The Anniversary of Never by Joel Lane. Book review

The Anniversary of Never by Joel Lane, Swan River Press 2015

Reviewed by Mario Guslandi

Joel Lane was a well respected author and  editor in the field of dark fiction. In addition to other awards he won the World Fantasy Award for Best Collection ( “Where Furnaces Burn”)in 2013, the year of his untimely death. He was a very fine writer and I remember with pride an entry of his in a well known genre forum, where he stated that I was the only reviewer who had really grasped the deepest meaning of his novella ” The Witnesses Are Gone”.

Swan River Press is now offering a posthumous collection of Joel’s short fiction, including ten reprints and three previously unpublished stories. The elegantly produced volume provides an interesting showcase of the author’s melancholy narrative style and of his insightful view of the world we live in.

“Sight Unseen” is the compassionate portrait of a man who leaves his family because his body is supposedly invaded by aliens who want to explore the Earth by means of his eyes, while “All the Shadows” is a nostalgic piece about the unusual ability of getting the psychic waves left by now dead people.

In “Midnight Flight”, a subtly disturbing tale with a grim ending, a man losing his memory is  obsessed with an elusive, now out of print, horror anthology.

In the nightmarish “For Their Own Ends” a man suffering a heart attack is admitted in a sinister hospital where everything is weird and dismaying.

“Bitter Angel” is a very short but truly intense story about the incredible power of love. Likewise “After the Fire” is a sad, gentle tale portraying a girl literally consumed by a demanding love story.

Two noteworthy, perceptive stories displaying Joel at his best are “All Dead Years”,describing how past psychic traumas are linked to a woman’s fear of travelling on the London Tube and “Some of Them Fell”, depicting the outset and the end of an homosexual affair between two former schoolmates.

A gifted storyteller, Joel Lane had a pessimistic but very lucid notion of human existence, its frailties and its unfathomable mysteries. Sometimes not an easy reading ,the book is a thought provoking meditation about the dark side of our lives.