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T. E. D. Klein
Reassuring Tales
Reviewed by: Rick Kleffel © 2007

Subterranean Press
US First Edition Hardcover
ISBN 1-596-06072-7
160 Pages; $40
Publication Date:12-01-2006
Date Reviewed: 02-07-07

Index: Horror  General Fiction  Fantasy  Science Fiction

T. E. D. Klein's 'Reassuring Tales' is anything but re-assuring. In a couple of quick lines, in a few short paragraphs, Klein can undercut comfort with a skill that is as frightening as the stories themselves. 'Reassuring Tales' is Klein's first collection in I-don't-know-how-many years, and like most readers who have read his work, I simply don’t care. Having the work to read is far more important than any other considerations.

Subterranean's collection shows Klein's more playful side as well as his solid literary skills. We get the nicely understated "Camera Shy", which like many in this book evokes a knowing smile as well as chills, and the ultimate campfire story, "One Size Eats All". "S.F." is indeed science fiction as well as horror, and it's very intriguing to see Klein work in two genres at once.

'Reassuring Tales' includes stories too odd to be included in any genre but horror, reminding readers of why we come to this corner of the bookstore. Horror authors have more leeway than writers working in other disciplines, and Klein uses every bit in "Growing Things", a tale of tension, home renovation and history. "Curtains for Nat Crumley" plays some post-modern tricks with narrative while serving up a decidedly old-fashioned treat for readers, especially those of us who love our sugary-sweet cereal, or at least look back on those confections with nostalgia. Klein kicks that nostalgia into a less reassuring place.

" Magic Carpet" plays with the powers of perception and cracks a good joke. It's simple, sweet and just nasty enough to make me suggest it's not appropriate in-flight reading. "They Don’t Write 'Em Like This Anymore" offers two versions of a treatment for television. It's not exactly a story, but it does offer insight into the business end of writing, and thus is obvious the perfect fodder for fans of horror fiction.

Klein is at his best when he's writing the sort of understated literary horror found in 'Dark Gods'. "Ladder" works in precisely that mode, with an intriguing take on the old game of telephone spun into life itself. We all like to think we have a plan that we're going to follow, but very few of us ever manage to do so. Klein's story plays out an entire life in the space most writers need to set a living room scene. The story is a compact wonder. "Well-Connected" plays on family tensions and displaced travelers to create a very unpleasant story about trust, truth and taking advantage. The collection concludes with the under-reprinted classic "The Events At Poroth Farm", the basis for Klein's novel The Ceremonies. It's an appropriate conclusion, reminding us of why Klein is such an important writer. There's a feeling of great care in the placement of every word and sentence, and this might in part be due to the many versions that have been published. This is the latest and greatest. When we say that in reference to a story by Klein, that's a statement that readers should heed. Klein's story is pure genre fiction executed with a skill that makes it an undeniably literary work.

As usual, Subterranean Press offers a to-die-for package for Klein's work. The cover alone is priceless, and readers should be reassured that it is actually a fine illustration for the story "Growing Things". But Klein's 'Reassuring Tales' is most reassuring because it gives us hope that we will continue to hear from this talented writer.

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