The London edition--the one I read--contained eight pieces published between 1951 and 1980, drawn from six of his eight original collections of short stories. The New York edition contained an additional three pieces, "Bind Your Hair,"...
Published on 26 Jun 2009 by Reader in Tokyo


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19 of 19 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A criminally-overlooked horror writer., 15 Sep 2003
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S. Hapgood "www.sjhstrangetales.com" - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Wine-dark Sea (Paperback)
It asonishes me that a writer of the abilities, and possessed of the sheer story-telling power of Robert Aickman, is so neglected these days. Getting hold of a copy of his 'strange stories' (as he so aptly called them) can be like looking for a needle in a haystack. The fact is that Aickman wrote some of the most haunting fiction that has come out of this country in the past 40 years. "The Wine Dark Sea" is the best collection of his stuff that I have come across. The title story, about a traveler in the Mediterranean who comes across an island which seems to have an unnerving effect on the locals, and decides to go out and explore it for himself, is simply beautiful, like something out of the Greek Myths. There is no denying that the stories can also be VERY wierd. My only complaint is that this volume doesn't include "The Hospice", the first Aickman story I ever read and which I believe to be his best. But perhaps some day someone might release a "best of" Robert Aickman. I won't hold my breath on that one though!
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15 of 16 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Some of His Best, and Some Others, 26 Jun 2009
This review is from: The Wine-Dark Sea (Paperback)
This book, the second of the four reprint collections of Aickman's short stories, was published in New York in 1988 and London in 1990. The London edition--the one I read--contained eight pieces published between 1951 and 1980, drawn from six of his eight original collections of short stories. The New York edition contained an additional three pieces, "Bind Your Hair," "The Next Glade" and "The Stains," and drew from one additional original collection.

During his lifetime, Aickman published 47 short stories, and two more pieces have come into print since his death in 1981. For this reader, the best of his short works from throughout his career succeeded in balancing four elements: hypnotic developments and action, mesmerizing and dreamlike images that captured a character's inner life, an uncovering of the ways people behave toward each other, and a haunting and open-ended conclusion.

Model stories combining these things included "The Trains" (1951), "Ringing the Changes" (1955) and "The Swords" (1969). Almost as good were "The Inner Room" (1966) and "The Hospice" (1975), despite extra layers of obscurity or developments bordering on parody. By comparison, many other pieces by the author often contained something memorable but felt lacking in one element or another; particularly from the late 1960s, the pacing of many seemed to grow increasingly deliberate, the text longer and the prose heavier. Another type of worthwhile story from this writer expressed something more of what might be called his philosophical outlook, and for me the clearest of these was "The Wine-Dark Sea" (1966). Others were "Into the Wood" (1968) and "The View" (1951).

The present reprint collection--London edition--contained four of the stories just named: "The Trains," "The Inner Room," "The Wine-Dark Sea" and "Into the Wood." "Into the Wood" and the rest of the works in this collection, for me, were in the category of "memorable but not his very best," lacking something in depth and power. These pieces contained situations with ghosts or projections of a character's unconscious ("Your Tiny Hand Is Frozen," "The Fetch"), and/or expressed something about the position of an artist or alienated individual in conventional society ("Into the Wood," "Never Visit Venice") or the horrors of the modern world and the relation between parents and children ("Growing Boys").

The editor of this collection, Peter Straub, has written: "Unconscious forces drive these characters, and Aickman's genius was in finding imaginative ways for the unconscious to manipulate both the narrative events of his tales and the structures in which they occur . . . . After the shock of the sheer strangeness fades away, we begin to see how the facts of the stories appear to grow out of the protagonists' fears and desires . . . the power over us of what we do not quite grasp about ourselves and our lives."

Currently the cheapest options for assembling a large number of Aickman's short stories are the original short-story collection Cold Hand in Mine and the reprint collection Painted Devils, which with the New York edition of The Wine-Dark Sea contain 28 pieces altogether, including all of the pieces named above. In my opinion, Wine-Dark Sea and Painted Devils are good places to start, while Cold Hand is for those who are looking mainly for the writer's later, more deliberate tales.

Some excerpts from the present collection:

"Downstairs the trains had seemed to become more and more frequent, here they seemed to become slowly sparser."

"A perceptive traveler in Hellas comes to think of the Parthenon as quite modern; to become more and more absorbed by what came earlier. Soon, if truly perceptive, he is searching seriously for centaurs."

"For men and women there is to everything a limit, beyond which further striving, further thought, leads only to regression. And this is true even though most men and women never set out at all; possibly are not capable of setting out. For those who do set out, the limit varies from individual to individual, and cannot be foreseen. Few ever reach it. Those who do reach it are, I suspect, those who go off into the further forest."

"It is amazing how full a life a man can lead without for one moment being alive at all, except sometimes when sleeping."

"For years, then, Fern teetered along the tightrope between content and discontent; between mild self-congratulation and black frustration; between the gritty disillusionment of human intimacy and travel . . . and the truth and power of his dream . . . . Two or three years passed, while the land steadily receded beneath his tightrope."

"Dreams . . . are misleading, because they make life seem real. When it loses the support of dreams, life dissolves."

"It was a photograph of myself when a child, bobbed and waistless. And through my heart was a tiny brown needle."
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Strange Stories, 3 April 2012
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J. Everington (Nottingham, UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Wine-Dark Sea (Paperback)
Aickman is one of my favourite authors, and this volume contains some of my favourite stories of his: "Into the Wood", "The Trains", and the title story itself. Aickman described his tales as 'strange stories' and this volume certainly doesn't dissapoint in that respect. If you like inteligent, literate, ambiguous (sometimes *very* ambiguous) 'horror' fiction then Aickman is an author you have to read...

This would be a five-star review, apart from the presence of some typos in the edition I have (including the memorable "Glive Barker" in the Peter Straub's intro - an interesting addition to the book) which was dated March 2009. Hopefully later reprints have corrected this.
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16 of 35 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Faber's failure, 2 Aug 2009
By 
Reader (Toronto, ON) - See all my reviews
This review is from: The Wine-Dark Sea (Paperback)
I open this tasty looking collection with great anticipation. On the first page of Peter Straub's introduction I find a quotation mark that is never closed - most distracting - another (obviously nothing to do with the first) that is back to front, and - also on this first page - a reference to "Give Barker". I have no doubt that Peter Straub, a great scholar of the strange tale, originally wrote "Clive Barker". Does the once distinguished house of Faber no longer employ copy editors or proof readers? I am for the moment too scared to continue reading. But not for the intended reasons.
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The Wine-Dark Sea
The Wine-Dark Sea by Robert Aickman (Paperback - 21 Aug 2008)
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