Juushika's Reviews > Wormwood: A Collection of Short Stories

Wormwood by Poppy Z. Brite
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's review
May 21, 2012

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bookshelves: status-owned, genre-horror, genre-short-fiction
Read in May, 2012

Twelve stories of artists cursed with dangerous talents and intimacies shared even after death and further tales of Lost Souls's Steve and Ghost. In an otherwise useless introduction, Dan Simmons writes that Brite's "work may be described--perhaps even by her--as 'splatterpunk,' but it is not" (xxiv). Brite's (early) fiction is as lush as it is repulsive, often entrenched in the humid South, at its best taking the guts and gore of what might be splatterpunk to a level which is resonant and haunting. Wormwood has glimpses of that, but it's a particularly hit and miss collection.

"Angels" and "How to Get Ahead in New York" are indulgent, canonical Lost Souls fanfiction and among the best of the collection; "Calcutta, Lord of Nerves" is the only selection which truly stands out, and it is remarkable--Wormwood's boldest and most vibrant, it's a unique take on zombies (and I say this as someone with no interest in them) with an intense sense of place. The rest of the collection is passable but immemorable. Stories too often feel like slaves to an idea or, worse, to a twist ending; those concepts can be ingenious, but the stories don't exceed them and the effect is limiting and exploitative. This isn't the best of Brite's early work, and it isn't as accessible or reliably good as Brite's long fiction; casual readers needn't seek it out. But as a fan and a collector it wasn't a waste of my time, and "Calcutta" alone makes the volume worthwhile.
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