NIGHT VOICES

Author: Dan Simmons

Chameleon Publishing Inc. / 157 pages / 1st edition (April 1, 1998)

ISBN: 1892419009

Certainly, there are dangers in the big city — gang violence, seemingly random murders, criminals everywhere making the bright lights dark and sinister. Everyone knows that, but, if you’ve spent some time in the small towns of the South, you know where the true terrors lurk. In the quiet of a lonely country road or the weariness of a struggling farm, the Night Voices come through on the breezes. Some evil needs room to spread.

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June Hubbard has a knack for plain, unvarnished storytelling. This collection reads like the sounds and rhythms of the South; simple words to speak for simple people, many outsiders may think. That’s not far from the truth, but never make the mistake of confusing simplicity with innocence or helplessness. In the world of Night Voices that could well be your last mistake. These homespun characters don’t take to being pushed around, and they have very definite methods for settling matters.

“Cat Eyes” is a particularly creepy comeuppance for an equally creepy individual. Is the threat real or a product of his imagination? The uncertainty is as harrowing for the reader as it is for the charming, worthless Bill. Too bad he didn’t meet up with the heroine of “Crazy Dixie” — there is a match made in Hell. But, Dixie is busy tidying up the mess of her own life. Not everyone in Night Voices is essentially evil. The heart-breaking tale of “The Woman At The Bridge” illustrates some of the threats that wait in the country night, and the danger to the gentle and harmless. Just as sobering is the fate of “Jenny” at the end of her evening stroll. Good and evil all suffer in the deceptive calm of the rustic South.

Danger of a different sort waits for the bankrupt souls of Careful What You Wish. Here it is the unwise and unexamined desires that provide the catalyst for destruction. Naturally, greed figures heavily in the downfall of many of the characters. Careful What You Wishlacks some of the strength of Hubbard’s other collection. A glance at the title will give you a good idea of the outcome of the nine stories. The moment you read the set-up, the conclusion is, for the most part, foregone. Something is going to backfire on someone. And, most of the time, the misfortune is richly deserved. These people are not wishing for world peace or a cure for AIDS, after all.

“The Last Planet” deals with actions and reactions on a huge scale. The story is one of those you feel like you must have seen on the The Twilight Zone. “Communing With Gerald” offers a new twist on the idea of a dream man. Come to think of it, it’s just safer not to wish for something for nothing.

Country nightmares or dream gone awry? Give them both a try — just don’t cross anyone to get your copy.