Peter Straub is one of the greatest horror novelists today, one who prides himself on openness about what literature is and what makes it great.
A great many authors attempt to write horror novels, but their works lack distinguishing qualities and
the skills that would elevate them from simplistic gore to the level of true literary intrigue and Poe-like personae. In this collection of
horror and dark fantasy, Straub unmasks the phenomenal creativity and
nightmarish plotting of several literary writers, tales that will leave the weak at heart running from the night, screams howling from their lips.
The horror stories anthologized in Poe's Children range in nightmarish quality and length, but are all consistent in
terms of creativity, quality writing, and addictive diversity. Some are of a more sci-fi quality and could fall easily into the scary but obviously make-believe category. Others are a little more honed in their realism, still possessed
supernatural elements but falling into the ghost story/local legend-type category. Ultimately, the collection of short stories is frightful enough to keep away from children but decadent enough for those adults who enjoy reading a good horror novel on a dark and lonely night.
Because of the book's anthology nature, I will only briefly detail one of my favorite stories from the collection as a preview. Jane is an unusually beautiful young woman whose love of butterflies and disinterest in the
larger world are strangely unique characteristics. She hides behind large glasses, attends an all-girl college and, until one fateful night,
is unwaveringly focused on the science of butterflies. Taking up residence in England
temporarily to house-sit for a family friend, Jane finds herself a volunteer position in the Insect
House at the local zoo. Her knowledge is valuable and her skill unquestionable, but there is something different about Jane. Within a few days of Janeís arrival in England, an
large number of young men start going missing. Their belongings are found carelessly flung aside, but their bodies are not recovered. The police donít know who to look for, but this killer is obviously living around Janeís area. As the days pass, Janeís rare butterfly collection
continues to grow. Species that are rarely ever found are finding their way into
her specimen kits. How can this be? Jane, herself, is as beautiful as the rarest
of butterflies and one wonders what her value would be.
Straub as editor and the actual authors of the stories in this collection
deserve nothing but praise (Straub contributes one story to the collection
himself). Mature plots only highlight the quality of prose here, from seasoned
authors including Elizabeth Hand, Brian Evenson, M. Rickert, Stephen King, Graham Joyce,
and John Crowley.