From Dark Places
 by Emma Newman

eMergent Publishing
First Collection

"'Jane,' he said softly, unable to stop himself from giving her one last chance. 'Do you know what day is today?'..."

Reviewed by Mario Guslandi

To judge a new writer on the basis of his/her debut collection is always a difficult task. In some instances the debut is striking (but promises may or may not be fulfilled in the next books). Other times the first published volume is just the unsuccessful attempt by a newcomer to find his/her own voice and then the author’s subsequent work attains maturity and accomplishment.

Emma Newman’s first short story collection From Dark Places lies somewhere in between. The slim volume assembles twenty-five stories, but many (too many!) of them are simply sketchy, insipid vignettes which are immediately forgotten after turning the page.

Some stories are actually not bad at all, although a bit flimsy, such as the original The Handsome Dragon a piece about technological forecasts, graced by a cute final twist, and The Art of Desire, an entertaining tale where a little girl’s drawings possess the uncanny ability of becoming real.

No Surprise, where a man takes his revenge on his forgetful wife (but things do not really work out as expected) is good, but way too short. Readers would have been interested to see the plot expanded and further developed.
She unclipped the seatbelt. He reached under his seat, felt for the handle and closed his fingers around it. "Jane," he said softly, unable to stop himself from giving her one last chance. "Do you know what day is today?"
However Newman’s collection does include some very good tales which bode well for her future career. In the Bag is an offbeat tale blending the theme of zombies with a supernatural atmosphere where love wins over death
Michael ran the length of the corridor, which formed the spine of the house, the moans and splintering of glass temporarily muffled by the levels between, and planted her, teetering, on the floor. He hadn’t switched on any of the lights, and barely able to see her hand in from of her face, Rosalind clung to him, feeling his body stretching upwards.
In the disquieting From Dark Places a teenager is haunted by voices speaking to her in the dark. Is she really a nutcase or are other explanations possible?
The light in her father’s room flicked off and the tiny brass key turned silently in the lock. The door of the grandfather clock swung out. No creaking floorboards warned her of its approach, no sound alerted her to its arrival. It was only when it lifted a lock of hair from her pillow and whispered into her ear that she woke.
In the obscure Seeing Him Again an obsession becomes more real than it first seemed:
She squeezed her eyes shut, focused on the scent of Tom’s aftershave. She only opened them again when his arm moved suddenly. He swept something from the back of his neck and onto the pavement. A scarlet spider scurried away.
Burnt is a shocking quickie with an unsettling twist in the tail and The Victim a clever horror piece where the role are reversed ("He reached out and retrieved the torch, this time using it with more thought, shining it just to the right of her face… the beam resting on her lap where a severed hand lay like a trophy from a botched waxwork museum robbery".)

The best story, which shows how good Newman can be when she manages to fully employ her potential as a storyteller is Someone To Watch Over Her, a beautiful, touching tale of multiple reincarnation and soul-mating
Her lover yelled into his mobile phone for an ambulance as her last breath dissipated from her lungs. He didn’t let it go until the core soul detached from the body, screaming with the pain of being wrenched from life ahead of schedule. He grasped the twisting form, ripped in two, then again and again until a faint, gray haze floated above the body.
Definitely a new name to watch in the dark fiction area.

Read a story from this collection on (PDF)

Mario Guslandi lives in Milan, Italy. Most likely the only Italian who regularly reads (and reviews) dark fiction in English, his book reviews have appeared in a number of genre websites such as The Alien Online, Infinity Plus, The SF Site, The Agony Column and Horrorworld.
Mario's other Short Reviews: Simon Stranzas "Cold to the Touch"

Cern Zoo anthology

Deborah Biancotti "A Book of Endings"

Joseph Payne Brennan "The Feaster from Afar and Other Ghastly Inhabitants"

Paulo Bacigalupi "Pump Six and Other Stories"

"Null Immortalis anthology"

Steve Redwood "Broken Symmetries"

Rosalie Parker "Old Knowledge and Other Strange Tales"

Michael Kelly "Undertow and Other Laments"

Gwen Davies (ed) "Sing Sorrow Sorrow"

Alice Perrin "East of Suez"

"Bite-Sized Horror" edited by Johnny Mains
find something to read: reviews
find something to read: interviews
find something to read: categories
find something to read: back issues
competitions & giveaways

Emma Newman lives in Somerset, England. Her debut novel 20 Years Later is scheduled for publication in July 2011 by Dystopia Press.

Read an interview with Emma Newman