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Story Time Review by
Drew Williams
Al Sarrantonio
Leisure Books
Mass Market PB
ISBN 0843951745

TOYBOX, a compilation of short stories Sarrantonio wrote between 1982 and 1999, is the kind of book that makes my job as a reviewer easy because it is, without a doubt, one of the best collections I have ever read. Without hesitation, I would rank it up there with Mort Castle's MOON ON THE WATER, and Dennis Etchison's THE DEATH ARTIST, as the gold standard for collections currently on the shelves of your local Borders. Like Castle and Etchison, Sarrantonio brings together a body of masterfully crafted pieces when taken as a whole is greater than the sum of its parts. TOYBOX succeeds in being more than just a collection; it is a terrifying glimpse into the childhood fears that continue to haunt the psyches of even the most rational of adults.

Woven together by a narrative thread about a girl named Selene who is given a mysterious gift, TOYBOX offers up eighteen tales of childhood demons and terrors. In the hands of a lesser talent, this many stories centering around children could easily have become redundant and stale, but Sarrantonio is able to infuse each story with a degree of freshness and intrigue that keeps the intensity and quality of the collection consistently high. While all the stories are top notch, my favorites were "The Man With Legs," "The Electric Fat Boy," and "The Corn Dolly." Horrific in their own unique way (if "The Man With Legs" doesn't freak you out, you may be dead), these stories all deal with the pain of loneliness and the desire for acceptance. Sarrantonio is able to touch a powerful nerve by demonstrating that sometimes the monsters in our lives are less frightening than the possibility of a life devoid of companionship and love. Also notable for their sheer creepiness, "Bogy," a story of a club initiation gone wrong, and "Father Dear," one of the most twisted father and son tales I have ever read.

Al Sarrantonio's TOYBOX peels back the protective layers of childhood innocence and reveals the boogiemen and demons that haunt us all. TOYBOX is creepy, powerfully written, and a must read for anyone with even a passing interest in horror.

This is one TOYBOX that definitely should be opened.
4 book wyrms.


This review copyright 2004 E.C.McMullen Jr.

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