Alibi V.13 No.4 • Jan 22-28, 2004 

alt.press

Sleep Disorder

Gauntlet Press
gauntletpress.com
$40

Horror veteran Jack Ketchum and horror and suspense novelist Edward Lee like to swap stories, which is how the collaborations forming the bulk of this anthology came about. Some of these tales include graphic sex, and very nicely written graphic sex, I might add! There is also a fair amount of extreme horror.

In the tongue-in-cheek "I'd Give Anything for You," Roderick is a milquetoast who stands to inherit millions from his mother, which is the reason aging hottie Clare got involved with him. After nine months of dissatisfaction in every respect, she gravitates to virile, drug-dealing gorilla Wardell, and pretends that she never agreed to marry forlorn and heart-broken Roderick, despite his endlessly whimpered promises of "I'd give anything for you." The point of her fate, which is at once horrible yet hilarious, is that you shouldn't use people! (No physical violence happens to Clare.)

"Letters from the Rain Forest" is a somber variation on the theme in "Anything." Clare, this time around, is gold-digging Clara, who hooked up with a scientist named Howard. While he's discovering new forms of fungus in the rain forest, as scientists will, she screws around on him with abandon. When he lies dying, infected with a horrible predatory fungus, he receives Clara's Dear John letter, and the end result is not pretty for her.

It's hard not to make the premise of "Masks" sound kinky—a couple combining sex with ancient masks from many cultures throughout history—but I thought the end result was darkly romantic, beautiful and imaginative.

"Eyes Left," on the other hand, is an outrageous ditty about a group of guys who like to sit at a bar in New York watching the ladies stroll by. One catch is that the dead have been walking the earth long enough that they are entitled to legally protected status. One of the lads mistakes a Daryl Hanna look-alike for a living girl when she's not, then decides to go home with her anyway, and—woo-wee!—we end up with another case where the sheer extreme horribleness of the climax spilled over into humor.

"Sleep Disorder" is the study of a fellow so detached from his basic humanity that he up and leaves his wife and five-year-old son because they're so disorganized. What goes on in the subconscious of people utterly out of touch with their own feelings, who demand absolute control over every aspect of their existence? The metaphorical answer, which this intense short horror tale supplies for that question, is executed with great accuracy, and wisdom, on the part of Lee and Ketchum.

There are also early drafts of two works, one original by Ketchum, the other by Lee, along with comments from the authors about their experiments with collaboration.