The recent Imposter Syndrome anthology (2017), edited by James Everington and Dan Howarth from Dark Minds Press, is centered around the subject of doubles in one fashion or another. This can be anything from an actual duplicate such as a twin or an evil doppelgänger, or perhaps an identity thief passing themselves off as someone else’s online presence. I’ve found the idea fascinating ever since reading the story of a man being replaced by his spectral double in a book of “true” ghost stories many years ago, so it was an easy decision for me to buy this book. The stories within are all well written, enjoyable reads, but my favorites would be “I Know What They Look Like”, “Other People’s Dreams”, “What’s Yours Is Mine” and “Virtually Famous”. My lone complaint is that I’d liked it to have had a few more straight up shape-shifting monsters taking over the lives of their victims tales, but that’s a simply matter of personal preference on my part.
1. “I Know What They Look Like” by Gary McMahon (2017) – A struggling cab driver picks up a man who happens to look exactly like him. The fare asks to be taken to a drug house in a seedy part of town. He talks of how the dealer there stole his daughter away before killing him and disposing of his body. He then hands the cabbie a gun.
2. “In the Marrow” by Laura Mauro (2017) – A pair of twin sisters spend their time beside a lough (lake) setting traps in attempts to catch fairies. This comes to an end when one of them becomes deathly sick and is primarily regulated to the cancer ward of a hospital. The sister who isn’t sick tells the other she doesn’t believe she’s her real sister but that she’d been switched out by fairies.
3. “Who Is That On The Other Side of You?” by Timothy J. Jarvis (2017) – Two men who look alike work to cross the Antarctic in search of a lost city. The leader has used his knowledge of dark magic to force the other to accompany him on this journey. They encounter many bizarre things along the way and later find themselves followed by two mysterious men.
4. “What’s Yours Is Mine” by Holly Ice (2017) – When Sophie’s mother’s deteriorating mental state lets slip the fact she has an identical twin named Isabelle, she decides to investigate. They’d been separated while very young due to Isabelle’s violent tendencies, which eventually landed her in an asylum. Sophie decides it’s time she meets with Isabelle.
5. “The Insider” by Neil Williamson (2017) – On a flight back from Italy with his boss Verity after a business trip where they lost an important client, Raymond is shocked to find someone using his name and image has set up a false social media account which they’re using to smear his name by posting horrible things. Later, he encounters a double who looks exactly like him but with a much darker personality.
6. “Other People’s Dreams” by Stephen Bacon (2017) – A British man who’s found at the scene of a terrorist attack in Nuremberg, Germany following a bombing struggles to regain his lost memory. No one, including himself, knows who he is. He didn’t appear on any CCTV cameras before the attack and was found with no I.D. on him. Reporters refer to him as a modern day Kasper Hauser. He reaveals to his psychiatrists that he’s been having dreams of people dying which he thinks belong to someone else. When he’s returned to England, he spots a man who looks like him and begins secretly observing this double in hopes of learning about himself. This is an excellent tale of someone struggling with the hazy grasp of who they are and what’s going on around them.
7. “Hold My Hand And I’ll Take You There” by Ralph Robert Moore (2017) – This story shifts both time and perspective throughout, following Noah both as a young boy battling cancer and as an adult who meets and falls in love with a schizophrenic woman named Audrey. The writing and the character work here are very strong.
8. “The Wrong House” by Tracy Fahey (2017) – A man, who seems to be suffering from some sort of selective memory loss, believes the house he returns to and the family inside it aren’t really his own.
9. “Little Heart” by Georgina Bruce (2017) – This one’s about a woman whose life has been shaped by the trauma of her father leaving at a young age. He left soon after she had an embarrassing outburst in a crowded theater that was showing a film in which her mother had a starring role. The movie wasn’t appropriate for someone of her age. Watching her mother as the crazy person she portrayed onscreen caused the daughter to distrust her, contributing to the growing rift between them. She also has nightmares of her mother’s body inhabited by the false thing she’d seen in the film and of her lost father as a giant crow-like beast.
10. “Virtually Famous” by Phil Sloman (2017) – A troubled, fading movie star named Chet revitalizes his career when he becomes the focus of an A.I. computer game where people can log on to either live his life in a virtual reality simulation or as someone close to him. It quickly becomes en vogue for players to “kill” the virtual reality Chet in increasingly violent and inventive ways. The real Chet’s addictive personality leads to his becoming obsessed with the game and the endless online deaths his avatar continually experiences. This story was my favorite of the anthology.
Reviewed by Matt Cowan