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Tales of the Hidden World
Other books by this author that I've reviewed include Something From the Nightside, Mean Streets, Agents of Light and Darkness, Nightingale's Lament, Paths Not Taken, Sharper Than a Serpent's Tooth, Hell to Pay, Just Another Judgement Day, The Good, the Bad, and the Uncanny, A Hard Day's Knight, Hex and the City, The Unnatural Inquirer, The Bride Wore Black Leather, Home Improvement: Undead Edition, Hex Appeal, Man with the Golden Torc, Daemons are Forever, The Spy Who Haunted Me, From Hell with Love, For Heaven's Eyes Only, Live and Let Drood, Casino Infernale, Blue Moon Rising, Blood and Honor, From a Drood to a Kill, The Dark Side of the Road.
“Question of Solace” (Secret Histories, 7.5)
“In the Labyrinth” (Captain Varles, 1 *)
“Awake, Awake Ye Northern Winds” (Captain Varles, 2 *)
* My own “series” name for these two short stories.
An anthology of 17 short stories, one of which falls within the Secret Histories series about the Drood Family. There are a few which could be considered loosely affiliated, I guess.
It’s primarily horror in this anthology with a smattering of science fiction, urban fantasy, and the paranormal. Green definitely gives us food for thought.
“Question of Solace” is a look back by Jack, the Drood family armorer. A fascinating look at Jack’s life from his dashing spy days with his brother, the Gray Fox, and on through his days in the Armoury. What is required of a Drood to work there and why Jack quit fieldwork. Thoughts of his wife and son, even a dog he’d had once. It’s also a tour of the Secret Histories as Jack recollects different cases through the years. You will laugh and you will cry at the end.
Loved the T-shirt slogan: Guns Don’t Kill People, Unless You Aim Them Properly!
“Street Wizard” is its own story about a wizard who works for the London City Council keeping the peace at night on the city’s busy streets, preventing crime, sobering up drunks. It’s trademark Green with its outrageously silly crimes delivered with a real-world feel — really sends it home how crazy this is as he battles giants, fairies, angels, vampires, sirens, succubae, lurkers, and the God-botherers. As well as his interactions with fellow enforcement from undines filtering pollution and the Men in Black. Be sure to read up on leeches!
“Death is a Lady” is a brief story about a near-death experience. Green’s to be exact.
“Dorothy Dreams” is cute as well with a Dorothy who got old and her kids put her in a rest home. A dull, boring one so far from Oz. Hmm, and carefully picked by her children to be far away from their homes so they’d have an excuse not to visit. Not much to do there but dream, and dream Dorothy does about her days of fame when she consulted about her trip to Oz with the movie producers and all the mistakes they made. Oh, deary, dear. Yet more dreams and she learns the truth about her trip to Oz. Oh, deary, dear…
“Down and Out in Dead Town” is a gruesome story that takes into account our current economy with a man who loses his job and can’t get another. It’s so bad that he becomes homeless, and we follow his “adventures” right along with the development of a new phenomenon: the dead rising up and returning to their families.
“It doesn’t matter how hard you work, or how much you have; there’s nothing you’ve got that the world can’t take away.”
Ooh, Green makes a good point about the distinction between homeless and street people; I gotta wonder how much truth is in this. How we’re more likely to take a stray dog in and feed them, give them a warm place to stay than we are to take in a homeless, er, I mean, street person. That the homeless are just as “real” as the dead.
Oh, and it’s a horrible conclusion Green comes to, why the dead came back.
“From Out of the Sun,Endlessly Singing” is another bit of horror, how three people were sacrificed without their knowledge to save a dying earth.
“It’s All About the Rendering” is a lovely story about a guest house run by a couple in love: Peter and Jubilee Caine. It’s a sanctuary for anyone who needs it, until the day the house is noticed on both sides of the border! A drowning in bureaucracy and debt is looming…! There’s a Nightside feel to this, and I don’t know if I keep re-reading the same short story or if there are others out there about this house. I know I’m hoping there are others!
Jubilee has a great mug: “Worship Me Like the Goddess I am or There Will Be Some Serious Smiting.”
“Find Heaven and Hell in the Smallest Things” is yet another gruesome horror story about 12 people conscripted into hard suits and sent off into space to terraform a very hostile plant, er, planet. It’s a clever story, but I don’t really grasp how the plants make the decision, distinction?, as to when to stop attacking? Why weren’t they landed with more ammunition? What right does the Empire have to do this to people?
“Jesus and Satan Go Jogging in the Desert” is barely changed from the original in the bible. What I remember anyway. I found it dull and tedious as Satan tries to tempt Jesus as he comes out of his 40-day-and-night stretch in the desert. Coming from Satan’s perspective does make it a bit more interesting. It does explain why Lilith, Adam’s first wife was thrown out of Eden.
“Food of the Gods” has a nasty and shocking ending. It shouldn’t be as surprising as it is since Green does keep telling us what’s going on, dropping all sorts of hints to us about the curious James Eddow, investigative reporter. It does promote primitive beliefs that we can absorb our enemies’ courage and abilities. Truly gag-worthy.
“He Said, Laughing” is another horror story with a murderous Captain Marlowe given two evil choices: two bullets or a suicide mission. Seems there’s a general who has been very naughty, raising zombies to fight the Vietnamese War. I can see the general’s point, but his plans for after the war…EEK! I do have to agree with Green’s point about what the real horror is in this!
“Soldier, Soldier” is a street war in America, preparing ourselves for when the aliens arrive. I have to confess I don’t get the rationale behind this. If there really are aliens on the moon, why are we getting ready for it by fighting all sorts of stupid little wars on earth? Instead of destroying our own forces, why aren’t we putting the effort into taking down the real bad guys.
“Manslayer” is one of the good ones! It’s a fantasy in which Brand, a former slave and now a mercenary, takes on the job of defeating a tremendous undersea monster, Manslayer. He’s been promised a huge fortune to save slave-owning and -abusing Lord Vallar’s family fortune. It’s a nasty little man who is ungrateful from the start, and that ending…it’ll make you cry. And I want Green to write a sequel and destroy this scumbag.
“Cascade” catches your attention from the start with those two opening sentences and keeps dragging you down below the surface as he takes vengeance for his Jenny. It’s beautifully written with lots of show and it all seems so futile…
“Soulhunter” is another horrific tale with the soulhunter battling to save a not-born soul from the monsters that seek to eat it. I do like how Green handled the “info dumps” in this, lol! There’s a gritty realness to this that will leave you wanting a hot shower.
“Awake, Awake Ye Northern Winds” should follow “In the Labyrinth”, and the excuse Green gives for how it’s organized in Tales of the Hidden World are lame. Sorry, Green, but it’s a lousy reason. These two shorts should be arranged for the readers’ convenience.
That said, this one is my favorite of all the stories — it’s pirates and hidden treasure! Combine that with a horror story about zombies and a cursed city…and you’ll be reading a hell of a scary tale with some great primary characters, although I’m still confused if Ravensbrook is the cause or the result of its lord. I’m hoping there’ll be more stories about these three — there’s supposed to be a sequel, “The Pit of Despair”.
“In the Labyrinth” is the prequel to “Awake, Awake Ye Northern Winds” and tells us how Captain Varles and his first mate, Jarryl, springs Shade from the dungeons of Mhule. A terrifying precursor!
The Cover and Title
The cover is great, lol, a purple and blue background with hazy figures in the distance. In the foreground, a man in focused detail comes toward us, almost carrying a yellow ball of light. The yellow is repeated in the title while the author’s name is in white.
The title is true enough for this is a world which we don’t normally see in our everyday lives; they’re the Tales of the Hidden World.