Review: Uncle Montague’s Tales of Terror, Chris Priestley

Though short stories — which is what Uncle Montague’s Tales of Terror is, short stories with a frame device — are not generally my thing, the genre of short story most likely to please me is horror. (Ghost horror, not serial killer horror. Ghosts are imaginary, but serial killers are very real, and terrifying.) I ordinarily discount short story books unless they are pressed on me by friends who are sure they can change my mind about short stories (they can’t), but the horror thing and the thin, weird, slightly Goreyish illustrations made me decide to give Uncle Montague’s Tales of Terror a try.

Edward enjoys going to visit his Uncle Montague, who lives in a big old house full of strange and mysterious objects, all of which seem to have frightening stories attached to them. Edward assumes that his uncle is just trying to scare him, but as the evening wears on, he is forced to confront the possibility that the stories of horrors that befall selfish children might be true.

To my joy, I enjoyed these stories. I like how everyone in them dies. Okay, not everyone, but many of them! Because, you know. Death to naughty children, that’s the name of the game. The other notable strength of the collection — and something I tend to love in all stories but especially horror ones — is how you think you know what’s going on and it’s X. And then TWIST!, you find out that all along what’s really been going on the whole time was Y.

(Cf. Helen Oyeyemi’s White Is for Witching. When the house — highlight if you have read White Is for Witching already because otherwise this will mess up a quite chilling moment in the book and will make no sense to you — says “Africa? Really”, it just sends chills up my spine.)

These are stories for children, but that doesn’t stop them from being quite frightening. If I had read them when I was a little kid I would probably never have slept again. I was a timid child. Luckily I am much braver now because it has become clear to me that ghosts & demons & monsters are pretend, and now I only have to worry about serial killers, none of which occur in the pages of Uncle Montague’s Tales of Terror.

Others who reviewed it include: things mean a lot, Stuff as Dreams Are Made On, The Written World, Stainless Steel Droppings, Graeme’s Fantasy Book Review, Fleur Fisher in her World, My Favourite Books, Polishing Mud Balls, All about {n}. Tell me if I missed yours!