Dark Companions, By Ramsey Campbell is a collection of 21 short stories which span the earlier years of this British author's writing career. Since Campbell is such a well known horror author now, it was interesting to see the origins of some of his concepts and the early evolution of his work. Many horror authors that are just beginning their craft might find benefit from this aspect of the anthology. How did a famous author begin his struggle to put the creatures lurking in his mind onto the page?
As for the anthology itself, Campbell has a strong sense of language and atmosphere. He takes the reader into places they would never volunteer to go in their real life. He also has a strong knack for making the mundane seem unnerving. One of his strengths is making a scene or situation menacing and scary without being forced to use a supernatural element. Sure, some of his stories do dip deeply into the impossible, but even with those he keep the reader wondering if it could just be a real occurrence that is making the character on edge.
Again, Campbell would be a good influence of any writer that seeks to keep his horror more grounded in reality and readers that like their horror that way too. I remember letting a nurse beta-read my first Jack Primus story. She loved the mood and the story until he fought a monster and then she lost interest. For her, only things that could really happen were scary. Campbell is one of the giants in that style.
Drawbacks could include that although the stories stands alone well and would have been enjoyed in any multi-author horror anthology, when read back to back some of the stories have similar feels and themes. Also for me, I tend to like a bit more terror in my tales and maybe some supernatural horrors, which again he doesn't bring to play as quickly as other authors.
This is a strong anthology that all Campbell fans will devour. Fans of more subtle horror will also find this to their liking.
Michael D. Griffiths