Reviewed by Pauline Morgan
This is a beautiful book. Not only is there a wonderful Emsh cover on both the dust jacket and the boards but there but there are also some exquisite interior drawings, especially those of Russell Morgan.
The contents include twenty eight stories from a range of authors crossing a variety of genres. Some of the authors are well established, others relative newcomers and most readers will find something within these pages to either enchant or otherwise engage their emotions. Although each one is well written, some are more memorable than others, for different reasons. The title story of this anthology, ‘The New and Perfect Man’ by Carol Emshwiller is a word of warning to all those pushy parents who think they know what is best for their child. Raised with only the best, the girl (they were so sure baby would be a boy) is totally unprepared when she escapes the confines of her upbringing.
Although this story can be regarded as being contemporary American values, other stories are set in the UK and deal with fears that are grittier. Joel Lane & Mat Joiner inhabit the backwaters of the Birmingham canals in ‘Ashes in the Water’. Here a narrow boat becomes a metaphor for death. Ramsey Campbell takes his character back to a moorland village he used visit in his childhood in ‘The Room Beyond’. The hotel he books into is not how he remembers it and as his stay progresses it becomes more and more sinister.
In complete contrast, Alan Peter Ryan’s tale ‘The Story of Princess Rosebud’ is a translation and adaptation of a French tale from the 19th century and contains elements that have been much used in stories such as Cinderella. ‘Child of Evil Stars’ by Annie-Sylvie Salzman has an unfamiliar style as this is a direct translation from the French and is a dark tale of the obsession of a doctor for one of the freaks exhibited at a visiting circus.
Two very dark stories are ‘The Inn of Distant Sorrows’ by Thomas Tessier and ‘The Girl on Mount Olympus’ by Christopher Fowler. In the former, Richard Poole, a Canadian project director is deep in South America. He is due to meet a geologist to assess a particular area as a mining prospect. Arriving first and unable to speak the local language his trip begins to take on a surreal aspect as he begins seeing someone who looks like himself with people he hasn’t met yet. Fowler’s story intercuts the narratives of Anna who goes to Cyprus with a new, male acquaintance and the newly engaged Paul and Lily on holiday there. The story is more horrific as this couple just happen to be in the wrong place at the wrong time.
The price of this book may seem a little steep, but it is worth it to have it grace your bookshelves.