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Northwest Passages by Barbara Roden
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Northwest Passages

by Barbara Roden

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Roden is one of the world's foremost experts on ghost stories, contemporary and otherwise, and her first collection generally showcases this knowledge to good effect.

Varying in length from just a few pages to around thirty, the stories here cover everything from vampires to haunted houses, with nods to everyone from Algernon Blackwood to Peter Straub. In general, the stories centre around isolation, people or things being where they don't belong, and the futility of... humanity, I guess. So they definitely plug into the Blackwood/Machen tradition rather than your M.R James.

The chill-factor will vary between readers - though fans of oft-times violent and explicit contemporary horror will find little to please them here. The horror here is generally allusive and metaphorical.

In terms of originality, the collection is a bit of a mixed bag.I found the ant/arctic tales to be the most compelling. It's hard for me to as I'm a bit of a ghost story addict and have read several hundred myself, and the genre as a whole tends to cluster around sub-types. Suffice to say, I never felt there was anything blatantly derivative, though I did find myself comfortably slotting the bulk of the stories into one format or another within a page or so.

Prose-wise, Roden is confident and competent. There's nothing flashy or sublime here. She goes for a quiet, almost detached tone (this is not to say the characters do so). It's very well put together, but I think something with a slightly stronger flavour could have helped a few stories, and increased the originality.

For all that, Northwest Passages is a more than worthy addition to the genre - and I think several of the stories are likely to pop up in anthologies over the years, they are solid. ( )
  patrickgarson | Sep 18, 2013 |
A terrific collection of creepy stories. Roden has successfully reclaimed dread fiction with this group of tales. Most every one of them are a winner, evoking the shadows and nightmares in some pretty good situations. Settings are all over the place; be it the frontier in the Canadian wilderness or some lobby of a ritzy hotel, she brings the environment and characters to vivid realization. Reminds me of Lovecraft, Poe, King in his early works. Traditional style but done well, and will put shivers up the spine. Recommended. ( )
  noblechicken | Oct 25, 2010 |
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"Be careful what you wish for. Young men in search of adventure...explorers driven to investigate the ends of the earth...a girl trying to find the perfect hiding place...a curiosity-seeker drawn to an abandoned amusement park. All of them are looking for something--and unfortunately, they usually find it. For the very unlucky, it sometimes finds them! In these ten spellbinding stories by World Fantasy Award winner Barbara Roden, very little is as innocent as it seems; but much is haunting, enigmatic, and terrifying. Where the Twilight Zone ends, the Northwest Passages begin. Publishers Weekly has described the work of two-time World Fantasy Award winner Barbara Roden as 'eloquent' and 'a standout.' Her stories--many of them inspired by some of the world's less travelled corners--have appeared in a number of anthologies, including Year's best fantasy and horror. [...] Northwest passages is her first collection"--p. [2-3] of jacket.… (more)

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