You find it on a pockmarked shelf between a jar of eyeballs and a talon-handled dagger.
‘Monstrous Affections,’ you mutter under your breath. ‘An Antho...moreYou find it on a pockmarked shelf between a jar of eyeballs and a talon-handled dagger.
‘Monstrous Affections,’ you mutter under your breath. ‘An Anthology of Beastly Tales.’
Anthology. Hmm. Short stories aren’t always your thing. But monsters definitely are. And judging by the beautiful hardback presentation of the book, you suspect it might be a companion to the excellent Steampunk! anthology edited by Kelly Link.
You check the authors at the top: yup, Kelly Link and Gavin J Grant. This looks like it might be fun. You crack it open to the contents and pretty much drool at the list of authors: Cassandra Clare, Holly Black, P-PATRICK NESS? Well, okay, now we’re talking.
You’re a sucker for starting anthologies at the start, so you read Moriabe’s Children by Paolo Bacigalupi. You’ve always wanted to read him, and as you start to read his lyrical prose with that inner voice, you make a mental note to move his books to the top of your list.
You’re in a world of old fantasy, a world where a young girl can talk to giant sea monsters called kraken. They whisper to her when her father dies, and when her mother remarries a man who smiles at her like a hunter. You look around you at this world that lives and dies by the sea, this world of whale-hunters and oyster-sellers, and you marvel at how well the author can paint a world with words. More than anything, you’d love to spend more time in this world.
And then the story is over, and you savour the taste of salt water on your tongue and move on. Cassandra Clare is up next, and this time you find yourself in a much newer world…well new and old. An old folk’s home where a girl is volunteering her time as punishment, and she just knows there’s something different about the other boy volunteering. For a start, he’s much, much older than he looks.
You turn page after page and then you’re in another world, this one by Holly Black. This time you’re transported all the way into the darkest regions of space, aboard the Celeris spaceship, on which a girl has stowed away. And everything is hunky dory until space pirates attack, and you’re both hiding out in the bowels of the spaceship, fearing for your lives. You make a particular note of how much you love the voice in this one – second person. Because who doesn’t love second person? And the way in which the story is framed by a set of rules. You think to yourself, is Holly Black possibly the most inventive person writing YA right now?
You take a break to shift onto a dusty old velvet chair the colour of old peas and vomit. The paper-winged bookseller curls his lip at you but says nothing.
You flip to Patrick Ness. THE Patrick Ness who wrote those books that made you feel so many feels. You take a second to glare at them up on the shelf and mutter the name ‘Manchee’. The bookseller shushes you. Okay, PNess, you think to yourself. You gonna make me cry this time?
Nope. No Noise-blaring otherworlds here. Well, sort of. It’s high school, but when you arrive you find you’re a demon who can slip in and out of Aspect. Except appearing as a normal human out of Aspect is so not cool. You hang out with a girl in a band who can breathe fire but kind of doesn’t want to. She just wants to play music. You don’t cry this time. You laugh because PNess manages to meld being a badass demon with teenage angst so well.
You read through the rest of these worlds, dipping in and out. You visit all of them, and every time the only complaint you have is that you want to spend more time there. You visit shoe stores and Korean witches and everything in between.
Eventually the scowling bookseller appears at your elbow. ‘You gonna buy it or what?’
You nod and reach into your pockets for the money. ‘How much?’
‘It’s a pay as you feel system,’ he says. ‘One golden star if you didn’t like it, five if you wanna marry it and have its children some day.’
You try not to picture what a half-human, half-book child would look like. ‘Okay. I liked some stories a lot more than others. Most were very original, great characters, great world-building. I thought some could have stretched themselves a little further, but on the whole a great collection. Four stars.’
You plonk the golden coins with the stars engraved on their faces in the bookseller’s outstretched claw.
‘Nice doing business with you,’ he says. ‘I’m sure I’ll see you again soon.’
The bell tinkles behind you as you leave with Monstrous Affections tucked under your arm. (less)