Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Rod Serling's Twilight Zone Revisited: Mini-Review

Rod Serling's Twilight Zone Revisited is a collection of thirteen stories either based on Twilight Zone episodes or new stories written in the style of the television series. As far as I can tell, five of the short stories aired as actual episodes. And it is not entirely clear where the others came from. The title page reads "adapted by Walter B. Gibson" but nothing in the book explains what he adapted these stories from....episode suggestions and outlines that didn't make the cut? I'm just not sure.

The collection takes me back to elementary school. The edition itself reminds me of the large school-binding editions of Alfred Hitchcock sponsored collections like "Stories to Read with the Light On," etc. with very elementary school style illustrations. It gives me a nice feeling of nostalgia--but I can't say that the book as a whole does a whole lot for me. Most of the stories are written in a rather pedestrian, just-the-facts-ma'am fashion--not a lot of frills, not a lot of description and explanation. The best of the stories provide a bit more background and window-dressing--not necessarily explaining everything about the odd things that happen (after all, it wouldn't be the Twilight Zone if we understood it entirely), but making the experiences of the characters a bit more believable.

That doesn't necessarily mean that the best stories are those I've identified as airing on television. While those stories are stronger than the majority, the strongest stories seem to be "new" (whatever that might mean) and feature ghosts or characters rooted firmly in the past. There are two men who survive the Civil War only to head west and inadvertently wind up involved in one of the largest Indian/Army battles ever waged. There is a reporter from the 1960s who is sent to write about a ski-jumping contest on Iron Mountain who interacts with ghosts from the turn-of-the-century. There's ghostly riverboat pilot who takes revenge on the man who sent him to a watery grave. And there is the house on an island haunted by the ghost of woman who murdered several patrons of the inn (as it was in the days of river steamboats) and who tries to add one more to her tally.

Overall--this is a book that I would have thoroughly enjoyed when I was in elementary school. Reading it now, it was a fairly good, light read with a mixture of highly interesting historically based/ghost stories and other somewhat entertaining stories about premonitions, genies, and various unexplainable circumstances. ★★ and a 1/4. 

This is the third Clue book for my new Super Book Password Challenge: clue portion of the title is in bold above. Please feel free to join in and guess (using the form provided at the Headquarters link) even if you're not inclined to participate as a reader/clue-giver.


J F Norris said...

I consider myself a pretty diehard TX fan and know almost eery episode by heart. None of these plots sound like they were *ever* on the TZ series. Very heavy on ghosts and TZ has very few ghost stories. I went elsewhere to look up the table of contents and discovered that none of these story titles match any episode title on the TV series. But I did get one match to the plot. So it seems as if these stories are "adaptations" (but problaby more like rewrites) of some of the TV episodes. The example I found is "The 7th is Made up of Phantoms". IMDB.com plot summary says of this episode: "Three 1960's Army National Guard soldiers on maneuvers near the Little Big Horn battle site find themselves unwittingly involved in Custer's last stand." This matches what I guess is the story you mention about the Civil War soldiers.

Very bizarre idea for a book. Sounds like an exploitative licensed product capitalizing on nostalgia for the series. I see it was originally published in 1964, the final season of the TZ series.

fredamans said...

I think this is something I'd rather veg out and watch on the tele. Great review!

Ryan said...

Sounds like fun.

Bev Hankins said...

John: I found a site that matched up five of them:

The Purple Testament (which I remember watching) [aired 2/12/690]
The 16-Millimeter Shrine [aired 10/23/59]
Beyond the Rim [aired 4/7/61 as "A Hundred Yards Over the Rim"]
The Man in the Bottle [aired 10/7/60]
The Mirror Image [aired 2/26/60]

Bev Hankins said...

Here's the link: http://tzone.the-croc.com/original-twilight-zone-episode-guide.html