Earthling Press, out now
The much anticipated new collection from a master storyteller.
True fans of genre fiction should need no introduction to Michael Marshall Smith’s work; you’ll obviously have been reading it for years, right? From SF classics like Only Forward and Spares to thrillers like The Straw Men trilogy and Killer Move (under the name Michael Marshall); from YA milestones like The Servants to cross-genre novels such as We Are Here and The Intruders, currently being turned into a TV series starring John Simm… Smith has consistently come up with the goods. And that includes short stories as well, as this new collection – a follow-up of sorts to his previous one for Earthling Press, More Tomorrow & Other Stories – ably demonstrates.
Everything You Need starts as it means to go on, with a piece that actually made the hairs on the back of my neck prickle. ‘This is Now’ is about a group of friends and what they saw one night when they went somewhere they shouldn’t have. ‘Unbelief’ has one of the best twists I’ve ever come across, and I’m not just saying that because it has a character called Kane in it… While ‘Walking Wounded’ (a tale we used in our Mammoth Book of Body Horror) traces the reason behind why a man is suddenly being plagued by mysterious injuries.
‘The Seventeenth Kind’ – also soon to be filmed – shows what can happen when things take a turn for the bizarre on shopping channel TV, and in ‘A Place for Everything’ we have yet another nape-tingling moment, which comes right out of left field. ‘The Last Barbeque’ – originally a Zombie Apocalypse story – deals with family ties post… well, zombie apocalypse. And in ‘The Stuff That Goes On in Their Heads’ the lines between childhood fantasy and reality begin to blur, which is bad news for one father.
‘Unnoticed’ has a kind of Adjustment Bureau vibe to it, but ramps up the weirdness, ‘The Good Listener’ revolves around a road trip in the future where a man tries to get to know his late dad better, and ‘Different Now’ is an oldie, but a goodie: about what happens immediately after a break-up in a Twilight Zone-style tweaked universe. ‘Author of the Death’ comes next and is probably my favourite in here, a blackly comic take on what happens when characters from fiction go looking for their creator. Then we have ‘Sad, Dark Thing’ which comes at a classic horror trope from a very different angle, proving that old adage of ‘what you don’t see is more frightening’. Originally a chapbook from Nightjar, ‘What Happens When You Wake Up in the Night’ won the British Fantasy Award – and rightly so, as it’s a disturbing tale that will stay with you long after you’ve finished reading.
‘The Things He Said’ is chilling in a different way and again deals with a father and son relationship, this time in a post-apocalyptic world, ‘Substitutions’ is a warning that the grass is never greener – inspired by that relatively new phenomenon of home delivery – and in ‘The Woodcutter’ a street magician is not all he appears to be, so watch out if he’s after revenge. Finally, the title story is…ah, I’m not going to spoil this last treat for you, as it’s a belter.
Complete with story notes, and in a gorgeous hardback edition with slipcover artwork by the award-winning and incredibly talented Vincent Chong, this is a collection for readers to savour and other writers (like myself) to envy. Simply stunning.
If you love great stories, this book really does contain everything you need. 10/10