Magic Terror

Magic Terror

by Peter Straub

A collection of short stories from the acclaimed master of horror. Peter Straub leads us into the outer reaches of the psyche in these seven tales of living, dying and the terror that lies in between.

  • Language: English
  • Category: Horror
  • Rating: 3.60
  • Publish Date: March 4th 2002 by Not Avail
  • Isbn10: 0007109911
  • Isbn13: 9780007109913

What People Think about "Magic Terror"

I read it through in a single gulp, while waiting for my daughter to get out of dance class, and at first I was simply enjoying the bizarre voice Straub gives to his narrator, a totally compelling mixture of self-aggrandizement and guilty whining that he revisits in the excellent "Hunger: an Introduction." It wasn't until I finished, though, that the full meaning of the story really dawned on me. I had to race right back to the beginning of the story and read the whole thing through again, this time through the lens of that realization.

A curious collection of not-so-short fiction by one of my favorite authors, Magic Terror offers 7 tales where each is unique and not two are alike. Straub's voice changes from story to story, and each of them offers an unique reading experience.

I've read three of the seven stories, and I can't say that I was impressed by any of them. Like, "Let me think of as many weird things as possible and squeeze them into 18 pages with no connecting narrative and call it a story" weird. Better than the first story, but not impressive. *shrug* I read a page of the fourth story, and just...

There is a spy story, for example, and a very disturbing tale of the making of a serial killer. The most notable feature of these tales is their diversity, in subject and style both, you wouldn't even think they share an author.

A few notes on the 7 stories in question: - Ashputtle: by far my favorite of the bunch (also the shortest in the book). 5 stars - Isn't It Romantic: an almost James Bond-esque spy narrative that was a tedious read, with a payoff that just wasn't worth the journey. The characterizations were brilliantly executed, but the story itself felt stagnant. 2 stars - Mr. Clubb and Mr. Cuff: This one reminded me of a Neil Gaiman story, with the two hired assassins coming off almost as mythological in nature.

***1/2 A solid short story collection with only one dud, 'Hunger: an Introduction,' which is an unfocused rambling glimpse of a man's becoming a ghost. Ron McLarty's deep sonorous actorly voice brought the rest of the stories to life in a way that my internal voice could not (especially on 'Porkpie Hat' and the final story). In its references to Art it is Straub's opposite answer to Kafka's 'The Hunger Artist.' Grade: A 2) 'Isn't it Romantic?' - The cliched 'final job of a hit-man' story. Grade: A 6) 'Hunger, an Introduction - BOMB 7) 'Mr. Clubb and Mr. Cuff' - A story of jealousy and revenge taken to extremes.

Peter Straub, in his book of short stories "Magic Terror", pushes the envelope of the horror genre beyond what is normally "safe" territory and into realms that very few writers, horror or otherwise, seldom traverse.

Straub's writing style is actually remarkably similar to King's (one reason perhaps why they've collaborated well together in the past), and perhaps it's for that reason that Straub tries to be more experimental in his work.

The salesman wanted him to become an athlete, the nurse thought he would do well as either a doctor or a Lutheran minister, but all he wanted to do was to learn to read. When kindergarten turned out to be a stupefyingly banal disappointment devoted to cutting animal shapes out of heavy colored paper, he took matters into his own hands and taught himself to read by memorizing his comic books and reciting them over and over to other neighborhood children on the front steps until he could recognize the words. Books took him out of himself, so he read even more than earlier, a youthful habit immeasurably valuable to any writer. Did he also wish to excel, to keep panic and uncertainty at arm's length by good old main force effort?