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Review: Robert R. McCammon's Blue World

Blue World
by Robert R. McCammon

This is a collection of short horror- and weird-fiction stories and one novella. While they aren't the best shorts I've ever read, I have to say, they weren't at all bad.

Positive:

McCammon knows how to creep you out. He's actually a very good writer, with consistent voice, good use of sensory details, and he writes dialog that's neither drawn out nor forced. The stories he tells are also truly creepy, and he's nice and subtle about it; unlike some horror writers, who seem to need to bash you over the head with the gore, slinging foreshadowing like a cargo net full of bricks, McCammon sticks to a detail here, a word there, a flashback condensed into half of a sentence, a few words in italics to flicker your memory.

The creep-factor is sure to be upped for those Christians among us, because McCammon is coming from an exceedingly Christian-centered view. His bad guy is The Big Bad Guy, Satan himself, or those among us who are Touched By Evil, capital letters and all, and in his world anything supernatural is guaranteed to turn delightfully gruesome. While that makes all the stories a touch hokey for me--I'm sorry, but "Satan" strikes me as a grown-ups' bogeyman, something kind of embarrassingly silly instead of sinister and scary--some people still get a shiver out of the "touch of Ultimate Evil, bua-ha-ha-ha," so who am I to knock it? So McCammon's concept of The Bad Guy is a little flaky, so what? McCammon writes with a belief in the terror of Evil-with-a-capital-E, and I think that goes a long way towards making his work universally creepy.

Negatives:

McCammon, on the negative side, seems to wallow in stereotypes. Hispanics are all drug dealers, thieves, or welfare slummers. Blacks are all uneducated, violent, and talk with outrageous "yessa, massa" accents, or else they work in the most menial jobs. Hookers and porns stars are all money-grubbing degenerates whacked out on drugs--he's got a real thing for sluts on cocaine--who, shame shame, started out as good little home-town girls from the country. Because there's never been a porn star with an education, or a white-collar Latino, or a pacifist black man. Ever.

There's not a single story that portrays non-whites as anything but A Stereotype. And that includes Italians, who make two appearances: one as an arrogant, strutting, bitch-slapping stud, and two more as a couple who own the local corner grocery-slash-wineshop (who are benevolent and parental until they learn that their favorite customer is in fact a porn star; then, the wife goes ballistic, spraying her with Lysol and beating her out of the store with her broom, screaming " Whore! Filthy! Dirty! Whore!" like a frantic guineahen. Get it? Guinea? Hen? Ha. Ha. Well, McCammon would probably think it was funny.)

Yes, this guy is blatantly riddled with preconceptions. Racist is probably too strong a word, since he's benevolant about it. In fact, one of his most egregiously prejudicial stories, Yellachile's Cage is also, ironically, one of his best, in spite of how ridiculously... come on, just look at the title! Uneducated, illiterate black man in jail for murder messes with voodoo... the stereotyping, it's pretty bad. The story, however, like I said, is pretty good.

So if you can look past the extreme Christian themes and the mounds of--again, bigotry's probably too strong a word--then you'll enjoy the stories.

Give it one thumb up, or 6 stars out of 10. McCammon can have the rest of the stars after he puts away his childishness and does some growing up.

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