Sunday, 3 August 2008

‘Blue World’ – Robert R. McCammon (Grafton Books)

I first came across Robert McCammon’s work at college when a friend of mine lent me a copy of ‘They Thirst’, a chilling tale of a Los Angeles over-run by vampires and the best vampire book that I’ve come across. It took me years to find my own copy but in the meantime I worked my way through ‘Baal’ (intense but unsatisfying), ‘The Nightboat’ (Nazi zombies from beneath the sea!) and ‘Swansong’ (ok… but it felt like I was reading ‘The Stand’ all over again). A bit of a mixed bag then but when I found this collection of short horror stories, while on holiday, I couldn’t resist picking it up.
I’m glad I did, it’s another mixed bag but ‘Blue World’ sure-fire evidence of an author with the ability to write some seriously scary stuff! Come with me and I’ll show you what I mean…

‘Yellowjacket Summer’

I’m a complete wuss when it comes to bees and wasps so a tale about a boy with the power to talk to Yellowjackets (hornets?) was a dead cert to really freak me out. And it did with a slow build up, of things not seeming quite right, to an explosive finale in a swarm of Yellowjackets…
After reading about a boy being swarmed by Yellowjackets in a public toilet, it was un-nerving (to say the least) when a hornet came and hovered right over the cubicle I was in the next day… True story.


A small time criminal steals the make up case of a forties horror actor and gets a lot more than he bargained for…
This one was a real stop start affair that only had me reading to find out what mysterious power the make up box would confer next. Spooky ending though.

‘Doom City’

McCammon’s back on form again with a post apocalyptic tale with a twist in the tale that really shook me when I first read it (to be honest, it still shakes me up!) What makes this one even more un-nerving was the fact that I still can’t work out who was dreaming and who was going through it all…


A late night diner becomes a battleground as a Vietnam Vet’s nightmares come back to haunt him in the worst way…
This is another slow starter that never really got out of first gear although the shootout made for some tense moments. What was scarier was the man from the Government Agency who cam round asking questions afterwards…


What I think McCammon does best is his portrayals of insanity and he really went for it in this short story of a man who’s gone over the edge and just needs to do one thing, with a pin, before he can go to the next stage. This one made me wince, especially right at the end when the pin…

‘Yellachile’s Cage’

A story of a prisoner and a canary. That’s all I can tell you as this one totally failed to engage me and I barely even started it… I think part of the problem lies in that a lot of the 'full on' tales of terror are followed by stories that seem more sedate. A definite problem with the pacing as far as I was concerned.

‘I Scream Man’

Another post-apocalyptic tale and a really touching affair of a game of scrabble that is not what it seems… It’s another examination of insanity and the chilling moments come in periods of lucidity when you start to get an idea of what’s really going on… One of my favourites in the collection.

‘He’ll come knocking at Your Door’

This is another favourite where a man discovers the true cost of living in the perfect neighbourhood, payment is made on Halloween Night…
I try not to swear on this blog but I’m sorely tempted right now by just how intense this story is, both when Dan finds out what’s going on and right at the very end when things get so bizarre that it’s truly terrifying…


McCammon threw me a curveball here with this tale of a disabled child abused by his ‘stepfather’. Chico gets the second from last laugh, I had the last laugh when I realised exactly what was going on…

‘Night Calls the Green Falcon’

This is another one that I didn’t finish. What I found was that when McCammon was on form I enjoyed it so much that I didn’t want to waste time on anything that seemed second rate… I will go back and read this at some point.

‘The Red House’

This one was so slow that I just went straight to the end to see what happened, it didn’t inspire me to go back to the beginning and start again (although the hints at a young man's journey into adulthood seemed interesting)... Will I give this one another go? 'I don't know' is the answer right now.

‘Something Passed By’

I liked this one, a tale of daily life in the strangeness of the ‘End Times’. Seeing people treat drinking gasoline as normal (amongst other things) felt like watching an episode of ‘The Twilight Zone’. Everything is normal but at the same time it most definitely isn’t. The hope of redemption at the end balances out the bleakness in the rest of the tale.

‘Blue World’

It’s the story that the collection takes it’s name from and would you believe I didn’t have the slightest interest in reading it? After being deliciously chilled by supernatural stuff I realised that I wasn’t all that bothered by a priest’s dalliance with a cocaine snorting porn star, even if she was being stalked by a psycho cowboy. I may go back and give it another go sometime in the future.

As you can see then, I found McCammon’s short stories to be just as much of a mixed bag as the novels (of his) that I’ve read. However, when he gets in the groove McCammon is very good indeed and that’s what elevates this collection into a book that any horror fan should try if they haven’t already. I think you’ll like it.

Eight out of Ten

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