Dialing the Wind

June 23, 2015 at 6:00 pm (Reads) (, , )

Dialing the WindDialing the Wind by Charles L. Grant

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The next volume in Grant’s Oxrun Station novellas series is Dialing the Wind, a collection with an inscrutable title.  The first story in the collection is also called “Dialing the Wind”, and after reading it, you’ll understand the title, but whoever selected this as the title of the book must not have been thinking straight.  It doesn’t really tell you anything about the book, and it’s about as evocative as dry toast.

Each of these collections has had a central theme: Nightmare Seasons was about obsession; The Orchard was about madness; and Dialing the Wind is about alienation.  Each theme is common in the horror genre, and they work well as a framing point for the entire collection.  Each collection also has a framing vignette that bookends the four novellas, each one suggesting that Grant himself lives in Oxrun Station, and is just there to tell the stories.  In a way, I suppose that’s actually true.

The story “Dialing the Wind” is an odd story of a woman whose isolation leads her to receive a radio preacher show on her radio that’s not accessible from other radios.  She runs into another woman who is also receiving the show, and she has let it drive her a little off kilter.  I’m quite sure of the point of this story, to be honest.

The next story, “The Sweetest Kiss”, is about a man who is married with children, but suddenly becomes obsessed with an old girlfriend of his.  His daydreaming conjures her up, and he starts to pursue her again, but in true Grant fashion, she’s not what she appears.  In this story, the alienation is self-prescribed by the main character, but when he chooses to be unfaithful to his wife, he becomes unsympathetic.  I’m not sure if that was Grant’s intent, but the story didn’t engage me because of that.

“As We Promise, Side by Side”, the third story, is about a woman and her house.  She’s a divorcée who received the house in lieu of any alimony, and over the last four years, she’s taken care of it and made it her own.  When her ex-husband threatens to return, the house decides to protect her, but at a cost higher than she expected.  It’s a neat idea, but I felt like the execution was a little lacking, simply due to the lengths the ex-husband went in his revenge; it didn’t feel believable to me.  Plus, the story echoes “The Last and Dreadful Hour”, from The Orchard, only it’s not quite as interesting.

That bring us to the last story, “The Chariot Dark and Low”, where instead of focusing on how alienation brings horror, it uses the theme as the horror.  A young man finds himself suddenly alone in the same town that has always been populated, and it traces how that sudden isolation affects him, and why it happened at all.  It’s a well-told tale, and highlights what makes Grant’s stuff so good when it works.

So, the entire collection is a bit of a mixed bag, but at least one of the stories here is definitely worth reading.  “As We Promise, Side by Side” is an effective story, even if Grant doesn’t quite stick the landing, but “The Chariot Dark and Low” is the real winner here.  Fans of horror — quiet or otherwise — should definitely make an effort to read that one.

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