Top critical review
on 26 May 2016
I was really looking forward to this, having enjoyed some of Matheson’s TV work and other short stories. But every story in this book was so, so boring. I couldn’t believe how bad they were in fact. Most, if not all, seemed as if they were written by an amateur who had no grasp of character development, dialogue or originality.
Button, Button 4/10
Potential was huge for this idea but the story is very short, feels rushed and like it hasn’t been explored very well.
A couple find a box on their doorstep with a note saying someone will be round to speak to them about it. Turns out that if they press the button someone in the world dies (but no one they know) and in return they get $50k.
I didn’t find this story authentic because the wife too easily gave into the idea, without suffering any moral dilemma. Also, $50k (yes, dollars), is a paltry sum really and should be easy to resist (especially as the characters were not on the poverty line or with dubious morals).
The twist – that the husband is the person to die after the wife presses the button (“did you really think you knew your husband?”) was a bit weak I felt - probably because of the lack of character development and a rushed feeling to the story.
Girl of My Dreams 0/10
Another story with an interesting concept that feels like it’s been dealt with in the most unimaginative and bland manner. An unscrupulous husband uses his wife’s ability to see future events – that all seem to revolve around the death of someone – to blackmail the victims into giving money in return for the information on how they or a loved one will die, so that they can avoid the catastrophe. In the end when he beats his wife to near death, she reveals he is going to get his throat cut in the street. But now that she is dying, he is unable to find out when, where and who by. It sounds a lot better than it is. The characters are one-dimensional, the dialogue trite and the events – which could have been really deep and intriguing – are dull.
Dying Room Only 3/10
This is a pretty poor story that I gave a 3 because of atmosphere. It’s based in a remote café in the desert somewhere out on an American highway. Maybe I just have a good imagination but I did get wrapped up in the hot sweaty atmosphere and it reminded me very much of the film Breakdown. The story is about a couple who stop at a café to get food and drink. The owner is rather hostile with them. The woman goes to the toilet and after she has gone in, the husband decides to go in too. However, when she comes out he is nowhere to be seen and the owner and customers claim nto to know where he is. I thought it was building up into something intriguing but it went nowhere but and the mystery element was really tacky and quite silly. It ended with the sheriff figuring out that the owner/customers were all in cahoots and that they attack & rob lone travellers. They find the husband and he is OK.
A Flourish of Strumpets 0/10
Out of nowhere a couple experience a knock on their door every night by a different prostitute trying to entice the husband. They are shocked and disgusted and call the police but no one seems to do anything about it. The husband’s friends tell him just to go with it. His initial disgust turns to curiosity then experimentation. What the hell was the point of this story? It’s stupid.
No Such Thing as a Vampire 0/10
Yawn – a love triangle in which a husband takes revenge on his wife and her lover. They live in some dark European land somewhere (not Transylvania!) where folklore is rife and vampire’s are believed in. The protagonist uses this superstition to convince everyone he wife is being attacked nightly by a vampire. He calls upon another doctor (the wife’s lover) for assistance, drugs him, lays him in a coffin and places his wife’s blood on the man’s lips so that when he is discovered it looks like he is the vampire and is staked. Really boring.
Pattern for Survival 0/10
Very short and pointless 2-pager about a writer going through the motions.
This is a long one, at 45 pages. Unfortunately, the poor quality and anti climatic endings of all the previous stories meant by this point in the book I was speed-reading. I wanted to read all the stories but didn’t want to waster time on them if they were no good. This meant that, despite the length of this story meaning there was more character development and more thought in the story (both elements sorely missing from all the previous stories in the book), I found myself rushing through it because I expected to be disappointed at the end and feel as though I had wasted my time.
It’s about a small town where the Sheriff and his wife adopt a mute boy after his home burnt down with his parents inside. Although in the story it is clear from the beginning that the boy is telepathic, it is only towards the end when a friend of the family hears about the death of the boy’s parents and comes to visit him that we find out that the boy’s parents were part of a group of parents who had children and decided to experiment on them. The experiment was to not teach them to speak, so as hopefully to develop telepathic ability, something which they believed ancient man had before language was developed. It worked.
The Creeping Terror 2/10
This story probably needs an explanatory introduction for it to make sense to non-Americans. It seemed to be a tale about the spread of Los Angeles as if the city was some kind of virus. It’s obviously tongue in cheek satire but without much knowledge of L.A. or what the American perception of it is, the story was lost on me and so I found it a bit dull.
Shock Wave 0/10
Story about a church organ player who believes the organ has started to show signs on consciousness ever since it was proposed the organ needed scrapping. He believes the organ ‘knows’ it is going to be destroyed. In the end the church falls down with him and the organ in it.
Clothes Make the Man 0/10
Daft story about a man whose clothes come to life and have an affair with his wife. Or at least he thinks they do.
The Jazz Machine 0/10
Could be bothered to read this long poem
‘Tis the Season to be Jelly. 0/10
Sped-read this odd story, so bored with all the stories in this book now, just trying to get through them in case any interesting ideas pop up and intrigue me.