Sunday, March 23, 2014

Review of Ramsey Campbell's HOLES FOR FACES.

Well, I've been a bit under the weather, which is why I haven't posted anything lately. I have been reading though, and I'm feeling a bit better, so here's a review of Ramsey Campbell's Holes For Faces. For those of you not familiar with Mr. Campbell's work, he is one of the grandmasters of horror fiction. With everything from classic horror stories to delving into the Cthulhu Mythos, his stories are walks through madness. This excellent collection presents a mix of previously published short stories and tales presented here for the first time. They deal with ordinary people in seemingly ordinary situations, that slowly become off-kilter. I'll be focusing on my three favorites, and with that, here's the review.

First off is "Peep", in which we find the unnamed protagonist watching his grandchildren play. Slowly he begins to realize that they are playing a game from far back in his past, that they have no business knowing of. When he asks who taught them the game, they simply reply "The old woman". Knowing that said old woman is long dead, he begins to question the reality around him. As his dread begins to build, odd sightings feed his growing fear. Are these just hallucinations? Is he going mad? Or has something come back, out of the past, to fulfill a promise made long ago? An excellent story, very much a slow burn. The protagonist, and the reader, question everything that is going on, and answers are lacking for all. The pressure steadily builds, and when the explosion comes, it is almost a relief. Masterful storytelling, to say the least.

Next up we have the titular story, "Holes For Faces". Charlie and his parents are on vacation in Naples. There is a sense of tension present from the beginning of the story, which is multiplied when the family visits the catacombs. There are hints in the conversation, directly preceding the trip, that point to something bad lurking in the wings. After witnessing the headless dead, down in the dark, and hearing a rather thoughtless comment, a seed is planted in Charlie's mind. From that point onward, he is aware of things lurking just out of sight, trying to get in. Is this just a case of paranoia, or is there something really trying to get at Charlie? No definite answer is given, and the reality of things are left up to the individual reader to decide for themselves. You are left with a real feeling for Charlie, and his one sided battle with things that no one else are able to see. An extremely haunting story.

Last up is "Chucky Comes to Liverpool", and yes, we are talking about the killer doll from the movies. Robbie is a fairly average teenage boy, who's mother spends most of her free time crusading against "Video Nasties". Here's a link with background if you've never heard of a "video nasty". This, of course, is how the character of Chucky comes into play. Robbie's mom is currently campaigning against the Child's Play movies, and Robbie becomes drawn to the movie. Add a friend who scores weed for himself and Robbie, and has access to the movie, and the ball starts rolling. Top that off with an urban legend that whoever watches the movie becomes a puppet of Chucky, (or, alternately brings him into our reality) and you have the beginning of another good story. Once the boys watch the video, terrible things start to happen. Is Chucky on the prowl? Has one of the boys been taken over? Or, is it all a terrible coincidence? Once again we have an instance of a seed being planted. Did the idea of the urban legend create a self-fulfilling prophecy, or is there a darker presence manipulating events? Another topflight trip through madness.

Well, there it is. While these are my favorite stories, all included in this excellent collection are well worth reading. Most deal with the same theme of a rather dodgy reality, or at least the character's sense of such. The author leaves this, for the most part, up to the reader's interpretation. I'd just like to say that Ramsey Campbell is one of the main reasons why I became interested in horror, and why I still enjoy it. Holes For Faces is highly recommended, and I hope you enjoy it as much as I did. Here's a link to the publisher, Dark Regions Press. Pop over and take a gander. They've got a lot of good releases by top authors to be had. Here's the Amazon page for Holes For Faces. Finally, here's the wikipedia page for Ramsey, if you want to know more about him. Happy reading, all!


  1. Let's try the comment again: Thanks for sharing your thoughts on Campbell's collection. Who did the lovely artwork at the top of your blog? Dodgy reality is the place for me.

    1. Thank's for the reply Victoria! I'm glad you enjoyed the review. As far as the art I'm using for a header, it's wonderful, isn't it? I have a signed print of the piece hanging on my wall, and love it. The artist's name is Jeremy Hush, and the piece is called "Rat Queen". Wonderful talent, and an all around cool person. Here's a link to his site, if you're interested in looking at more of his work.