The Complete Short Stories of Ambrose Bierce, Part 2

The Complete Short Stories of Ambrose Bierce

  • Paperback: 496 pages
  • Publisher: University of Nebraska Press; Reprint edition (January 1985)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN: 0803260717

Brett’s Horror Book Collection

This is a recurring weekly series covering around ten short stories of Ambrose Bierce, Civil War veteran and well known satirist.

Part I: The World of Horror (cont.)

“Moxon’s Master”
By Ambrose Bierce
Rating: 6/10
Quote: “Consciousness is the creature of Rhythm.”

Comments: This one was a bit of a modern day (modern being defined as Bierce’s time) Frankenstein, but it didn’t really strike a chord with me.

“The Damned Thing”
By Ambrose Bierce
Rating: 10/10
Quote: “What is it? What the devil is it?…That Damned Thing!”

Comments: This one has a very Lovecraftian feel to it. Or, to be fair, since Bierce came first, maybe some of Lovecraft’s stories have a Biercian feel. The two authors are polar opposites as far as word usage goes. Bierce was short and to the point in style, while Lovecraft was about as verbose an author as I’ve ever read. Despite that difference, I was especially reminded of Lovecraft’s short stories “The Colour Out of Space” and “The Dunwich Horror”, two favorites of mine.

“The Realm of the Unreal”
By Ambrose Bierce
Rating: 9/10
Quote: “It is what some are pleased to call jugglery.”

Comments: The effectiveness of hypnotism and hypnotists is the subject of this story, and the cynical humor shines through.

“A Fruitless Assignment”
By Ambrose Bierce
Rating: 7/10
Quote: “Did anything occur?…Nothing whatever.”

Comments: Bierce’s macabre humor shows through here as the protagonist, though obviously changed in some horrible way (is he disfigured? has his hair gone white? has more than a night passed? who knows? the reader must imagine), calmly replies that nothing out of the ordinary happened to him.

“A Vine on a House”
By Ambrose Bierce
Rating: 5/10
Quote: “Nothing was found but the root, yet nothing could have been more strange!”

Comments: A hidden crime is revealed through a strange vine. Not one of Bierce’s better ones.

“The Haunted Valley”
By Ambrose Bierce
Rating: 4/10
Quote: “That’s why I’m afraid of ‘im.”

Comments: I’m not sure if the editor arranged these in order of how much sense they make, but this particular story seems to me to have been the worst of the bunch.

“One of Twins”
By Ambrose Bierce
Rating: 7/10
Quote: “Damn you John Stevens!”

Comments: Two twins share some sort of telepathic link.

“Present at a Hanging”
By Ambrose Bierce
Rating: 7/10
Quote: “…if you are going my way.”

Comments: I couldn’t give this one a higher rating on account of its extremely short length, but I enjoyed it nonetheless.

“A Wireless Message”
By Ambrose Bierce
Rating: 8/10
Quote: “Go to bed my por fellow and–wait. We shall hear more of this.”

Comments: This particular short story features what we would today call an example of Fortean phenomena.

The Moonlit Road
By Ambrose Bierce
Rating: 8/10
Quote: “God! God! what is that?”

Comments: Here is another bit of irony from Bierce, involving the murder of a woman and how it affected her husband, her son, and her ghost.

There were several stinkers in here, but overall I continue to enjoy Bierce’s writing. I particularly was impressed with perhaps Bierce’s most well-known and most anthologized horror story “The Damned Thing”. H. P. Lovecraft read Bierce and admired his work, and I could definitely draw some parallels between this Bierce story and some later work by Lovecraft. There are still quite a few (20 or so) horror stories left before we get to Bierce’s war stories and tall tales.

Part 1Part 2Part 3Part 4Part 5 – Part 6


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