NESFA Members' Reviews


edited by Josepha Sherman and Keith A. DeCandido

Baen, ISBN 0-671-87851-4, 1997, 278pp, US$5.99

A book review by Evelyn C. Leeper

Copyright 1998 Evelyn C. Leeper

The problem with theme anthologies is, well, the theme.

I mean, if I'm reading a story in a general anthology, or in a magazine, and the point of the story is that the main character is a vampire, then the author can tell me that when s/he wants to. But if I'm reading a vampire anthology ... well, you get the idea.

So here we have an anthology based on urban legends. These are all those things that you've heard somewhere that happened to "a friend of a friend." In fact, these are so common that they even have a Usenet group (alt.legends.urban) and a whole set of abbreviations (e.g., FOAF). So if you're reading a story in this anthology in which a fur coat is involved, and you know anything about urban legends, you *know* snakes will start appearing in the coat.

Because of this, the authors pretty much have to tell you early on which UL (urban legend, not Underwriters Laboratory!) they are working with, and then do something original with it. This is not unlike what was done with the "Fairy Tale" series of books, so it is possible.

And of course the problem is exacerbated by my position as a reviewer--I need to read this book in some reasonable period of time. Marketing being what it is, mass-market books tend to disappear after a few months. If I read a story a week, this book will be long-gone before you can read the review. (There are twenty-five stories, an unusually high number. The longest story is sixteen pages long. In fact, the biography section is longer than some of the stories.)

Even making allowances for all this, I think *four* prosthetic arm stories and *four* alligators/crocodiles- in-the-sewers in one anthology is a bit much (though I did like the literary allusions in Bill Crider's piece).

If you are familiar with all the urban legends referenced here, and like bizarre twists on them, you will probably like this book. But if you don't know what "The Hook" is, or find a whole sequence of twists on them more repetitious, you should skip this book. (Me, I find the psychology of the urban legend interesting, but don't see them as a great literary source.)

%B      Urban Nightmares
%E      Josepha Sherman
%E      Keith A. DeCandido
%C      New York
%D      November 1997
%I      Baen
%O      paperback, US$5.99
%G      ISBN 0-671-87851-4
%P      278pp

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