Asimov's SF Review

Golden Gryphon delivers [another] stellar collection . . . and its exact nature might surprise you. Black Pockets and Other Dark Thoughts (hardcover, $24.95, 275 pages, ISBN 1-930846-40-1) is billed as George Zebrowski's first collection of horror stories, and so it is. Can this be true? asks the savvy reader familiar with Zebrowski's many fine accomplishments in the SF field, and his reputation as a cerebral spinner of hard-edged speculations. Why of course! answers the even-more-savvy reader who realizes that Zebrowski has also been perpetrating spooky stories that trade on mankind's deepest fears, horrors and terrors for his whole career. (The oldest tale herein hails from 1973; the newest is the title piece, conceived especially for this volume.) Zebrowski has long since proven himself adept at conjuring up tales that Robert Aickman or Thomas Ligotti would be proud of. But until their massed assemblage here, they've gone under-appreciated. No longer.

Zebrowski splits his eerie excursions into three realms: the personal, the political and the metaphysical, leaping deeper into existential unease each time. Here's just a sampling from each category. In "Jumper," a woman's twisted pyche leads her to a gruesome death by teleportation. "The Soft Terrible Music" reads like primo Zelazny as we follow the slow unveiling of one mind concealed inside another. And the title piece takes the cartoonish conceit of instant "holes to nowhere" and uses it as a meditation on revenge, hatred, friendship and megalomania. In his "Afterword," Zebrowski examines the exact nature of horror as a mode of narrative and realm of existence, and postulates that the genre is a tool for uncovering and refining exactly what it means to be a human adrift in the cosmos. This collection is a brilliant Baedecker to the blackest realms within us.

— Paul Di Filippo, "On Books," Asimov's SF, March 2007


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