Devil Dolls & Duplicates
Anthony Ferguson, Editor

Equilibrium Books
Price: $29.95 AUD
Review by Darkeva

Table of Contents

  • Marcus Clarke, “Human Repretends”
  • Wynne Whiteford, “Automaton”
  • Van Ikin, “And Eve Was Drawn from the Rib of Adam”
  • Michael Wilding, “This is for You”
  • Stephen Dedman, “A Single Shadow”
  • Jason Franks, “The Third Sigil”
  • Jay Caselberg, “Porcelain”
  • Sean Williams, “The Girl Thing”
  • Chuck McKenzie, “Confessions of a Pod Person”
  • Lee Battersby, “The Divergence Tree”
  • Rick Kennett, “Excerpt from In Quinns Paddock”
  • Lucy Sussex, “La Sentinelle”
  • Jason Nahrung, “Spare Parts”
  • Robert Hood, “Regolith”
  • Kaaron Warren, “Doll Money”
  • Andrew J. McKiernan, “Calliope: A Steam Romance”
  • Tracie McBride, “Last Chance to See”
  • Martin Livings, “Blessed are the Dead that the Rain Falls Upon”
  • B. Michael Radburn, “The Guardian”
  • Daniel I. Russell, “Tricks, Mischief and Mayhem”
  • Christopher Elston, “Hugo: Man of a Thousand Faces”

The first half of the anthology definitely places more of an emphasis on robots as opposed to dolls in the traditional sense, and the stories are a mixture of science fiction and horror. Some are straight horror stories whereas others have more of a distinctly sci-fi bent. There are enough variations to keep ardent doll lovers interested; stories of shape-shifting dolls, dolls that make people commit foul deeds, dolls that look exactly like people, and most of the stories will keep you entertained. In one story, a man kills prostitutes who he thinks look like dolls. In another, the author introduces a Replicant-like Duplicate. There’s also a story involving a clone gone bad, one that features a porcelain doll set in the ballet world, and a creative tale that features a golem and more Jewish mythology.

The anthology is a bit robot-heavy, especially in the first half, but the second half contained entries that I found more appealing, such as “Doll Money,” which is about a disabled woman who looks for her father’s doll. People in the world of this story have dolls and when they die, their dolls gain even more significance and hold their souls. Such seems to be the case with the protagonist’s mother and her deceased husband. A confirmation officer comes by although he knows her dad is dead and that she’s been imitating him for years. The description of her father’s death is sad and twisted, but the doll he has left for her, which she does find, is as much a surprise to her as it is to anyone else. Her fate is a bit doomed at the end, but it’s a well-written piece.

“Calliope” by Andrew McKiennan starts off like a siren story; the woman that the main character falls for is, of course, a robot with somewhat fluid movements, but she must be an enchanted robots if she sings and expresses opinions/emotions, or so he thinks. He plans to make a steam engine so she’ll stop running on coal. But the decision to help her costs him dearly and this story highlights the dangers of a machine with a will of its own, but now how she became that way, which would have been nice background for the reader.

“Last Chance to See” is about a woman who died and was brought back in a reincarnation facility, and she’s now an avatar (not the blue kind) who can’t eat or drink or copulate. She’s a Barbie doll – no nipples, no pubic hair, no genitals, no lines or veins, no scars; she’s an idealized version of herself and only gets to have the body for one day, which sends the message that even if humans do eventually find a way to raise the dead, everything has consequences.

The standout tale for me was “Blessed are the Dead that the Rain Falls Upon,” which is about a creepy android hand that has been disposed of in an alley. Our main character, an investigator, has it on good authority that Delphine Lalaurie, the famous 1800s New Orleans socialite who allegedly tortured and experimented upon her servants, disposed of it. The investigator soon meets two androids from a brothel, one of whom, Madame Genevieve, is the lady who runs the joint. The story reminded me of Blade Runner because it takes place on a sort of new utopia that turns out to be not so glamorous. The protagonist even reminded me of Harrison Ford with his no-nonsense attitude, which works in his favour. The android prostitutes accuse Delphine of torturing androids who do actually have feelings and sensations. The droids picked the cop to solve the case for them. as in real life, Lalaurie sees her victims as experiments in this tale. This one has a satisfying conclusion, and it’s a well written piece.

“Tricks, Mischief, and Mayhem” is also a standout. I’ve recently reviewed Samhane by the author, Daniel I. Russell, and this piece does not disappoint. We’re introduced to a hippy family with a young daughter who wins a prize at a carnival from creepy clowns – a large teddy bear that her dad mentions is remarkably heavy. The parents are worshippers of the Goddess and have brought their daughter up in this religion, something that figures prominently in the story. I won’t give any surprises away, but suffice it to say, this one has a creepy but unpredictable ending.

“Hugo Man of 1,000 Faces” features perhaps the most diabolical doll of the bunch – one that returns in Chucky-esque fashion to haunt the protagonist years after he thinks it’s gone…

Overall, this is a strong anthology that has something for both sci-fi and horror fans. Fans of the former will enjoy the first half of the anthology more, and fans of the latter the second half. Strong writing and solid plots make this a must-have anthology for any fan of doll fiction in horror.

Rating: 4.5/5

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