Saturday, 4 February 2012

Visitants: Stories of Fallen Angels & Heavenly Hosts

Visitants: Stories of Fallen Angels & Heavenly Hosts
Edited by Stephen Jones
Reviewed by Peter Coleborn

I hate angels (got that out of the system). Of course, by this I mean all those cutesy ‘beings’ that act as personal guardians that make sure everything is hunky dory. Fortunately you don’t get that sort of angel in this anthology of 28 stories. Stephen Jones, one of the best horror anthologists working in the field, makes sure that these deal with God’s messengers as they (probably) were (or are or will be). I was hoping for creatures similar to those Mike Carey described in his masterful Lucifer comics. I wasn’t disappointed.

It’s a rule of thumb that the first story in an anthology should be the strongest. It acts as appetiser to the meal. Here, Neil Gaiman’s Murder Mysteries does the first job perfectly. It has to be perfect since the story takes place in the Silver City, which God created perfectly. But obviously not perfect enough: there’s been a murder. The last story is Going Bad by Jay Lake, in which there’s another crime, this time involving ‘fallen’ angels. Although Lake’s is a good, albeit brief, tale, the penultimate story by Christopher Fowler shines brighter. Beautiful Men deals with the End, where a human is visited by angels, and is tempted. It’s easy to see why this story was shortlisted for the World Fantasy Awards.

Lake’s story is set at/after the End. See the thread? Stephen Jones’s selection charts the rise, decline and fall of these angelic beings, humanity, too. Many of the stories are original to this anthology: Lake, Fowler, Ian R MacLeod, Yvonne Navarro, Chelsea Quinn Yarbro, Robert Shearman (a weird tale), Ramsey Campbell. Reprints come from Gaiman, Arthur Machen (The Bowman), Sarah Pinborough, Lisa Tuttle and Michael Marshall Smith among others. Do yourself a favour: become a bit new dark-agey for a while and buy this book.

(This review was originally published on the BFS website)

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