Thanks to the limited sum of John C. Foster's stuff that I've read, I had a certain expectations going into this collection. I expected originality. I expected good pacing and structure. I expected suspense. I expected to be shocked, unnerved, intrigued.Sometimes it's perfectly all right to have expectations, even high ones, because John C. Foster nailed it, and repeatedly, with this one.
There were one or two stories that had an odd bump, were just ok, but most were good and a some were absolutely fantastic. The title story, Baby Powder, a novella (methinks), is a powerhouse that touches back to one the great classic horrors, The Great God Pan. Foster’s modernized elements on the cosmic evil are vast and perfect, never giving away too much of the good stuff, letting the dread work the reader into a corner where the only option left is a gas can and a match.
Talk to Leo is another classic tale built upon, expanded upon, the evil ventriloquist’s dummy. This isn’t done in a campy, tiny wooden feet prattling along behind you kind of tale, it’s again a looming and gathering dread. So quickly the sense of the impossible becomes possible, and all the scary stuff that encompasses, and rolls from the pages and into the grey matter like a fog.
Meat is one of the stories that touches on a sci-fi theme and while it does use dread (a Foster staple it seems) it also makes full use of the well orchestrated and palpably translated use of suspense. Running. Running. Running. Before smack, there’s a finale and things are so much worse than originally assumed.
There’s a wide array of themes and subjects presented here, cosmic, alien, zombie, even steam, but one thing they all share is that none really reads like a filler tale. The urge to toss everything at the reader is a pitfall many authors experience when putting together a collection. This is not that. At its worst, Baby Powder is above average, at its best, it’s powerhouse of terror and fine writing.