Don't Dream: The Collected Horror and Fantasy Fiction of Donald Wandrei Horror Book Review
Featured Book Review: Darkbound
Darkbound is an amazing book. Michaelbrent Collings outdid himself with this book. It is not at all what I thought it would be. I took three nights to finish this book because I stayed up way past my bedtime. Darkbound was so suspenseful that I just kept on reading to…
Horror books Review
Yes, Donald Wandrei was a member of the notorious “Lovecraft Circle”, but herein you will find no Great Cthulus, slime dripping Byakhees, or worm-eaten copies of De Vermiis Mysteriis, for this collection consists largely of sci-fi stories that rely heavily upon pseudo-science, physical revulsion, and violence for their effect, hence most could be called “horror” stories. There are few tales of the genuine supernatural here, “The Chuckler”, “The Lady in Gray”, “Don’t Dream”, and the “Painted Mirror” being the only stories in this thick compendium with authentic occult overtones. Indeed, although Wandrei admired Lovecraft, he doesn’t seem to have been influenced much by him in terms of style or device; Wandrei clearly owes much to writers like H.G. Wells, H. Rider Haggard, and Edgar Rice Burroughs for his sci-fi yarns, and his language is surprisingly contemporary. Nearly all of Wandrei’s “fantasy fiction” consists of his dream stories and prose poems, all of which are markedly different in feel from his sci-fi efforts. They are true ravings from a fevered mind and smack of the genuine, illogical stuff of nightmare…little if any plot, but striking and atmospheric images and sensations with an ever present feeling of dread in the backdrop. Wandrei captures the feeling of a dream much better than Dunsany or Lovecraft, but his forays into the Dreamlands are brief excursions, not well-plotted epics in the tradtion of the other two authors.
Highlights of this collection include the action-adventure/murder mystery/sci-fi tale “Giant-Plasm” (the give away title being the only drawback), the genuinely creepy “Treemen of M’Bwa”, the disorienting man-to-animal soul transference of “The Witch Makers”, the graphic and ultraviolent yarns “The Monster From Nowhere” (a metallic alien rips peoples heads off) and “The Destroying Horde” (flesh absorbing ancestors of the “The Blob” terrorize St.Paul), the awesome little tale “The Eye and the Finger”, and the gruesome, Stephen King-esque “It Will Grow on You”. A few of the stories simply do not work (these include the dreadfully hokey “A Scientist Divides” and the corny “When The Fire Creatures Came”), but thankfully these duds are the exception. On a similar note, much of Wandrei’s earlier “prose poetry” is too brief and undeveloped to be very enjoyable…it only tantalizes you with a taste of a fuller nightmare vision that never seems to materialize, while Wandrei attempts to see just how freaky he can get with words reminds one of Clark Ashton Smith (who DW also, not at all surprisingly, greatly admired).
All fans of 30s pulp fiction should own this book, it is a rare gem: a compilation of classic, ground-breaking sci-fi stories. Sure, there are some stinkers in the list, but the good stories predominate, for Wandrei was a writer of startling originality. But Lovecraft junkies beware…if you buy this book anticipating more uninspired Cthulhu Mythos stories (ala August Derleth), you’ll be disappointed, for the only two stories that resemble anything written by Lovecraft are “The Shadow of a Nightmare” (nine pages) and “The Chuckler in the Tomb” (a cop tracks down a grave robber who turns out to be something other than human…four pages).