Kelly Link's work here is as slyly subversive as the stories in her previous collections. But here there's a definite theme of trouble, all the differKelly Link's work here is as slyly subversive as the stories in her previous collections. But here there's a definite theme of trouble, all the different sorts into which one can get. One thing I especially love about Link's work is that she casually inserts the strange and uncanny, whether pocket universes or artificial boyfriends, into what passes as "real" life. These uncanny insertions can often create a chill, as in "I Can See Right Through You," where an actor who's always played a demon lover meets a being who very well may be the real thing - or "Two Houses," where spaceship travelers stumble upon a reminder of their own mortality while regaling one another with ghost stories.
However, one of the best stories, "The Lesson," has nothing of the uncanny about it (except an invented creature). Two men go to a wedding party on an island, all the while worrying about their surrogate, who is about to have their baby. The story is charged with fears about mortality and love, and successfully packs a punch.
Apparently Link is working on a novel. I can't wait to read it....more
I've been reading Stephen King since I was in high school, including his first story collection "Night Shift." This collection demonstrates how King hI've been reading Stephen King since I was in high school, including his first story collection "Night Shift." This collection demonstrates how King has honed his craft over the years. He's always been a strong short story writer, but now there's often an undertone of sadness, a richer tone. In many of these stories, it isn't a matter of a short sharp shock, which King often did in the past.
Here's some of my favorites in this collection:
"1408" - This tale of what could be termed a haunted hotel room depicts a descent into madness that honestly is one of the scariest stories I've ever read by King.
"That Feeling, You Can Only Say What It Is in French" - A woman's guilt over a past act lands her in an endless re-enactment of her last moments alive. Chilling.
"The Man in the Black Suit" - A young boy who recently lost his brother encounters the devil. The underlying grief is what makes this story so strong.
"Riding the Bullet" - A young man in college has grown up with only his mother, and the bond there is strong. But a car ride with a dead man shows our protagonist what he's willing to give away, and it haunts him forever. Again, it's the underlying theme, which in this case is how all of us deal with aging parents, that really makes this story stand out.
There's more I really liked ("Everything's Eventual, e.g.), but you get the idea. One of the best collections by King I've read - recommended....more
The stories in this collection are more delicate in their weirdness than those in Saffron and Brimstone, Hand's previous short story collection. ThisThe stories in this collection are more delicate in their weirdness than those in Saffron and Brimstone, Hand's previous short story collection. This is excepting "The Return of the Fire Witch," which is baroquely fantastic, the one outlier in this book. My favorite story was "Near Zennor," a slightly sinister story about a grieving widower who discovers that his wife had a strange encounter in England when she was young. "Winter's Wife" is another standout, about a woman from Iceland who has some rock-like qualities. Throughout, Hand demonstrates her luminous power of description. ...more
Tin House never disappoints. I had to pick up this particular volume because it had a short story by Kelly Link, one of my favorite writers. But thereTin House never disappoints. I had to pick up this particular volume because it had a short story by Kelly Link, one of my favorite writers. But there are a lot of stand-outs here, organized around the theme of The Ecstatic.
- "Caught Up" by Jamie Quatro - a story on adultery and visions. - "The Summer People" by Kelly Link - this story centers on a young girl forced to fend for herself, and the mysterious folk she deals with. - An Excerpt from Moby-Dick in Pictures: One Drawing for Every Page - I've never even read Moby-Dick, but I found this art fascinating. - "How the Light Gets In" by Elissa Schappell - One of the most fascinating pieces in the lot, Schappell talks about her epilepsy, both the agony and the ecstasy. ...more
As with most "Best of" short story collections, this was a mixed bag. But this collection has an enjoyable amount of variety and has some interestingAs with most "Best of" short story collections, this was a mixed bag. But this collection has an enjoyable amount of variety and has some interesting writers represented.
The standouts to me were: You Become the Neighborhood by Glen Hirshberg - a daughter gradually understands that her mother was traumatized by an event years ago.
Black Feathers by Alison Littlewood - a little girl wishes her brother was different, and she gets her wish.
Blackwood's Baby by Laird Barron - Barron always successfully evokes an eldritch atmosphere, and this story is no exception....more
As with most anthologies, this was a thoroughly mixed bag. But I liked a lot of the stories, and if you're at all into fairy tales, you should check tAs with most anthologies, this was a thoroughly mixed bag. But I liked a lot of the stories, and if you're at all into fairy tales, you should check this collection out. Here's the stories I liked a lot in this collection:
"Ardour" by Jonathon Keats - a poetic tale of longing and love.
"The Brother and the Bird" by Alissa Nutting - a riff on "The Juniper Tree," this story of incestuous love is a chilling indictment of parental neglect.
"A Day in the Life of Rumpelstiltskin" by Kevin Brockmeier - what happened to Rumpelstiltskin after the old fairy tale ends, when he's so angry that he splits himself in two? Here you are...
"The Swan Brothers" by Shelley Jackson - weaving shirts out of nettles as performance art, and other possibilities.
"The Mermaid in the Tree" by Timothy Schaffert - one of my favorite stories, in which a child-bride talks to the ghost of a mermaid hanging out by a tree.
"Body-without-Soul" by Kathryn Davis - a boy turns into a man and in the process defeats a sorceror.
"What the Conch Shell Sings When the Body is Gone" by Katherine Vaz - a woman's journey through the end of a relationship and beyond. The copious San Francisco references were lovely.
"The Color Master" by Aimee Bender - emotions channeled into color, and the outcome.
"The White Cat" by Marjorie Sandor - what the hero should do in the fairy tale....more
Kelly Link is an incredibly imaginative writer. While this isn't as strong a collection as Magic for Beginners, there's still some gems in here. I espKelly Link is an incredibly imaginative writer. While this isn't as strong a collection as Magic for Beginners, there's still some gems in here. I especially enjoyed: "The Specialist's Hat," a genuinely creepy tale involving young twin girls and a haunted house; "Travels with the Snow Queen," a justly lauded tale that smashes several fairy tales together and turns them inside out as well; "Survivor's Ball, or the Donner Party," another creepy tale in which flames and fangs play key roles; and "The Girl Detective," a combination of Nancy Drew and the Twelve Dancing Princesses....more
"The Cambist and Lord Iron: A Fairy Tale of Economics" by Daniel Abraham - a fantastic story that acAlways a grand assorted bag. Here's what I liked:
"The Cambist and Lord Iron: A Fairy Tale of Economics" by Daniel Abraham - a fantastic story that actually makes economic matters interesting; "Vampires in the Lemon Grove" by Karen Russell - in which vampires are on the hunt for new wondrous tastes; the poem "Scenes of Hell" by Billy Collins - both Boschian and modern; "The Last Worders" by Karen Joy Fowler - where twins are not the best of friends; "The Monsters of Heaven" by Nathan Ballingrud - defenseless angels and parents in pain; "The Fiddler of Bayou Teche" by Delia Sherman - an evocative story of the Louisiana bayou; "Winter's Wife" by Elizabeth Hand - the wife can be a little stony; the poem "Troll" by Nathalie Anderson - sing-songingly rhythmic; "The Drowned Life" by Jeffrey Ford - a literal story of drowning in debt; the poem "Follow Me Home" by Sonya Taaffe - the imagery is tough to shake; "The Forest" by Laird Barron - an eldritch tale of obsession and what exists beyond humankind; "Up the Fire Road" by Eileen Gunn - a hilarous tale of something strange in the mountains; "A Reversal of Fortune" by Holly Black - dealings with the devil; the poem "Village Smart" by Maggie Smith - a condensed fairy tale; "The Hill" by Tanith Lee - a dry tale of the fantastic; "The Hide" by Liz Williams - creepy and sad; "Closet Dreams" by Lisa Tuttle - truly heartbreaking; and "The Evolution of Trickster Stories Among the Dogs of North Park After the Change" by Kij Johnson - what if dogs could talk?
This is an extremely mixed bag - some great, unusual stories, and some run-of-the-mill. For me, it's a better sampler for a newer fan of horror than fThis is an extremely mixed bag - some great, unusual stories, and some run-of-the-mill. For me, it's a better sampler for a newer fan of horror than for someone who's been around the block a few times.
Here's what I really enjoyed: Kim Newman's "Amerikanski Dead at the Moscow Morgue" - an original tale of American zombies in Russia, plus Rasputin; Neil Gaiman's "Keepsakes & Treasures: A Love Story" - I had already read this in Fragile Things - it's a tale of a man seeking love and the henchman who helps him find it; "Itinerary" by Tim Powers - this seemed an odd choice for a horror anthology, since I didn't find it frightening in the least - but it's a great story nonetheless involving time loops and such; Ramsey Campbell's "The Entertainment" - wow, what an unusual story - freaky and creepy at the same time; "The Shadow, The Darkness" by Thomas Ligotti - Ligotti's not for everyone, but I like him - this is a cerebral tale of the encroaching darkness; Gene Wolfe's "The Tree is My Hat" - an entry that to me is a mix of fantasy and horror - a guy encounters a sub-deity, unknowingly; Joe R. Lansdale's "Mad Dog Summer" - an engrossing tale of a man's memories of a serial killer; and "Darkness" by Dennis L. McKiernan - truly, the creepiest of them all to me - I found myself hesitating before turning on the light for a little while after reading this story - a tale of the light and the dark, and the difference in between....more
Elizabeth Hand, tagged as one of the "New Fabulists" (I think that's what they're called), writes shimmering prose. I hadn't read any of her short stoElizabeth Hand, tagged as one of the "New Fabulists" (I think that's what they're called), writes shimmering prose. I hadn't read any of her short stories or novellas before - these seem tinged with melancholy, so much so that I was reminded of the title of one of Ray Bradbury's short story collections, A Medicine for Melancholy. I don't know that there's much medication here, but the stories are certainly arresting.
One of the things Hand certainly handles well is the occupations of her protagonists. We have a tattoo artist, a painter, a student of entymology - and all of the details are beautifully laid out. Islands are a frequent abode, especially in the last four entertwined tales, "The Lost Domain: Four Story Variations." The stories are entertwined in their theme of loss, or the possibility of loss, which is certainly a melancholy theme - "Kronia," which I had read before in one of The Year's Best Fantasy and Horror Collections, remains a wonderfully condensed tale of alternate lives. I'm afraid I enjoyed "The Saffron Gatherers" as much for its minute details of San Francisco, such as an Afghan restaurant in North Beach and the restored Ferry Building, as the exquisitely rendered details of the Thera frescoes - but Hand made the connection between the two disasters relevant, though the relationship in the story was rather distant.
One of my favorite stories was "The Least Trumps," a story that embraces fantasy and possibility (I just wish there was more info on the Fox books!). And "Cleopatra Brimstone" is both erotic and horrific, full of the colors of butterflies but also brimming with menace.
So, not the best story collection I've ever read, but certainly some interesting twists and turns -...more
Ellen Datlow is a very consistent, good editor. So, maybe I just wasn't into the subject matter of these stories, even though I prefer the creepy to tEllen Datlow is a very consistent, good editor. So, maybe I just wasn't into the subject matter of these stories, even though I prefer the creepy to the bloody in my horror. "Feeling Remains" by Ramsey Campbell was definitely creepy, capturing the spread of insanity in a horrific way. The stories by Tanith Lee, Jeffrey Ford, and Kelly Link ("The Hortlak," which I'd read before - great story) were also good - all of these writers are, again, consistent. For the first time, though, I read a short story by Lucius Shepard that I just didn't like. Likewise, a few of the other stories left me shrugging my shoulders. So, a collection that halfway fulfilled my expectations....more
Along with the Neil Gaiman collection I read this year, this is the best short story collection I've read in a while - not just in horror, but best shAlong with the Neil Gaiman collection I read this year, this is the best short story collection I've read in a while - not just in horror, but best short stories, period. Of course, horror is represented - "Abraham's Boys" gives a unique perspective on Van Helsing, and "Best New Horror" is certainly horrific as well as darkly humorous, while "Last Breath" is rather ghastly. But then there are the just plain touching stories, such as "Bobby Conroy Comes Back From the Dead," and the stories that mix the horrific or weird with the sad mundaneness of real life, like "In the Rundown," or "Pop Art." Joe Hill gives a nice touch of the weird or the sad to his stories that is very welcome, and I look forward to reading his novel....more
I thoroughly revere Ellen Datlow as an editor, and I've read most of these collections - Datlow's taste is always great on the horror side. The fantasI thoroughly revere Ellen Datlow as an editor, and I've read most of these collections - Datlow's taste is always great on the horror side. The fantasy side in this particular collection didn't always please my palate, but then I like my fantasy dark, so maybe it's not the editors' fault. I don't know though, I still can't help missing Terri Windling.
Anyway, my favorite stories in this collection included "Proboscis" by Laird Barron, a foreboding tale of others among us; "Kronia" by Elizabeth Hand, a short but potent tale of alternate lives; "Where Angels Come In" by Adam L.G. Nevill, one of the creepiest ghostie stories I've read in a while; "The Last One" by Robert Coover, a very interesting twist indeed on a familiar fairy tale; "The Scribble Mind" by Jeffrey Ford, about the power of memory; "Hot Potting" by Chuck Palahniuk, from his collection Haunted; and "The Pavement Artist" by Dave Hutchinson, which introduces a new concept, cracking.
A grab-bag indeed, but you can't beat the diversity. I always come back. ...more
Another excellent collection from Ellen Datlow, featuring "Hungry Skin" by Lucy Taylor, "The Swing" by Nicholas Royle, and "The Lady of Situations" byAnother excellent collection from Ellen Datlow, featuring "Hungry Skin" by Lucy Taylor, "The Swing" by Nicholas Royle, and "The Lady of Situations" by Stephen Dedmen....more
An excellent collection which includes the story "The Ragthorn," by Robert Holdstock and Garry Kilworth, as well as stories by Thomas Ligotti, Kathe KAn excellent collection which includes the story "The Ragthorn," by Robert Holdstock and Garry Kilworth, as well as stories by Thomas Ligotti, Kathe Koja, and David J. Schow....more