I got into going to the library again recently. Browsing through the shelves quickly, I came across this book. Fancying a spooky read, why not, I grabbed it. It was only when I got home that I discovered it is not a novel but a collection of short stories, which is fine. The Inhuman Condition was first published in 1987.
Quickly thankful they were short stories because there were all so creepy, I enjoyed them very much. Well, I enjoyed four out of the total of five. Clive’s stories are so vivid that they’re those stories that easily play out in your mind like movie scenes as you read them. Or in this case, short TV episodes like in The Twilight Zone or something.
The first one is the title tale, about a group of youngsters who beat up a homeless vagrant to rob him. From the pockets of the vagrants’ coat, one of the youngsters discovers a string of knots which fascinates him, but as he undoes the knots later he unwittingly unleashes demons which terrifyingly start to go after them.
The second one is so juicily bizarre and scary, called The Body Politic. A man discovers his hands have their own conciousness and too late, he realises they have been carefully plotting to be free of him by chopping themselves off. Their plan is, once free, to start a revolution, by awakening the conciousness in all the other hands of the world so that they no longer have to answer to our bidding.
The third one is the shortest called Down, Satan! I couldn’t quite get into the premise of the story. It’s about a wealthy businessman who thinks God has deserted him. His twisted plan to rectify this is to build a massive residence (I think it was a castle) to turn into Hell on Earth, to attract Satan to take up residence so that God will take notice and save the man from Satan. I didn’t enjoy this one so happily it was really short, just a few pages long.
The fourth is a lovely story called Revelations. It made me think of the movie Psycho. It could be a Psycho Part 2 kind of story if there was a Twilight Zone series with a motel theme. Revelations is about a travelling preacher John and his wife Virginia. The motel room they occupy one night happens to be visited by a pair of ghosts Buck and Sadie who were married to each other during their lifetime. The ghosts are swinging by that night to make an effort to understand and reconcile with what happened decades ago, when Sadie shot Buck in that very same motel room after she discovered he was cheating on her.
Saving the best for last, the most chilling and disturbing and fun is The Age of Desire; one of those lab experiments gone chaotically wrong stories. It’s about the tragic development of a paid research participant who is used by a pair of scientists in an unofficial project which they hope would yield them a marketable and lucrative aphrodisiac product.
I discovered while doing some reading for this post that this book is actually a part in a series of horror fiction collections by the writer. The series is called Books of Blood, and The Inhuman Condition is Volume Four.