Reviewed by Gareth D Jones

The subtitle Journeys Into Darkness gives you an idea of the kind of speculative fiction contained within Midnight Street. It's an A4 magazine with internal B&W illustrations, and a fabulous classic SF colour cover. Between the stories you'll find a generous selection of interviews, reviews and articles to keep you entertained.

The cover illustration accompanies the lead story, Ghosts by Al Robertson. Somewhere in the far future, after the Earth has been mostly ruined, a small colony exists on an orbiting station. One man discovers the location of some ancient orbital weapons platforms and goes to salvage them for spares. The eerie atmosphere of the long-abandoned stations is portrayed well, as is the salvager's personal background and motivations. Mounting paranoia and what may or may not be hallucinations drag you inexorably to an unexpected conclusion. I just wish the title had been given a little more thought.

The strained relationships between two couples is at the heart of Old Wounds, in which Andrew Humphrey draws out the mysteries of their past in a series of flashbacks. It's a sometimes uncomfortable account, which only serves to show the author's skill at portraying his characters, and there is still plenty of mystery left at the end.

Into the Garden is a disturbing tale by Joel Lane about a young student's struggle to fit in on her first move away from home. Whether her dreams start to come true, or she's living in a dream world, the consequences are brutal. It's presented as a diary, a style that can miss out on the perspective to give a story real depth, but this one manages to leave an impression.

I've never really understood the need to tell a story by having somebody narrate a tale they heard in bar. It's something you come across quite frequently in 1950's stories, often as an excuse to throw an element of uncertainty into the plot. In Gary McMahon's Gaining a Loss the wrap up at the end really does add to the emotional impact of the story though, even though the tale itself could have stood on its own. The discovery of a potentially tumourous lump makes a young man realise he has nobody to turn to in his hour of need. Calling on all his long-lost acquaintances, he discovers that his cancer makes him popular again and soon has to face the question of whether his popularity is worth the price.

Stephen Gallagher gives us Dead Man's Handle, what initially sounds like the gentle recollections of a bygone summer job, but one where you know something horrible is going to have happened. Some interesting characters are briefly sketched, enough to make them believable while still leaving their motivations unclear and building the suspense. The conclusion quickly ratchets up the emotional turmoil and leaves a definite impression.

Shockingly and for the first time ever I'm going to comment on a poem. Tin Lizzie's Saloon 1886 made sense, and I enjoyed it. That's the first time that's ever happened! I still have no idea how one goes about critiquing a poem, and being so short there's not much I can say about the content without repeating the poem, but Cathy Buburuz is now my favourite poet.

Simon Bestwick's Left Behind is set in a desolate inner city slum, where the only way out for kids is to throw in their lot with the local mob boss. One young man's initiation into this new career is at the centre of the story, and the background is portrayed with stark detail.

Is Elvis really dead? Heather Richardson gives us a new answer in Chilled, when a young man gets a job with a travelling sideshow and its secretive boss. The whole idea seems ridiculous, but then our protagonist realises the truth and it's a whole lot more worrying. An entertaining story, and one that could only happen in America!

The final story, Nina Allen's Dazzle, is a nostalgic tale of the relationship between a young girl and an elderly Aunt. The developing relationship and the old Aunt's anecdotes are convincingly written--I was a couple of pages in until I realised that nothing had actually happened yet. The writing continued to be of good quality, yet by the end I still had that same feeling. It's obviously deep and meaningful but, for me, lacking in any definite aim.

Trevor Denyer has put together another varied collection of stories of high standard. Not all of them appealed to me personally, but all were written to a high standard and, as far as I noticed, there were no typos or printing errors; and that's half the battle.

Midnight Street edited by Trevor Denyer, 7 Mount View, Church Lane West, Aldershot, Hampshire, GU11 3LN, England. A4, 56pp, £3.80/$11US or £10.50 for 3 issues/ $32US. All cheques etc payable to “T. DENYER” (online purchase details, including other countries, can be found at the website).

Website: - www.midnightstreet.co.uk

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