Borderlands Press/Leisure Books / 352 pages / February 2004
It’s quite possible Tim Lebbon has discovered a way to work subliminal messages into his fiction. Or, perhaps, there is some addictive substance on his covers. Whatever the explanation, it is quite impossible to get enough of his work. Not to mention how difficult it is to stop until you’ve consumed every word of his latest gift to horror. Lick your fingers one time to turn the page and *poof* it’s in your bloodstream. In this collection of novellas, that irresistible pull is stronger than ever.
Fortunately, reprinted here is one of Lebbon’s hard-to-find chapbook novellas. If you, too, are a fan of British countryside Armageddons, if you save a space in your heart for the likes of John Wyndham’s Triffids and damned children, you will know immediately what I see in “Naming of Parts.” Terror and carnage are part-and-parcel big city life, but the villages and far-flung farmers of the rural areas are the places where nothing ever happens. The shock of the horrific in peaceful parishes is multiplied beyond acceptance.
In Naming of Parts Tim Lebbon has created a world gone wrong entirely his own. The plague of death and hungry corpses that descends upon young Jack, his family, and, perhaps, the planet, is nothing of the “Living Dead” franchise. Jack is watching not just the grisly demise of the people and life he has known, but a death with far more finality. All along the trek to safety, the boy discovers these truths and reasons out the rest. It is a tale that strikes at the heart in a way no other zombie stories can ever approach. And the tale continues…
“White” is a classic example of Lebbon’s ability to instill fear without a concrete threat to latch onto. Another possible pandemic has forced a mismatched group of survivors in a country house that loses a little bit of its charm with every turn of the page and every lethal foot of snow that traps them. Something savage, unexplainable, and unseen has them cornered while it picks them off in graphic, gory fashion. How much more terrifying to face any enemy outside your understanding, that you cannot even put a face to. Paranoia, panic, and self-preservation make them as much a danger to each other as the invisible predators whittling away at their pitiful numbers.
A different kind of isolation curses “The Unfortunate.” What would appear to be amazing good luck in being the sole survivor of a plane crash slowly turns into a nightmare of fabulous success balanced with inconsolable loss. Newton’s third law has never been to devastatingly illustrated as the protagonist experiences the horrifying reaction to even the smallest good fortune that comes his way.
“Remnant” lacks some of the impact of the other stories, but it is classic Lebbon territory: a desperate searching for missing pieces ripped away by misfortune and poor choices along the way. Lebbon’s “Indiana Jones” appears to be everything his protagonist is not, but as the story unwinds we see the gaping holes in the great adventurer’s life, holes that cannot be filled by all the exciting finds and exotic locales.
Loss and unbearable loneliness resonate in every story in Fears Unnamed, an undercurrent that swells to the surface at unexpected times in breathtaking insights that change the way the readers perceives even the smallest detail. It’s a stunning power, Lebbon wields over us but, despite the frequent, chilling despair, we never want him to stop.