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27 February 2011 @ 09:50 am
The Panda Book of Horror  
Given that half the point of Iris Wildthyme appears to be to pastiche genres of various descriptions, I can see the attraction behind the idea for The Panda Book of Horror. After all the horror genre, almost more than any other, is awash with styles and tropes which are practically designed for pastiche. On the other hand, it is quite hard to pastiche something and still produce a bona fide Horror story. The stories in The Panda Book of Horror mostly lurch rather uneasily between attempting to provide genuine chills and laughs.

It doesn't help that Iris, as a character, is peculiarly unsuited to Horror. We are never really given to suppose that her love of partying hard and her down-to-earth bull-in-a-china-shop approach to problem solving conceals any inner turmoil or suppressed fears and so, by and large, the horror just washes past her. This means that I felt by far and away the most successful story in the collection was Simon Guerrier's The Party in Room Four where the point-of-view is that of a traumatised and bereaved man for whom Iris' very brusqueness and jollity, which he percieves only from afar, is an affront and, ultimately, a component of the horror itself. Dale Smith in The Fag Hag from Hell also attempts to take this tack, of making Iris the Horror, not the victim, but less successfully since Iris doesn't, frankly, make a convincing villain. The story is, ultimately, quite clever and complex but a lot of the build-up hinges on the possibility that Iris could be some kind of monster and that never quite convinces.

Other stories I liked were Paul Magrs' The Delightful Bag although I wished that had been a novella rather than a short story. Much of it seemed very rushed and given it was evoking the atmosphere of children's fantasy books, with a small beleaguered town on Christmas Eve beset by magical happenings, I would have loved it to have had more space to breath as a story. Honourable mention also goes to The Niceness by Jacqueline Rayner and Orna Petit for its clever and well-executed central idea.

All that said, and despite my doubts about the theme, I think it did provide a unifying element that gave the collection a distinct identity when I often think that themes work against the stories in these anthologies. I've sometimes felt authors weren't entirely clear what Iris Wildthyme, as a character, is about and the Horror theme seemed to reduce that uncertainty and she emerged more as her own person and less as a commentary on the Doctor. Even so, I suspect, this remains a collection of interest primarily to Doctor Who fans.

This entry was originally posted at http://purplecat.dreamwidth.org/36523.html.