All Nightmare Long by Tim Lebbon
PS Publishing, ebook, £25.00 / £35.00 signed limited to 100 copies
Reviewed by Sarah Deeming
All Nightmare Long is a collection of Tim Lebbon’s short stories from different anthologies with other authors. I have been a huge fan of Tim Lebbon since I read Alien: Out of the Shadow and was blown away by how tight his writing was. I couldn’t wait to get started, and All Nightmare Long didn’t disappoint. It is rare for every story to land in a short story collection, but that is the case here.
Creepy and atmospheric, Lebbon creates snapshots of a character’s life at pivotal moments, such as moving to a new house, finding a bottle on the shore from their deceased husband, or even finding a dead body on a dog walk. Always on the surface, there doesn’t appear to be anything wrong except the character’s unease, but as the story progresses, there are signs that things may not be alright.
The quality of world-building struck me in every story. In short stories, word count is limited, so there isn’t a lot of space to build the location, yet in many of these stories, the location is as important as the characters. And, as with any good horror narrative, death and bereavement is never far away. The first three stories, Trick of the Light, Clown’s Kiss and Relics, focus on how grief changes a person’s perception of a place. Into the Death Zone explores how a cold and lofty mountain top can affect the imagination of a volunteer removing frozen bodies.
Lebbon is a master at taking us straight to the heart of the issue. The stories also have a limited cast and are often written from the 1st person perspective. There are no distractions or unnecessary conversations. Again, every word has earned its place in the narrative, so even though some stories are long, that’s unnoticeable when wrapped up in the journey.
The stories range in theme from genre-bending ghost tales to In the Dust, a zombie story, and The Gleeful Ones, which is about people with hidden identities and special powers. The scope of genres covered is wide-ranging, and all of them are written with Lebbon’s distinct voice that ties everything together. I don’t want to go into too much detail because I want you to explore the collection yourself.
At the end of the book are Lebbon’s thoughts on where it was published and how the story came together. I’ve read other collections where this information is directly after the story instead of the end of the book. That approach worked better for me because the story was still fresh, and the author’s musing enhanced my appreciation for what I had just read. However, I read an advanced reader copy, so this may be different in the final version. That small note aside, I did enjoy this section because it fascinates me how the germ of an idea becomes a powerful story.
Overall, All Nightmare Long is a solid collection of well-written sinister stories that take you to other times and places where nothing is as it seems. I wouldn’t have expected anything less from such a renowned author as Tim Lebbon.