3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
Please move down inside...,
This review is from: The End of the Line (Paperback)
I was very taken with the idea of this collection - a loose bag of stories inspired by "underground", mostly, though not all, "the Underground" (ie the London one) - a brilliant idea: the Underground seems to inspire fascination (at least in some) and is the subject of a wide literature. There's a deep (pardon the pun) fit with horror - all those people pressed together, the dark, the speed, the tangled routes, the history. So it's a promising idea.
As you would expect, with nineteen different stories, some come closer that others to capturing this essence. And some don't try at all, but deal with different "undergrounds" - a putative line in Manchester, the Paris Metro, a Cornish mine railway, the Liverpool underground. The positive way to put this is that everyone will like some stories more than others, and I don't think it would be very helpful to go through and rate each one, because my views are unlikely to match yours. I will just say that as individual stories I think these range from three to five stars, and that my favourite was the very last story, "Down" by Christopher Fowler, because it did seem to me to catch the essence-of-Tubiness, and was rather off the beaten track of something-nasty-in-the tunnels.
My only criticisms would be that in some of the stories - not all, and not, oddly, those actually set off the London Underground - the Underground connection seems a bit forced. I found myself thinking a few times that the story would have worked as well if the McGuffin had been a bus or a plane: or, frankly, without the transport connection at all. And perhaps there is slight overuse of what I would described as the "Sliding Doors" trope: a misstep on the Underground sends the protagonist astray into the "wrong" world. The problem is that it's a great idea in the first story you read that uses it, but it's so obvious after that. That is a problem for the collection as a whole, not with any individual writer - the stories that deploy this idea are fine stories, it's not their fault if you have just read one that does the same thing.
I wouldn't want to overdo that criticism. I think this collection is excellent, with few exceptions it's very well written and I'd encourage you to buy the book, have fun with it, dip in and out and see what you like. It's a nice feature that each story has a short introduction, as well as Jonathan Oliver's overview at the start, so to some extent you can steer to what you're most likely to enjoy.