Book Review: 'Voices: Tales of Terror' by Lawrence C. Connolly


Since the early 1980's, Lawrence C. Connolly has been one of speculative fiction's greatest stylists and most enigmatic writers.  His stories, which have covered the genre spectrum, moving from horror to sci-fi to fantasy and mystery, have appeared in many of its best and most celebrated venues, including The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, Cemetery Dance, Rod Serling's Twilight Zone, and the Borderlands anthologies.

These past few years have been good for Connolly, yielding a surge in his published output with the releases of Veins and Vipers, the first two novels of The Veins Cycle, and three retrospective story collections, This Way to Egress and Visions, the best of his sci-fi and fantasy writing, and now Voices: Tales of Terror, the very best of Connolly's horror stories.

Each story in Voices is introduced by a reminiscence that will remind astute readers of Harlan Ellison's introductions: powerful, honest, and important, not merely filler, and nearly as enjoyable as the stories themselves. 

Some of the story highlights include: "Mrs. Halfbooger's Basement," originally published in Rod Serling's Twilight Zone, is a haunted house story reminiscent of the very best of Robert Aickman and Laird Barron: unpredictable, enigmatic, and powerful; "The Moon and the Devil" is a clever tale of punishment and regret, and dog fighting; "Lesions," a story of bodily horror, would make Clive Barker proud; and "Shrines," the novella that ends the collection, explores the feelings of regret, loss, and longing with near-Braunbeckian depth and insight.

The best of the collection, "Traumatic Descent," bridges the gap between horror and fantasy in a completely unique way.  Helen, its protagonist, is caught between worlds and slowly sinking into the depths of insanity.  The twists and turns in this tale are unpredictable, circular, and reflect the failing mind of the narrator in a way that is at once entirely horrific and entirely sad.  In the end it seems that nothing is real, but if nothing is real, then what is it?

Connolly's writing is deceptively simple and straightforward.  Where many writers would use fifty words, Connolly uses ten, and boy, do all ten count.  Each story is built on feeling and subtlety, the way that T.E.D. Klein's or Robert Aickman's were.  The power of these stories lies somewhere beneath the few words Connolly uses to tell them.  They are more than the sum of their parts, and when reading I found myself more than once drawing a parallel between Connolly's stories and those of Raymond Carver, whose minimalist brilliance forever changed the way stories are written.  Yes, Connolly is that good.

With Voices Connolly has given us a collection that will be read by writers for years to come.  Like Robert Aickman before him, Connolly's power, voice, and style are entirely unique, and will never be duplicated.  This is a writer that every fan of horror fiction, and more importantly every horror writer, should read, because one day, when most of the best of our times have been forgotten, Connolly's stories will remain.

Voices: Tales of Terror by Lawrence C. Connolly
Fantasist Enterprises
ISBN: 978-1-934571-04-0
$16.00 Trade Paperback