In honor of the 50th anniversary of The Twilight Zone, Carol Serling has released a new collection of stories written in the style of the television series. Expect demonic casinos, evil experiments in suburbia, and lots and lots of murder.
Carol Serling, Rod Serling's widow and a consultant on later Twilight Zone projects, has collected 19 stories for the 50th anniversary anthology. Although the nature of the different medium lends a slightly different tone to the stories — often planting us firmly inside the head of the protagonist — many of them play clear tribute to the television series. By far the clearest of these tributes is the opening story, David Hagberg's "Genesis," a story set in the Philippines during World War II that pays homage not only to individual Twilight Zone episodes, but to Rod Serling himself. A second war story, Jim Defelice's "The Soldier He Needed to Be," is a delightfully straight update of the series, about a flailing soldier in Afghanistan who turns his life around after receiving an iPod he believes to be magical.
Most of the stories are, however, set in that slightly sinister suburbia we see so often in Serling's show, where people trip and fall while chasing down the American Dream. Deborah Chester's "The Street That Time Forgot," one of the anthology's more science fiction entries, is set in one of those anonymous condo complexes that dot the United States. It's only when one of the residents adopts a stray dog and begins to wake from the slumber of his daily grind that he begins to suspect that his condo association may be taking more away from him than his HOA. And in Whitley Strieber's "The Good Neighbor," a middle class man worries about the falling value of his home after insectoid aliens move in next door.
Other standouts include Timothy Zahn's "Vampin' down the Avenue," in which a movie star goes to extreme lengths to foil the paparazzi — a story that's amusing enough even before the satisfying twist at the end — and Mike Resnkick and Lezli Robyn's beautifully sad "Benchwarmer," which takes us into the world of imaginary friends, and introduces us to one friend who simply can't let go of the boy who created him. And for fans who want a peek into Serling's process, Carol Serling has included his previously unpublished treatment for a possible episode, entitled "El Moe."
The stories in this anthology do stick a little bit too close to home; we get none of the space travelers or robots we would see from time to time on the show. But each tale is a quick and fun read where ordinary people are ensnared by the extraordinary, the wicked get what's coming to them, and nothing is ever quite as simple as it seems.