Anthony Ferguson presents twenty-one Australian stories that aim to delight and chill the reader. Each story for the most part has a representation of a human as a central motif, if not the main antagonist. Of course some stories break that definition and take things in entirely left field directions, which adds to the flavour Ferguson elicits with his collection. Boldly going where few Editors have gone before, prepare yourself for dolls and other things that have murderous intent on their minds, as Alan Ferguson turns to the dark side of the Barbie and Ken catalogue.
The title of this collection is going to confuse a few people, as it sort of doesn't conjure up the correct notion of what might be lurking between the covers. Far from being a University thesis on dolls and the like down the years in Aussie fiction, Devil Dolls contains a collection of fictional stories from some of the great dark genre Writers working Downunder gathered under a common theme. So don't worry you aren't about to embark on reading yet another didactic piece of writing that seeks to use the dark genre to prove a preconceived agenda, rather you get a very good collection of stories to delight and amaze.
While I would like to say every story is original to the collection, that isn't the case, and is outside Alan Ferguson's remit anyway. I recognised a number of the stories from other publications, and of course ran across quite a few that were new to me. But overall I was pleased with the scope of what I had in front of me. I always get my groove on when I hit something I haven't read before from a favourite Author and Ferguson hit me up with that. So while you may recognise individual stories, unless you spend every moment of the waking day reading Australian dark fiction then you are in for a few surprises. I should add here that the odd kiwi sneaks in under the radar as well.
Perhaps the most important point to take from Devil Dolls is that someone has taken time out of their busy schedule to collection at times disparate stories with a common element into a single must have collection. There should be more of this going down locally in my humble opinion, as the fictional landscape Downunder while lush and varied, does tend toward common concerns, phobias, and fears. Editor Ferguson captures that notion brilliantly and throws together a highly entertaining collection into the bargain. I'm calling that a win win situation for about any reader with a hankering to get their dark genre on.
The concept of a murderous human duplicate or the perverse representation of a loved one is of course not restricted to Downunder concerns, (see Mary Shelley's Frankenstein: or, The Modern Prometheus (1818), The Golem (1936), et al), and has provided the dark genre with a rich tapestry of chills down the years. But what did surprise me was the rich traditional the concept had within Australian literature. Clearly the concept is one of those Jungian archetypes that pervade local fears yet go unnoticed till someone like Alan Ferguson pins the notion to the board of public awareness. If you haven't been overly concerned by Barbie going psycho previously then Ferguson points out we all go a little bit crazy sometimes, especially if we are of an artificial nature. I'm so leaving a Liberal Party comment out here. Anyway thanks Alan, another one of those things to start worrying about that I was blissfully unaware of previously.
To the stories themselves, and yes we get a rich arrangement that had me frothing at the mouth to get into them once I had a peek at the contents page. Local horror heavy hitters like Stephen Dedman, Jason Franks, Lee Battersby, Robert Hood, Kaaron Warren, and Martin Livings, are joined by a host of other Authors to bring tales of mayhem and chilling terror to your nightstand. If you think this is going to be a warm and cosy ride then you are in for something of a shock.
Personal favourites in the collection were: And Eve was Drawn From the Rib of Adam by Van Ikin (a nominal Sci-Fi story that hits some disturbing notions). Stephen Dedman leverages some screwy Oriental concepts with A Single Shadow, did I detect a hint of Ring there? The Third Sigil sees Jason Franks nail an unexpected twist. Jason Nahrung brings new meaning to the term Spare Parts. Tracie McBride goes reflective with Last Chance to See. Blessed Are the Dead That the Rain Falls Upon shows Martin Livings in noir mode, hope this is the start of a story cycle. Daniel I. Russell adds the blood drenched meat to this particular fandango with the excellent Tricks, Mischief and Mayhem. And finally traditional horror scares are conjured by Christopher Elston with Hugo: Man of a Thousand Faces.
Overall then I had a great time with the collection and enjoyed about every story that existed between the covers. Okay have to admit to jumping past a couple of the slow movers, but then not every collection is going to find universal warmth from every story for every reader. A remarkable collection that Alan Ferguson should be justifiably proud of. Full recommendation, there's some disturbing notions waiting the Reader on the pages of Devil Dolls.
If after a copy of Devil Dolls and Duplicates In Australian Horror, and who wouldn't be, then cruise on over to the book page, where publisher Equilibrium Books have you covered. Yes they do ship Internationally kids, so no one has to miss out.