BLACK POCKETS by George Zebrowski. Urbana, IL; Golden Gryphon Press; 2006. 1st edition hardcover.
Black Pockets and Other Dark Thoughts is Zebrowski's first collection of horror stories, culled from throughout his career, with an emphasis on the more recent, and one original novella, the titular "Black Pockets." The 19 stories are divided into Personal, Political, and Metaphysical horrors, i.e. stories that should scare you individually, stories that should terrify you as a social animal, and stories that should scare the whole human race, in the collective.
Part of the beauty of this book is that Zebrowski can write about people who are not like him (or you, or me). Many are not as intelligent, nice, thoughtful, or as sensitive as their author. What is really hard is writing about someone just a little less, or a little more intelligent, sensitive, caring, etc. than you. One of the most chilling, "The Wish in the Fear," is so good at what it does that you forget what the story is about until the next-to-last line, and then you remember, with a vengeance. (This is also one of those stories that is going to finish after you've read the last line — he's made it so you finish the story after he's through.)
His deft use of character is such that you forget that most horror stories just fill time before the protagonist is eaten or impaled or gets their comeuppance somehow. Zebrowski has set himself the writerly goal of having the horror come out of the situations and character flaws of his people, not from some ancient evil trespassed, or Cthuluvian terror, or now what has become that cliché — the serial killer.
There has never been a zombie story like "I Walked with Fidel" — true not only to a dead Cold War world that has passed with its polarized ideologies: the story manages to be true to both post-Superpowers times and to Castro, whose ideals were as betrayed by the nature of revolutions and the Soviet Union as by the antagonism of the United States. Zebrowski is not afraid of the Big Frightening Ideas either. The two newer centerpieces of the collection, "Black Pockets" and "A Piano Full of Dead Spiders" deal with truly existential problems, like in the latter — if you're a composer, and your tunes come from spiders playing them in your piano, what happens when they die? Are there spiders in your piano in the first place? Which died first, the spiders or your talent?
In "Black Pockets," the questions keep coming: you're given a great, heretofore unknown power by the nemesis of your existence as he is dying; for he has some unfinished business he needs done before you can use the power for revenge yourself. The protagonist finds that power, in and of itself, instead of avenging the Great Wrongs of Your Life, becomes a convenience, and otherwise innocent bystanders (wrong time, wrong place) get it used on them. At the core of the story is the frightening question: At what point does revenge become so all-consuming it clouds your judgment?
These nineteen tales of horror are from the author of Macrolife, about which Arthur C. Clarke wrote: "It's been years since I was so impressed." With an insightful afterword by the author, and an introduction by Nebula Award-winning author Howard Waldrop.
Cover art by Bob Eggleton.
Fine in fine dj. This copy SIGNED by the author.