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Twilight Zone: 19 Original Stories On The 50th Anniversary (2009)

by Carol Serling(Favorite Author)
3.71 of 5 Votes: 2
0765324334 (ISBN13: 9780765324337)
Tor Books
review 1: In the original Twilight Zone TV series, Rod Serling used a pseudo-science-fiction premise as a vehicle to explore controversial ideas. In the more conventional TV drama setting of the time, he wouldn't have been able to present the type of stories about racism, war, totalitarianism, and the dangers of the mob mentality as candidly and as effectively as he did. Twilight Zone was an innovative and groundbreaking show that had the guts to take chances and challenge the mediocrity of mainstream entertainment.Unfortunately over the past five decades, the show has been lumped in with other generic horror/thriller fare, mostly by mainstream audiences who have never seen or understood it. Everyone knows the spooky theme music by Marius Constant and will hum it whenever the power ... moregoes out or anytime they are experiencing a moment of déjà vu. This is case-in-point of the average joe's perception of what Twilight Zone was - cute little horror ditties with "just because" twist endings. Most of the contributors to this anthology, put together in honour of the show's 50th Anniversary by Serling's widow Carol Serling, represent that layman's take with boring, inconsequential, and forgettable tales that do nothing to challenge the reader. I would be shocked if some of these writers have even seen a single episode of the show.Thankfully this is not true of every story here. "Puowaina" by Alan Brennert, a frequent contributor to the 1980s version of the Twilight Zone series, is by far the best story in the book. It is a about a young Hawaiian girl in 1918 who can reluctantly foresee the deaths of others. Mike Resnick and Lezli Robyn's story, "Benchwarmer", about what becomes of a child's imaginary friend when he's no longer needed is also moving and engaging. Most interestingly, the story is told from the point of view of the imaginary friend.Earl Hamner is the only writer represented here with ties to the original series of which he wrote eight episodes. His contribution, "The Art of the Miniature" has a predictable ending and seems to be driven more out of a passion for bonsai gardening than telling a great story but it is a welcome inclusion to the book nonetheless. Robert J. Serling's "Ghost Writer", a short piece about an exchange between the American President and his speechwriter on what tone they should take when discussing a certain controversial war with the American public is also a pleasant stand-out. This story, written by Rod Serling's older brother features a clever ending and I guarantee that it doesn't go where you think it's going.One story that took me by surprise as being better than I expected is "The Soldier He Needed to Be" by Jim DeFelice. I saved this one until the end because a story about a soldier in Afghanistan whose combat effectiveness is improved when he mysteriously receives a new iPod, sounded kind of goofy to me. It's actually better than it sounds. DeFelice primarily writes military fiction but is probably best known for writing "American Sniper", the biography of Navy SEAL, Chris Kyle.R. L. Stine's "The Wrong Room", "Torn Away" by Joe R. Lansdale, and "Family Man" by Laura Lippman all have intriguing premises and start off strong but they fall apart by their respective third acts. All three writers had really great ideas but seemed kind of stumped on how to resolve them. For example, in "The Wrong Room", a man checks into a hotel and due to a series of odd events, decides that he must have died and gone to hell. Interesting right? The story ends disappointingly. The same goes for the latter two.Other noteworthy contributions here are "On the Road" by William F. Wu, "Vampin' Down the Avenue" by Timothy Zahn, and "The Street that Forgot Time" by Deborah Chester. These too, start off interesting but lose steam after a while.And now for the awful: The remaining stories are dreck, unworthy of the Twilight Zone moniker. Kelley Armstrong's haunted house comedy entitled, "A Haunted House of Her Own" might make great filler for an issue of Woman's World if they should ever decide to do a Halloween issue but it has about as much in common with the Twilight Zone as it does with The Cosby Show. Terrible. "A Chance of a Ghost" by Lucia St. Clair Robson is more chick lit masquerading as speculative fiction. It is about a woman who buys a haunted walking stick off of eBay and develops a personal kinship with the Patrick Swayze-like ghost of the man who owned it. Did I mention he died tragically? St. Clair Robson should have submitted this to Oprah's magazine. Or maybe she did and it was rejected. Both of these stories represent how the Twilight Zone has been misunderstood and misinterpreted in recent memory. 156 episodes of the series and not a single one was about ghosts or haunted houses. "Your Last Breath, Inc." by John Miller is another eye-roller, this one about a cat who may or may not be the owner of an unconventional business. Boring. "Ants", a Tad Williams story about a man who murders his wife with an axe and goes on a cleaning spree afterwards reads like something more suitable for Tales from the Crypt than Twilight Zone. David Hagberg's "Genesis" is a lame attempt to parallel Rod Serling's combat experience with his inspiration for many of Twilight Zone's eventual scripts. The story follows a young Corporal Serling from one firefight to another after which he gets ideas for such Twilight Zone stories as "Five Characters in Search of an Exit." If Hagberg had done his homework he would have realized that Serling didn't come up with the original idea for "Five Characters...", he based it on a short story called "The Depository" by Marvin Petal.Carole Nelson Douglas' "Truth or Consequences" and Whitley Strieber's "The Good Neighbor" are uniquely bad in the sense that tried a little too hard to fit the mould of Serling's show. "Truth or Consequences" is a blatant rewrite of the episode, "The Hitchhiker" from the original series. This story, originally based on an Orson Welles radio play, is about a motorist who keeps seeing the same hitchhiker on the side of the road. No matter how far and how fast she goes, the hitchhiker is always ahead of her. What's odd is that Douglas has passed this story off as her own but has made no attempt to make it original. It even has the same inevitable conclusion as the original story. Am I the only one that noticed this? "The Good Neighbor" is more "alien paranoia" from Strieber that starts off promisingly but becomes laughable. He's obviously using aliens from outer space as a metaphor for different races and cultures like Serling did but in a less interesting and much more blatant fashion.This collection is disappointing. It's unfortunate that Richard Matheson and George Clayton Johnson, both surviving writers from the original series at the time of this book's conception (Matheson has since passed away), did not contribute any material here. Their presence could have raised the creative bar considerably. If you want to devour stories that evoke the essence of the original Twilight Zone series, the best material to read is any short story collection by Richard Matheson or Charles Beaumont. Matheson and Beaumont were senior contributors the show and most of their scripts were based on their own short stories they had published previous to the show's premiere. They have several more stories that would have made amazing episodes had they been produced that are waiting to be discovered. Their works are much easier to come by now with the advent of services such as Kindle and iTunes. Check them out and avoid this one.
review 2: My son spotted this book in his middle school library and thought his old man would be interested.He was right.I'll be reviewing these stories as I work my way through the book, not necessarily in order.Star rating for each story is on a scale of one to five.** The Wrong Room, by RL StineA salesman checks into a hotel for a convention and things seem strange.I decided to start this book off with this story simply because I've never read anything by RL Stine before. I was too old for Goosebumps when they were released, and the few times I glanced at them when my kids brought them home left me unimpressed by the writing I witnessed inside.But perhaps I shouldn't judge this author on books written for kids?Sad to say, this story wasn't much better. Spartan vocabulary, the most threadbare of plots, and implausibility level set to eleven is what you'll get with his contribution to this anthology.Maybe first impressions are sometimes correct. I doubt I'll give his works another glance in the future. less
Reviews (see all)
Excellent anthology. It really captured the flavor of the TV series.
Some stories were fantastic, but most fell short.
Finally getting to read this! Yay!
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