Pandemonium: Smoke (Review)

Pandemonium: Smoke (Review)

I’ll remind you that while I was in London a few months ago, we visited the Tate Modern with its display of John Martin Paintings. I also picked up a hard back from the gift shop, Pandemonium, a series of short stories based on the paintings reviewed. I loved the paintings and really loved the book (limited edition – I snagged number 7 out of 100). I reviewed it HERE.

With great expectations, I ordered Pandemonium: Stories of the Smoke, a book purportedly focused on London, mostly Dickens’ London, but London all the same. Got it and read it in about three days.

The prognosis?

Meh. (and I hate to say it)

See, I love the idea of a publishing house pulling in all sorts of talent for a high-grade publication of interesting, out-there story-telling. In these days of Nook and Kindle, having a limited edition hardback is something I can savor, the primary reason that books will always be books, and Ireaders will always be the end-of-the-fucking-literary-world-as-we-know-it toys.

But the stories didn’t quite live up to the first edition.

It started, not on a bang, but a nuclear explosion. “Inspector Bucket Investigates” really hit me between the eyes. Disney has built a replica of Dickens’ London, one staffed with clones of the characters (based on DNA extracted from the graves of those Dickens based his characters on). It was nasty, slimy, disturbing, and great.

And there were still stories in the vein I enjoy. “Aye, there’s the rub” had a great premises and a fantastic twist. “City of the Absent” was a moody Dickens’ piece, a study of churchyard and city nooks observed on quiet Sundays – this is about as close to time travel as we shall ever get (Mason Trellis aside). But most of the stories failed to make the hit of the original Pandemonium premise, that of humanity facing the finite, of end of self and world, of the chilling look at what-is-to-come. No, this was more mainstream – one or two of the stories were so predictably come-uppance tales, I was surprised to not see them on Spielberg’s old Amazing Stories

Review aside, what you might not understand, Dear Reader, is the horrible chance I run at posting this. See, the Pandemonium folks are coming up with a new anthology, one set in the American West. To that, I have submitted. As to the wisdom of giving a tepid review to the same folks you are hoping for inclusion, well, I was never the smartest sibling in our family.

Actually, I’m the writer. How stupid is that?

Anyway, the series held me because I have an interest in such things, but let’s home the next set will be darker, edgier, and far more concentrated.