January 25, 2011

Rabid Reads: "Twilight Zone: 50th Anniversary" by Carol Serling (editor)

Twilight Zone: 19 Original Stories on the 50th Anniversary
edited by Carol Serling
Tor Books (2009)
444 pages
ISBN 9780765324344

It is near impossible to recapture the magic that was The Twilight Zone, Rod Serling's televised masterpiece. People have tried over the decades, either by resurrecting the series or bring the franchise to the silver screen. Word has it that even Leo DiCaprio is looking to make a Twilight Zone movie. But try as they might, there's something inimitable about the black-and-white series from the 60s that can't be translated to a modern day setting. But maybe there's something to the literary form that can have better luck--or at the very least keep the Hollywood types away from it.

This anthology brings together stories inspired by the original series or fit the pastiche at any rate. There's something about a good Twilight Zone story that make it easily identifiable. There's a kind of moral compass at its center where the needle will swing wildly in one direction as the story reaches its climax. That worked well whether the tale was light fare or had a very dark undercurrent. In this anthology, edited by Carol Serling, readers are given a healthy serving of both.

The book starts off with a pitch-perfect story called "Genesis" by David Hagberg about a soldier in World War 2 who seems to be shifting through time and space. The ending to that one lets you know very plainly that you have re-entered the Twilight Zone.

After that, and the foreword by Carol Serling herself, stories vary from the whimsical to the terrifying. Kelley Armstrong's "A Haunted House of Her Own" deals with a woman looking to start up an inn with a haunted house theme, despite not believing in the supernatural, only to wind up with more than she bargained for. Robert J. Serling even offers up a story that is dripping with that old TZ charm called "Ghost Writer." though this one relies on its surprise being revealed on the page--as a telecast the impact would be lost, most likely.

"Ants" by Tad Williams struck me as the most graphic among the stories, and more so than any TZ episode I can recall. But the story is very gripping, as a husband must contend with the aftermath of his violent outburst, as well as deal with his ant problem. The ending, however, was vintage.

There's nineteen stories all tolled, some short than others, capped off by a treatment of Rod Serling's own "El Moe". As for my favorites, I think I would have to go with "Your Last Breath, Inc." by John Miller and "On the Road" by William F. Wu. The former is a story that I could instantly envision in monochrome fashion, while the latter had a romantic quality that is seldom but highly welcome to the Twilight Zone mythos.

If you're a fan of the old show like me, this is a book worth checking out. Just be aware that not all of the stories are not strictly steeped in the old style, but they still offer something of merit under the franchise name.

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