AS THE SUN GOES DOWN
Night Shade Books / 248 pages / 1st edition (August 1, 2005)
Through an accident of birth, some of us are born into a hostage situation. Children are the property of their parents until they reach the age of majority, and few will step in to intervene. By the time endangered children are grown — if given the chance to grow — the damage is done and the path is inevitable. So often people forget that, but Tim Lebbon is not one of those oblivious people. The terrors and pain of childhood are never far from his mind.
In fact, the darker moments of life are central to Lebbon’s work. Few writers can plumb the depths of these moments with his sensitivity and unflinching frankness.
In the brutal “Life Within,” a young boy witnesses one of life’s “miracles,” only to come face-to-face with one of the casual cruelties of life. He is jolted from one extreme to the other in the close confines of his parents’ arms, until he chooses the way of comfort. Of course, this is almost benign parental influence when taken against the horrifying events of “The Butterfly.” Rarely have I come across a story of such appalling cruelty and abuse; this is parental loathing at its lowest depths.
Sometimes, of course, the danger comes from outside the family — the result of another’s child reared to become a human monster. Truly chilling and all too possible is the horror of “The Empty Room.” Are you beginning to see the utterly helpless, vulnerable status children occupy in this world?
Even those lucky (depending on how you look at it) enough to survive the perils of youth have no easy time awaiting them. Loneliness, loss, and more fear are out there, just lying in wait for those hapless people who are doomed to experience the pain. The last grasping at shredded love takes two very different paths in the mournful “Repulsion” and the resigned horror of “The Last Good Times.” Note: In a collection brimming with “bests,” this latter story is possibly the very best of As The Sun Goes Down.
Some stories will surprise you. “Recipe for Disaster” is a brief, black infusion of humour. Consider “The Beach” a tip of the hat to Richard Matheson. Others will appall, chill, and amaze you. That’s what Lebbon’s mind is like; there seem to be no bounds to his imagination, no idea that does not interest him. I seriously doubt there is any material he could not tackle and bring forth something astonishing.
Whatever your reaction to the stories in As The Sun Goes Down, there is no mistaking their allure. Read one and it’s just-one-more, just-one-short-one, until you find yourself on the final page. Then, you’ll find yourself wanting more.