Reviewed by Phil Ambler
The Spaces Between Your Screams is a collection of short stories from the fertile imagination of American horror writer Christopher Hivner.
We are presented with a myriad of premises across the forty odd tales contained within this anthology. Vampires, werewolves and demons all show themselves in amongst the pages but we are also treated to other terrors including malevolent plant life, unseen alien forces and unhinged psychopaths.
Now, before I go any further, be warned that whilst there is some beautiful imagery within Hivner’s writing, it is quite visual at times. As a seasoned horror fan of over twenty years, I found the violent extremes and gore within some of the stories slightly uncomfortable and I would advise anyone without a fondness for the genre to look at other books reviewed by the British Fantasy Society team.
The book is split into two sections; The Spaces and The Screams. I definitely felt that the first section was the stronger of the two as the tales felt more complete on the whole. Personal favourites throughout the book were ‘Dr F is Coming and You’re on His List’, ‘Feya Who Tends The Flowers’ and ‘When The Machines Arrive.’
Dr F is a comedy/horror vignette told with a great deal of fun. The evil Dr Filer and his inept assistant Medora get caught mid-sacrifice by the police who have been tipped off by one of Dr F’s experiments, talking canine Duke. Watch out for the perfectly pitched pre-sacrifice dancing extravaganza!
‘Feya Who Tends The Flowers’ is an unnerving tale of power, envy and revenge. Feya harbours a hatred towards her mistress Sophia. After leaving Sophia’s prized flowers to wither and die, Feya finds her drinking water contaminated or is it all in her mind. A psychological breakdown follows reminiscent of the style of Shirley Jackson.
‘When The Machines Arrive’ is a dystopian future in a similar vein to War of the Worlds. Strange music is played across the planet, humans succumb to its bliss inducing charms except for a select few. As the eventual carnage begins, how will those untouched survive?
Given the shortness of the stories in the book, this is more of a coffee table read; although I wouldn’t just leave it around for the kids to pick up. With some tales being two to three pages in length, and with no common theme, the reader can find themselves wanting the stability of a longer piece to be able to engage more readily with the characters. It is like being at a party where you are constantly being introduced to new people every five minutes.
Throughout I found myself unsure as to my feelings towards the book. There were some really strong pieces which enthused me to read on for more. These would then be followed by stories which failed to pack their intended punch and often went out with a whimper leaving me with a sense of frustration.
Overall, The Spaces Between Your Screams is a reasonable mix of tales with some solid stories which will get you thinking and others which feel as if Hivner is exploring concepts which don’t always deliver for the reader. Worth picking up to dip in and out of but be prepared for a variation in quality. A tighter, more considered selection of stories would have made this a much stronger offering.