by Robert Bloch

Subterranean Press


298pp/$40.00/November 2004

Reviewed by Steven H Silver

Robert Bloch is best known for writing the novel Psycho and the short story “The Hell-Bound Train.”  In The Fear Planet and Other Unusual Destinations, Subterranean Press and editor Stefan R. Dziemianowicz provide a selection of twenty-one stories which Bloch did not see fit to collect or reprint during his lifetime.  While that does not mean these stories should be consigned to the dustheap of history, neither of the stories of the highest caliber Bloch wrote.

The collection includes a nice mix of styles, from the humor of “Have Tux—Will Travel” to the horror of “The Black Brain.”  While some of the stories show the influence of H.P. Lovecraft on Bloch’s early career, others, like “The Machine That Changed History,” demonstrate that Bloch was an original author who had a style all his own.

Even the slightest of the stories in Fear Planet, such as “Alternate Universes,” are entertaining.  Other stories, while enjoyable, do not appear to be particularly original, although this is in part due to the amount of time which has passed since these stories were originally published.  Other authors have picked up on the ideas and written them as well.

Perhaps the biggest problem with The Fear Planet is that many of the stories are dated.  While there are certainly world-wide threats in the twenty-first century, the Red Menace isn’t one of them.  Because of this, “Red Moon Rising” isn’t really able to grab the reader the way it might have when it was first published.  Other stories just seem to be from a different time and don’t make the transition as well.

The world has changed since these tales were written with the result that the psychiatrists of “How Bug-Eyed Was My Monster” and the actors of “Have Tux—Will Travel” don’t appear to be real or well-rounded characters.  Similarly, the world in which these and other characters inhabit is one which seems to exist only in the world of the old pulps or nostalgia.

Overall, the stories in Fear Planet and Other Unusual Destinations are entertaining and diverting.  In the best cases, they still can make the reader think, although by far the majority of the stories are a throwback to the time in which they were written.  Stylistically, Bloch’s stories belong to a period and, frequently, in theme as well.  His horrors are the horrors of the 1950s and 1960s. 

Fear Planet is not the collection of Bloch’s work to use as an introduction to his writing.  While the stories are, for the most part, good and well written, they do not represent Bloch at the top of his form.  For readers already familiar with Bloch, the stories in this collection offer works which are not as well known.

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