Where would we be without our technology? Not an original question, of course, but the idea of it taking over, or worse - haunting us - is a common theme. So it is in this book of short stories. Some are horror, ghostly or just plain creepy but all very current . Ghostly stories about modern life.
The leading story of the title, Reality, is about a reality show, based largely on Big Brother, where a woman wakes up one day to find that she is in a flash house. She is joined by five other people and they wait for tasks to be given. There are no ghosts or supernatural elements in this story, nothing but fakeness, shallow showiness and emptiness. A sad reflection on our time where appearances are everything, 'Souls in torment'.
My favourite story is the first one, Signal, which is a thoroughly modern ghost story. The title reference only becomes relevant at the end. A couple offload their two young children at their rich friend's house so they can partake in adult country pursuits. The house is a dream for children with a swimming pool, cinema and lots of technology. A strange silent, tall man helps them when the parents aren't around, much to their discomfort. The theme of guilt and conscience runs through this tale as it does in some of the stories in this collection.
The appeal of this book is the updated style of favourite works by Dickens' short ghost stories, Roald Dahl's Tales of the Unexpected and MR James. The chilling lifestyle of our modern world. A delightful surprise: some are better than others but overall this is a very enjoyable read to drop in and out of. Highly recommended.
Published by Faber and Faber Ltd. on 1 October 2020.
Advanced review copy supplied by the publisher.