When Grey Friar Press first announced this anthology from Thana Niveua I knew I had read it. Based on the short stories of hers that I had read in a number of anthologies this year, she soon found her way onto my list of discoveries of the year. So when I got a copy from my mother as a birthday present I put every other book aside and gave this collection my full attention. From Hell to Eternity collects 16 of her stories, prefaced by an intelligent and thoughtful introduction from the Grandmaster Himself Ramsey Campbell. This collection like a vintage single malt whisky deserves to be savoured slowly and lovingly one fabulous story at a time. This is not a light read, her stories are layered, dark, melancholic and in a number of cases exceptionally
chilling and disturbing.
The first story, The Curtain a diver investigates an unusual wreck, and discovers that a curtain between our world and another reality has been lifted, is one of the most atmospheric stories I have read in long time. Thana handles the diving scenes in such a way that the reader experiences the same sense of weightlessness, claustrophobia and isolation that diver in this pitch perfect modern take on an Elder God story.
The Coal Man takes the much used trope of a childhood bogeyman and gives it a much needed makeover. By using a spit time narrative, Thana subtly builds the sense of guilt and remorse brilliantly. It is a sign of a great writer, when the site of a lump of coal can send a shiver down the spine of the most jaded reader.
Antlers, shifts the tone to a much more direct and punchy style of story. When a woman is looking for a new place to live she encounters a man who may or may not spell the end for her. This is a shocking and gory short story, that shares a similar tone with a later story Pigs. These stories excel in being shocking, by the almost senselessness way in which the terrible things happen to the protagonists in both stories. Thana doesn’t explain why these things happen to them, she just puts them through hell, there are no twist endings, no final act scenes of redemption here. These are two stories of pure primal visceral terror.
However, it’s probably one of the more subtle stories that really deliver the biggest and most heartbreakingly chilling shock. The Death of Dreams is set in a world where a person’s dreams are no longer private, thanks to a device that can download and transmit for all in sundry to see. Thanks to this device a mother loses her child into care, when the authorities decide she is no longer fit to be a mother. The idea of your most private and inner thoughts no longer being private may be chilling enough, but this is nothing compared to what happens in the finale of this amazing story.
Ultrasound Shadow, shares a common parenthood with The Death of Dreams, in as much as a mother fights for her child, in this case the child is still unborn. Thana handles the mother’s sense of paranoia and fear of her pregnancy with great skill. But it’s the fantastic schlocky ending to this story that really shines through, Thana drops subtle hints as to what will happen throughout the story, but even if you figure out what is going on you will love this excellent nod to 1980’s horror.
The Scouring is perhaps my favourite story. Here a family is on holiday in rural England, never a good idea in these sorts of stories. Where they become intrigued by the local legend of The White horse and The Scouring, to a tragic ending. For me what makes this story so perfect is how it stirs up all those repressed memories of children’s TV from a bygone age. Shows such as The Children of the Stones, and The Box of Delights. Combine this with my fascination for chalk drawings and you have a story that feels as though it was written specifically for me.
From Hell to eternity might sound like a terrifying proposition, however based on the quality of these stories, I would happily spend eternity reading the work of the fantastically gifted Thana Niveau.