Sunday, May 28, 2006

The Overnight by Ramsey Campbell

Ramsey Campbell is a mainstay of horror fiction, a true living grandmaster. His bibliography is nigh absurd, with scores of novels and collections, and his short fiction has appeared in over 100 magazines and anthologies. He's never approached the sales of peers Stephen King, Dean Koontz, and Clive Barker, but his body of work is undeniably superior to the big three.

His latest novel, The Overnight, tells the story of a newly opened chain book store where not all is as it seems. The recently constructed shopping center of which it is an anchor seems to have been built on marshlands, as nightly it fills with a smothering fog eerily reminiscent of Jack The Ripper's London. To complete corporate demands, the store manager has required that all employees must be attendant for an overnight inventory.

Eery events lead up to the dreaded all-nighter, and some staff members have already befallen dubious accidents. Books are curiously misplaced, tempers are inflamed, and personalities sour as the eventful night approaches, and strange stories of the landscapes past are revealed. The overnight may spell the end of the bookstore, and the doom of the staff.

Now a book about a book store is something I can get into. A rabid bibliophile, books with plenty of references to other books are inherently pleasing. Unfortunately every book mentioned is a fictional imagining of Campbell's, and the inner workings and politics of the book store are the bones of this tale.

Inordinately ominous and suitably terrifying, The Overnight is a throwback horror novel replete with fear of the unknown and plenty of chilling hints of the macabre. The first half of the book is a veritable how-to of horror writing, which unfortunately falls flat in the end with too much gore and too much show -- really lacking the fear of the unknown that marks the first half as a prodigiously horrific.

The Overnight is a very good horror novel that falls just short of greatness in the end. If the premise sounds fascinating, then it's certainly a book you should consider.

7/10

Collector's Notes:

Horror novels by masters are always collectible, and The Overnight featured a limited numbered edition from PS Publishing. There were 500 copies of the limited edition created, with 200 of them being a slipcased deluxe edition. The limited edition sells for 50 dollars and the deluxe edition for around 90 dollars -- prices that are sure to inflate when it sells out.