Review: Dead Letters

Dead LettersEdited by Conrad Williams

Titan Books, out now

A collection of short stories inspired by undelivered mail…

This is an intriguing set of tales, for which the writers were sent objects in the post as inspirations – letters or items that had been returned because they were undeliverable to the intended recipient. Some writers have told the stories of the letters themselves; there are some set in the Royal Mail’s home for such letters; others go much further off-piste, with the connection sometimes hard to fathom. Indeed, there are one or two stories that feel as if they’ve just been repurposed for this collection, and there are a couple with strikingly similar twists.

There are considerably more first-person tales than you might normally anticipate in an anthology, with some writers using extremely unreliable narrators, and one case where it’s the author himself who’s the central character of the story. It’s also very much a reflection of our current technological society – the number of stories in which Google is the first (or near the first) port of call is striking, and I’d love to read versions where such a tool wasn’t so easily available. Maybe a second volume could be set thirty-odd years ago…?

One of its great strengths is the many different genres that are represented – from a Lovecraftian tale of the West Country to time travel, from apocalyptic science fiction to deluded psychotic serial killers – widening its range of appeal. It really is the case that if one story isn’t to your taste, the next one will be very different.

Verdict: Sometimes haunting, sometimes terrifying, this is a strong collection of tales. 8/10

Paul Simpson

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