The End of the Line

Posted: June 8, 2022 in Book reviews, horror
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Edited by Jonathan Oliver

Another day another horror anthology, but this one comes with a novel twist, a collection of 18 stories all set on and around the London Underground, the New York Subway and other places below ground.

As with all anthologies the content was variable, some stories I really liked, some I didn’t so much, here’s a potted review of each particular tale, remember just because I didn’t gel with a story doesn’t mean it’s rubbish!

Bullroarer by Paul Meloy is an interesting story, although it goes off the rails somewhat (pardon the pun) late on. An intriguing deep dive into the psyche of a damaged man who’s hidden from his true nature for far too long.

The Girl in the Glass by Paul Llewellyn Probert is one of the highlights of the collection. An unsettling and original ghost story about a man stalked by a girl’s reflection. Has a great EC Comics twist of an ending.

The Lure by Nicholas Royle. I liked the feel of this story, set in Paris, but I felt like it didn’t really go anywhere.

23:45 Morden (via Bank) by Rebecca Levene. There are several tales in this anthology that deal with someone getting off at the wrong stop, or on the wrong side of the train, and somehow winding up in a parallel universe. Levene’s is the first, and possibly the best, in the book. A creepy tale with a wonderful (or horrifying) twist in the tale worthy of the Twilight Zone.

End of the Line by Jasper Bark This one sort of deals with parallel worlds as well, although it’s more of a time travel tale really. Nicely done but I don’t think its placing in the anthology really does it justice

The Sons of the City by Simon Bestwick A quite inventive story set around the concept of a proposed underground system being built in Manchester. There’s more than a hint of the films Death Line and The Descent in this, but it’s a neat folk horror inflected tale and features interesting characters.

The Roses that Bloom Underground by Al Ewing is a near future take where the London underground undergoes a radical refurbishment in surprisingly quick time. The new trains are clean, efficient, and quite possibly paid for in blood. There’s an icky feeling to the story, and the presence of a buffoonish London mayor feels all the more relevant today given our Prime Minister.

Exit Sounds by Conrad Williams is only tangentially underground related, and other aspects of this story, an abandoned cinema where the dead get to watch movies and an expert sound recordist sent to record people leaving the cinema, promise more than they deliver.

Funny Things by Pat Cardigan is another alternate universe inflected tale focusing on grief. After her husband dies on the New York Subway a woman can’t shake the feeling that the man who died wasn’t her husband, and that her husband is still alive having been nabbed by another her to replace the man she lost. A globe trotting story that’s as much about grief as it is about other universes and mysterious the staff who seem determined to ensure the various universes shouldn’t interact.

On All London Underground Lines by Adam L. G. Nevill is an affecting story whose protagonist finds himself trapped in an horrendous underground purgatory where all of the trains seem delayed, he travels between packed platforms encountering other commuters, some of whom seem to have been waiting for a very long time. An unsettling take of terror.

Fallen Boys by Mark Morris. In a book chock full of takes set in the London underground this ghost story set in a former Cornish mine featuring a dark history and an ill-fated school trip stands out

In the Colosseum by Stephen Volk. A television editor is invited to a lavish party thrown by a big name producer, but things take a dark turn when the partygoers are inexplicably led to a CCTV control room covering the London underground. One of the best stories in the collection, but not an easy read. Explicit, violent and the fact that the horror isn’t supernatural makes it all the more disturbing.

The Rounds by Ramsey Campbell. Another story with hints of time travel, this time set on the Liverpool underground and riffing on Islamic panic and paranoia.

Missed Connection by Michael Marshall Smith. A commuter gets off the tube to find a strangely derelict station, and things only get worse from there. Another tale of other worlds accessed by accident, as a standalone this is good, but in relation to the anthology it feels like a story we’ve read before, though its dreamlike quality is disconcerting.

Siding 13 by James Lovegrove. A busy tube train gets busier and busier and busier as more and more people get on and no one seems able to get off. Another highlight, a horrible tale of oppression and claustrophobia.  The tube will never feel rammed again. A nightmarish tale with more than a nod to a certain short Spanish film from the 70s!

Diving Deep by Gary McMahon. Another one of my favourites. A story that takes the prompt of an underground transpiration system and does something very unexpected with it. In the Arctic a diver ventures into a tunnel in the ice and discovers something beyond comprehension. A story that balances the fear of claustrophobia with the vast emptiness of cosmic horror and is thus affecting on myriad levels.

Crazy Train by Natasha Rhodes. A crazy rock and roll horror story riffing on the untimely deaths of rock stars down the ages and how they all might wind up in some underground purgatory. It goes in a very unexpected direction and has a neat twist.

All the Dead Years by Joel Lane. A psychiatrist tries to deal with a woman’s fear of the underground which seems connected to a visit to Parisian catacombs and another incident that happened miles from any tunnel. Started well but meandered to an unsatisfactory ending.

Down by Christopher Fowler. The anthology is rounded off with a melancholy ghost story. A maintenance worker alone in the tunnels comes across spirits of the dead, but there’s more to the story than first appears and the worker isn’t who he claims to be. A strong and oddly t uplifting end to the anthology.

All in all I think if you like horror you’re bound to find something you like in here. It’s a mostly great selection of tales, although some themes do get a little repetitive by the time you’re nearing the end.

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