Sleep Disorder, by Jack Ketchum, Edward Lee

Sleep Disorder, by Jack Ketchum, Edward Lee coverGenre: Horror Anthology
Publisher: Gauntlet Press
Published: 2003
Reviewer Rating: three stars
Book Review by Ray Wallace

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“A Jack Ketchum/Edward Lee collaboration.” A phrase sure to send a thrill of excitement down the spine of any avid fan of “extreme” horror literature. After all, these are two of the more interesting and exciting writers to grace the scene over the last ten to fifteen years. Ed Lee with his over-the-top, visceral grotesqueries and Jack Ketchum with his more cerebral, unpredictable weirdness. A joining of such forces would be nothing less than spectacular, wouldn’t it?

Wouldn’t it?

Well, thanks to Gauntlet Press we get to find out first hand with the release of Sleep Disorder, the only collection to ever bring these two major talents together. Does it live up to the lofty expectations sure to surround a meeting of two such twisted minds? Or does it fall flat, the result of conflicting styles that work so well on their own but just don’t seem to come together?

The collection begins promisingly enough with “I’d Give Anything for You”, a twisted little tale of love and obsession that has Ed Lee’s fingerprints all over it. Roderic is in love with Clare who, unfortunately, doesn’t share the same depth of feeling in return. What she loves is Roderic’s money. He’s a millionaire which is the only reason she’s been seeing him, has actually agreed to marry him. Then Wardell comes along who knows how to make Clare feel like a woman in ways that Roderic could never dream of. But Roderic is not one to take rejection lightly. When he tells Clare he’d give anything for her he means it as Clare discovers to her utter dismay and horror.

“Love Letters from the Rain Forest” is up next and this one also deals with a gold-digging female and the consequences she must face when she decides to end the relationship with the man who loves her. Howard is a botanist who heads to South America to study the dwindling rain forest. Clara is the beautiful woman he loves, who ends their relationship just before he departs. But poor Howard can’t take a hint and writes to Clara constantly while away, hoping they can make up after their “little spat”. Eventually Howard is forced to deal with the reality of the situation and shows how a man even half a world away is capable of exacting his revenge.

Then there is “Masks” which centers around a wealthy couple who adorn the disguises after which the story is titled in order to take on various roles during their sexual encounters. These are no ordinary masks, of course, constructed by master craftsmen from around the world, some by members of cultures that no longer exist making them unimaginably rare. And these masks have power. The power to actually transform the wearer into something else altogether. Something no longer human. Something bestial.

Next up is “Eyes Left”, a fun little zombie tale in which a couple of guys get way more than they bargained for after a beautiful dead girl offers to have sex with them. “Sleep Disorder” follows and shows how something as simple as talking in your sleep can really come back to haunt you. Then we get the original versions of two of the stories already discussed here: “Good Seeing You” by Jack Ketchum which is the basis for “Sleep Disorder” followed by “I Would Do Anything for You” by Ed Lee from which “I’d Give Anything for You” was developed.

And that’s it.

Which would be my only complaint about this collection — its length. The stories presented here are just so much fun (much as expected) that it all comes to an end far too soon. The styles of the two authors compliment each other perfectly. I, for one, could have read another twenty stories by these guys and still wanted more. But when it comes to collaborations such as this I guess we take what we can get. And be glad that there is a publisher such as Gauntlet out there ready to bring them to us when they happen.

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