Tuesday, 5 July 2016

Perchance To Dream: Selected Stories by Charles Beaumont Review

Charles Beaumont was a writer on the original Twilight Zone TV show who also wrote weird/fantastic short stories which are collected in Perchance To Dream. It’s easy to see why Beaumont isn’t nearly as famous as Richard Matheson, another Twilight Zone writer, because his stories are TERRIBLE.

The collection starts well with the title story where a man can’t sleep because when he does he sees an unnerving woman appear and walk towards him. He feels like he’ll die if she reaches him. I won’t give away the twist ending but it’s chilling stuff. Great start - unfortunately, this is the only good story in the 300+ page book! 

I can’t emphasise this enough: Charles Beaumont is all about the twist ending. However, the device becomes predictable and worn-out quickly through overuse, especially as the twists are often very poor - two stories end with the man realising he’s a robot! It also means that everything preceding the twist becomes pointless guff. Unfortunately Beaumont isn’t a talented enough writer to make the stories entertaining so you’re essentially reading a long drawn-out setup to an underwhelming finale. It’s very, very boring stuff. 

Some of the stories - irritatingly, the longest ones - aren’t really about anything like The Magic Man which features a protagonist who tells rambling, dull fiction to kids, or Night Ride, about some dreary jazz musicians. Other stories are just plain outdated to a 21st century audience like The Beautiful People which is at least original being a precursor to Ira Levin’s The Stepford Wives but is basically the same thing - anyone reading this today will know how it’s going to end. Another story is about a man who falls in love with a car. I suppose some of the stories highlight people’s concerns at the time and would have seemed fresh to 1950s readers but they don’t hold up today. 

Beaumont has the occasional interesting idea though, like in The Howling Man where a man discovers Satan is chained up in the basement of a remote monastery leading to a time of peace on Earth. Or in Traumerei where a death row prisoner claims to have dreamed the entire world up and if they kill him, they all die too. But these are disappointingly few and far between. 

I was hoping to discover an underrated writer with Charles Beaumont but it turns out he’s little-known for a reason: his stories suuuuck! I hated reading this and can’t recommend Perchance To Dream to anyone. If you’re after Twilight Zone-esque stories that are actually fun to read, check out Richard Matheson’s story collections but whatever you do, don’t pick up Charles Beaumont’s! 

… And then the reviewer realised he was really a robot! AAARGGGHHH!!!

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