White and Other Tales of Ruin, by Tim Lebbon
Night Shade Books, 2003
$15.00 trade paperback
$27.00 trade hardcover
I am a big admirer of the novella form; it is, to my mind, the ideal length for fiction, genre be damned. Unfortunately,
many writers who have restricted themselves to either novel- or
short story-length work find the form daunting as hell -- witness Leisure
Books' release of Four Dark Nights last year: four writers,
four novellas. All of the writers in that collection have proven
themselves to be excellent novelists and short story writers; but
for two, the novella form defeated them; in one case almost embarrassingly
I subject you to the above so you'll understand that, as one who
prefers the novella (as both a writer and a reader), I am particularly
merciless as a reader when it comes to this form. The novella ain't
for wimps; it is by far the most difficult of all forms to work
Which is why Tim Lebbon's White and Other Tales Of Ruin is
a must-read for those of you who share my love of this particular
Lebbon is a master of the novella, as this sterling collection proves
six times over. Two of the novellas here--"Hell" and "Mannequin
Man and the Plastic Bitch"--are original to the collection,
which also includes the British Fantasy Award-winning "White".
While I don't mean to diminish the value of the other pieces in
White--every story in here is superb--I would draw your attention
to "Hell", a story that remains for me one of the best
horror novellas I've read in years; the book is worth its price
for this story alone, wherein the narrator--a man whose daughter
has run away to join a religious cult--must journey (by train) to
Hell itself in order to find her.
With a brief nod to Clive Barker during the outset, Lebbon quickly
turns this journey into a protracted tour through every nightmare
image imaginable-there are scenes seemingly lifted from Fuseli paintings,
and more Bosch-ian encounters than most writers deal with in the
course of several novels, let alone a single story.
That Lebbon knows how to use these horrific images to symbolize
his narrator's internal struggle is just one of the astounding achievements
of this piece; that he can shotgun these images at you non-stop
for nearly 100 pages and never once repeat himself is a testament
to his breathtaking (and gloriously disturbing) imagination.
As a final triumph, the closing passages of "Hell" are
among the most genuinely poignant and moving he's ever written.
It just doesn't get any better than this, folks.
At least until the next Lebbon collection ....