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Beneath the Surface Hardcover – 22 Sep 2008

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Amazon.com: HASH(0x88185894) out of 5 stars 3 reviews
13 of 14 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x87c9ceac) out of 5 stars An important, groundbreaking collection 29 Dec. 2010
By Anthony B. Cline - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
The first book that came to mind when I started reading Beneath the Surface was Night's Black Agents by Fritz Leiber. That work was something utterly unique; stories such as Smoke Ghost, The Inheritance, and The Dreams of Albert Moreland are stunning examples of both cosmic horror (Lovecraft) and quiet terror ( M.R. James). Yet they were updated via Leiber's modern voice, infused with a sort of morbid speculation about the city and its undercurrents (although, it should be noted, not all of them. The Hill and the Hole has a decidedly rural setting). That, and they were just plain horrifying, from an author who should be placed in the ranks of horror greats if only for that collection.

Likewise, BTS is set in a world where the metro is crumbling at the hands of a monstrous force. Not a monster, no. This collection isn`t an addendum to the Cthulhu mythos. It is far too original to be wedged in that camp. The opening tale of the book, A Shadow in God's Eye, gives me faith that horror is advancing, that the pen of Lovecraft is being minded but not mimicked. It tells of a man seeking counsel in a rather unorthodox church, where the odd sermon leads to a marring of one of his senses. We are carried through the man's waking experience, then into the sounds and visions he encounters, and finally to a horrific conclusion in a sort of peeled back cityscape. This is the caliber of story that ought to be anthologized for the next twenty years. It is so effortlessly descriptive, so queasy, and knows its direction perfectly. Actually, the entire book does too. But what an opener...

It Runs Beneath the Surface is a story that has the elemental property of Leiber's aforementioned Smoke Ghost, but don't think for a second that it's imitation. The anxiety of the city manifests in a film or muck that can't be ridded of. Work goes on as usual, our central character takes the train to and from his office, his co-worker has a series of strange consultations with a client. I'll save the culmination of these events for your eyes. The entire piece is a glorious smudge; like one of Kandinsky's paintings only mired in the soot and grime of trains, shadowed cubicles, decrepit tenements. Beautifully claustrophobic.

The Constant Encroaching of a Tumultuous Sea opens up the collection in a way, takes us from the city center to its banks. It is a venture amongst the sand, in which our lead character wanders about crashing waves and mysterious presences. It would be hard to go into detail in few words here, so I won't. Suffice to say that this is at once a gorgeous prose poem and a tale of terror.

Whew. I've only gotten through the first few stories. In the name of brevity I'll cut it short. Believe me when I say though, that this level of quality continues throughout the collection. I had the same feeling of discovery as when I first read Ramsey Campbell's Dark Companions or Thomas Ligotti's Noctuary. I felt as though I was reading something new, something that synced with a modern sensibility while retaining a classic/antiquarian influence. It doesn't come along often. Get this now.

By the way: the hardcover is long out of print, but Dark Regions Press has a wonderful paperback available for under twenty bucks. Get it directly through them.
10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x87ca05b8) out of 5 stars "Beneath the Surface" is top of the heap 20 Feb. 2011
By Jeffrey Thomas - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Perfect Paperback
Canada boring? I don't think so. In fact, it sounds like it must be a damn terrifying place to live, judging from some of the contemporary horror writers I've read recently. First it was Richard Gavin with his eye-opening collection OMENS (and I've begun his CHARNEL WINE), then Ian Rogers with his exciting novella TEMPORARY MONSTERS (and I've acquired its follow-up, ASH ANGELS), and now I've just completed the collection BENEATH THE SURFACE by Simon Strantzas (Dark Regions Press). And all I can say is, I'm partly afraid to journey to Canada...but thinking maybe I should, because the water there seems tainted with strange magic.

Strantzas reinforces the opinion that the horror tale is usually best told in short story form. I'm not sure I could survive reading one of his stories drawn out to novel form, without putting a bullet in my head. That's not a derogatory statement, but let's just say these are not feel-good stories. They are dripping with atmosphere -- bleak, gloomy, hopeless, depressing atmosphere, in a wintry or rainy environment that will make you feel its chill in your bones, and deeper. You will be reminded, in a good way, of two of horror's greatest masters: Thomas Ligotti and Ramsey Campbell. But in this oppressive landscape Strantzas hasn't forgotten to give us a human element, with characters dripping with dread, guilt, sorrow. Characters holding on tenuously to who they are, if they even know who they are. Lost souls, soon to lose themselves entirely. Not that every story ends with the character's annihilation; a couple end on a somewhat more hopeful note, and I feel it's always a good idea to mix things up like that. Too many horror short stories end too automatically on a fully downbeat note. If the reader thinks the protagonist might just make it out with body and/or sanity intact, there's more at stake in the story. But the overall theme here is deliciously unsettling -- mysterious and paranoid. Every story is excellent, and there's a metafictional, subtly tongue-in-cheek afterword to put a cap on things. Probably my favorite here is the most disturbing of the bunch, "Drowned Deep Inside of Me," about an enigmatic blackout that swallows more than just the city in darkness. This story features the most chilling and awe-inspiring image in a book rife with uncanny mental images, though I won't spoil the nature of it here.

It sounds trite but it's entirely sincere: I can't wait to see more of Strantzas' fiction in the future. He apparently only started writing a few years ago, so the future promises even greater greatness, I have no doubt.
2 of 6 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x865ecee8) out of 5 stars This is a stunning collection! 16 Aug. 2011
By J. S. Pulver - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Perfect Paperback
Remember where they said, BE VERY AFRAID? This writer was listening! !! It's on every page he writes! This is a stunning collection, one could even say a treasure, by one of the finest weird fiction authors we have! !! NOT TO MISSED! !!
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