Normally when I review one of Robert Aickman's collections, I ramble on about his masterful craftmanship of strange tales, his lush and supple prose, talking much about the author's style in general. But I'm not going to do that this time. Let's face it, if you're thinking of picking this book up you are already a hardened fan. Unless you're extraordinarily lucky to discover this tucked away out the back of some dusty old second-hand store, you're paying a lot of money for one of these fine but expensive Tartarus Press editions.
This collection contains only six stories, one of which I've read before ("Bind Your Hair") and an introduction by Dr Glen Cavaliero. One reason I picked this up, other than getting hold of several stories not included in the relatively cheaper and more readily available collections, was to get to read the legendary "Ringing the Changes". I noticed that many Aickman fans had cited this as their favourite and after reading it I can see why. One of his more outright terrifying stories. I loved it.
But Aickman rarely writes stories that are conventional horror. Usually they are more strange, only hinting at something more horrific under the surface. "The School Friend" is like this. We experience the story through the eyes of a female protagonist who sees her old friend change inexplicably as she moves back into her family home. "Choice of Weapons" is completely outré
as we follow a man who falls in love with a woman at first sight whilst on a date with another and then the consequences of his obsession unfold. "The Waiting Room" is the least interesting, still worth reading but definitely one of his minor stories.
Included in this edition, although not in the original edition, is "The View", which actually originally appeared in his first collection that he contributed to jointly with Elizabeth Jane Howard, We Are For The Dark. This version is one that Aickman had apparently slightly re-written. A great story though exploring the tension between the forces for change and stasis in Aickman's own oblique way.
All in all, another fine collection but then I am increasingly of the opinion that it would be extremely difficult to put a collection of stories by this author together and for it not to be outstanding.