As I was reading through this book, I was trying to figure out exactly how to convey what I wanted to say about it. I've shelved it as horror, among other things, and I wasn't entirely sure this is a collection of horror stories. It has
horror stories, yes, and there's not a single story without
a horrific element (oh dear god there really isn't). But there's more to them, and I was struggling with the precise words, and rather worried about this review.
Fortunately, I found a solution in the afterword. Perhaps I should
have read it first. Grey mentions Robert Westall
(who is going on my list of people to look up), and shares a quote about how it was "the infinite strangeness of the supernatural that fascinated Robert Westall, not the horror."
I could feel something click, when I read that. There's horror here, yes, but that's not all that's important here; Never Bet the Devil
would be an impressive but rather cold book if it was. The infinite strangeness of the supernatural
, that was what I was having trouble defining, and a love for the strange and supernatural elements of the genre. I count the strange and the supernatural as distinct, there are two stories that I could comfortably argue have nothing supernatural
in them--although there are... well, non-human things seen as monsters?--and a couple of others I'd be willing to debate.