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Under the Fang

Edited by Robert R. McCammon

Pocket Books paperback

ISBN 0-6 71-6953-8

$4.95; 336 pages

Date Reviewed: 02-28-1992

Reviewed by Rick Kleffel




One of the main problems I have with vampires is most easily expressed with the question, "Well if they're so all-fired powerful, why aren't they running the world?" In "Under the Fang", the Horror Writers of America have answered that question by creating a nightmare version of our near-future where vampires rule the earth and humans are little better than cattle. The notion may not be exactly new, but the execution(s) are excellent. "Under the Fang" showcases a number of talented writers -- known and unknown --working in a variety of styles. The result is an enjoyable anthology that will satisfy a number of tastes.

Editor Robert R. McCammon starts off things with a bang -- literally -- in "The Miracle Mile", which paints the vampire rule in apocalyptic colors. He uses his mainstream style with the maximum effect and his portrait of a duty-bound dad is not one you'll soon forget. In "Herrenrasse", JN Williamson effectively explores the relationships between kidnapper and hostage, predator and victim and vengeance and surrender. Brian Hodge's longish "Midnight Sun" is a special pleasure, with characters that are especially enjoyable.

But mainstream horror is not the sole component of this diverse collection. Splatter-king Richard Laymon makes his usual hard-hitting contribution in "Special", while novelist Nancy Collins gives him some serious competition with her gruesome story "Dancing Nightly". Her dance club from hell will linger in memory longer than most readers will wish it to. To counterbalance some of the gore, readers are also offered some tales of quiet horror, most notably Charles De Lint's "We Are Dead Together".

OK, so the collection covers all the bases, mainstream, splatter and quiet horror. But what about those surprises? For example, there are two samples of what could only be called poetic horror, Clint Collins' "Stoker's Mistress" and the beautifully wrought "Red Eve" by Al Sarrantonio. David N. Meyer's humorous "A Bloodsucker" was also an especially pleasant diversion, with its bile spewing anti-agent stance. And I must make mention of Suzy McKee Charnas' and Chelsea Quin Yarbro's fine novella "Advocates". This standout story created a unique and complex political and social climate and left me wanting more, more, more.

Any of these stories alone probably would have been enough to justify this collection, but all of them together -- with all of the excellent contributions I didn't have space to mention -- make this a must-buy anthology. And those of you who are as compulsive as myself will be happy to know that a wonderfully bound and designed limited edition is available from Borderlands Press. "Under the Fang" will drive stakes into even the hardest heart.