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This Strange Way of Dying: Stories of Magic, Desire and the Fantastic

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Spanning a variety of genres—fantasy, science fiction, horror—and time periods, Silvia Moreno-Garcia's exceptional debut collection features short stories infused with Mexican folklore yet firmly rooted in a reality that transforms as the fantastic erodes the rational. This speculative fiction compilation, lyrical and tender, quirky and cutting, weaves the fantastic and the horrific alongside the touchingly human. Perplexing and absorbing, the stories lift the veil of reality to expose the realms of what lies beyond with creatures that shed their skin and roam the night, vampires in Mexico City that struggle with disenchantment, an apocalypse with giant penguins, legends of magic scorpions, and tales of a ceiba tree surrounded by human skulls.

The Exile Ebook Series, no. 296

206 pages, Paperback

First published August 1, 2011

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About the author

Silvia Moreno-Garcia

143 books18.3k followers
Silvia Moreno-Garcia is the author of several novels, including Mexican Gothic, Gods of Jade and Shadow and The Daughter of Doctor Moreau. She has also edited a number of anthologies, including the World Fantasy Award-winning She Walks in Shadows (a.k.a. Cthulhu's Daughters). Mexican by birth, Canadian by inclination.

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5 stars
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Displaying 1 - 30 of 66 reviews
Profile Image for new_user.
238 reviews191 followers
March 31, 2014
Wow. I don't typically enjoy genre anthologies, but Silvia Moreno-Garcia's spare, literary voice, the Mexican folklore, the relevant themes, and the eerie, gothic atmosphere made the pages fly in This Strange Way of Dying.

Scales as Pale as Moonlight: Divorced after repeated attempts to conceive, Laura is still haunted by the memory of a still birth. Initially, I dreaded a premise reminding me of romance protagonists who lament their "empty wombs" and devalue themselves, but despite her grief, Laura doesn't blame herself, as her family does, she doesn't succumb to gaslighting or allow them to undermine her self-confidence, and she's still independent. Every protagonist wavers and regains their confidence, but Laura's memories of a confident girl, the self-disgust and defiance felt so authentic.
She’d been brave. Headstrong and fearless. Not like the heroine of the novel, never sniveling in the dark, never wavering as a candle sputtered. Hunting snakes without shivering.
I really empathized with a woman who, after disaster strikes as it may anyone, has lost her right to self-determination according to those around her, the assigning of blame on her for an act of God, suspicion toward a person afflicted with depression, the culture that values a woman on whether she has children or not. Smart commentary.

Maquech: Love! Mayan folklore and social class. When I read about the live beetle as jewelry, I thought they sounded beautiful and entrancing. I had no idea they were real! o.o

Stories with Happy Endings: Journalists are vampires, LOL. I liked the irony in this one. They're tough, them.

Bed of Scorpions: I didn't believe what I was reading at first. A lyrical but disturbing story.

Jaguar Woman: Regarding colonialism. Smart, empowering, ferocious, the focus is on the "Jaguar Woman," not the colonizer. Man, I loved this, **** yes.

Nahuales: Sexual harassment. Except for that, the shapeshifters would make a great urban fantasy! LOL. Seriously, I want to see Moreno-Garcia write this.

The Dopplegangers: Wishing your parents were someone else. Yep, you can probably relate.

Driving with Aliens in Tijuana: Tentacles. o.o

Flash Frame: I did not get this one, but it disturbed me because cults always do.

Cemetery Man: Zombies and the Mexican Revolution. Make this an urban fantasy now. An undead badass soldadera winning free of her mad scientist maker, hello, c'mon, what's the hold up?

The Death Collector: Serial killers and a comment on all the people dying in the City.

This Strange Way of Dying: Beautiful romance with Death.

Bloodlines: Witches! (Brujas.) The only witch story I've ever liked! Apparently, you have to go pretty dark, LOL. Murder, hereditary insanity, scorned women, and parricide. Plus, bullying and cutthroat hierarchy.

Shade of the Ceiba Tree: Human sacrifice. o.o Ethereal, haunting imagery and shades of Hunger Games.

Snow: Ambition. Chilling in more ways than one.

Edgy short stories with a punch, they mesh relevance and culture seamlessly, and wow, is it a relief to read unapologetic, strong women! We need more voices like this in the genre! I'm looking forward to reading more of Moreno-Garcia's work! Four stars!
Profile Image for Orrin Grey.
Author 87 books312 followers
August 14, 2013
Let's get this out of the way right up front: I'm not exactly an unbiased party, here. Silvia is a friend, an editor, and, occasionally, an accomplice. I'd read a few of these stories in the places where they initially appeared, and I was pretty sold on this collection before my copy ever made its way to my inbox.

There's something so effortless about the way that the weird finds its way into the stories in This Strange Way of Dying. A casualness that does nothing to reduce the weirdness of it, but instead gives the whole story a feeling of being a part of something larger, deeper, older, stranger. There's a sense of dream, or of the fairy tale in many of the stories, and welcome dashes of Lovecraft in tales like "Flash Frame" or even "Snow." Even those that dip all the way into genres like science fiction or alternate history still have an intimacy that keeps them feeling immediate and palpable in a way that many of those sorts of stories don't, for me.

While there are certainly horror stories here, it's not a horror collection. Instead the stories are what I'd call maybe "strange fiction," or something of the effect. Capturing weirdness, the outsider perspective, and numinosity, rather than necessarily going for terror. Which, obviously, is an approach that I'm quite fond of.

There are vampires here, and aliens, and necromancers, weird cults, nahuales, dopplegangers, even giant penguins. Most of the stories are set in Mexico, and they have the flavor of Mexican folklore woven throughout them, but they're rooted in other traditions as well, and beholden to none of them. Silvia is part of a crop of current writers whose work would be right at home in those pulp paperback anthologies with the garish covers, but is at the same time completely modern. Many of the stories here feel like instant classics, evoking that sense of familiarity that makes you feel you've read them before, even as you know they're totally new.

Many people are probably already familiar with Silvia as an editor (she and I worked together on Fungi), but This Strange Way of Dying is a reminder that she's also an author to be reckoned with, and one for all of us to keep our eye on.
Profile Image for Derek Newman-Stille.
313 reviews6 followers
July 26, 2013
Penning the Subtle Murmur of Death and Splash of Blood

A review of Silvia Moreno-Garcia’s This Strange Way of Dying (Forthcoming 2013, Exile Editions)
By Derek Newman-Stille

Silvia Moreno-Garcia’s This Strange Way of Dying is just one step abstracted from reality, with one foot in The Weird. Populated with monsters, magic, and folklore, her work is fundamentally about the human outsider experience, the deeper engagement with the world that comes from being on the fringe, looking in at the oddity that is “The Normal”. From this outsider position, her characters navigate a world that is simultaneously familiar and odd to them. The city in Moreno-Garcia’s work, is a place of wonder and misery. She engages with the estrangement of the urban environment and the isolating and abject quality of living in modernity.

Setting most of her stories in Mexico, and exploring Mexican legends and Mexican urban environments, Moreno-Garcia uses the power of being a person between spaces (both Mexican and Canadian) to navigate the duality of her identity, presenting Mexican themes for a primarily Canadian reading audience. Her stories revel in the creative space of between-ness.

Moreno-Garcia provides the deep and intelligent critiques of “The Normal” that can best be expressed through outsider characters and their ability to have a dual vision of society both from the fringes and from within, questioning and interrogating the norms that are constantly being imposed on them. While engaging with monsters, monstrous changes within, and the touch of magic and death on their lives, her characters explore their relationship to the environment, to mortality, critique capitalist disparity, war and violence, and explore their estrangement from others. Her stories swirl around a critique of people who are obsessed with the mundane while ignoring the violence, disparity, and death around them. The glimpses she provides into the dark don’t allow the reader to escape from the reality of horrors embedded in our world.

Penning shadows that soak and stain the page with midnight ponderings, Moreno-Garcia creates worlds of dark wonder that pull the mind of the reader into a dream-like-state of pondering. Courting death and violence as her muses, and breathing them out onto the page, whispering little deaths onto the paper, she evokes the horror that exists around us, constantly being pushed to the shadows by our own desires to ignore it.

Much like the god of the woods in her story Shade of the Ceiba Tree, her voice is joy and love, yet the reader discovers that beneath the layers of beauty in her words is the subtle murmur of death and the splash of blood on the earth. She, too, wields a double-ended blade of fear and desire.

You can explore some of my reviews of individual stories from this volume at http://speculatingcanada.wordpress.co... and http://speculatingcanada.wordpress.co... .

To find out more about This Strange Way of Dying and Silvia Moreno-Garcia, visit http://silviamoreno-garcia.com/blog/t... . This Strange Way of Dying will be available on September 1, 2013.
Profile Image for Cristi Smith-Jones.
Author 1 book5 followers
November 15, 2022
4.5 stars, rounded up, simply because, while SMG's writing is always beautiful, and I enjoyed all of the short stories in this collection, I loved some more than others. (As is common when reading short story collections.)

Standouts for me included:

𝙏𝙝𝙞𝙨 𝙎𝙩𝙧𝙖𝙣𝙜𝙚 𝙒𝙖𝙮 𝙤𝙛 𝘿𝙮𝙞𝙣𝙜- The story upon which the collection was named. Our protagonist, Georgina, has a series of up close and personal experiences with Death. Deals are made. This story is set in Mexico City, before and during the Ten Tragic Days during the Mexican Revolution.

"𝘚𝘶𝘤𝘩 𝘪𝘴 𝘵𝘩𝘦 𝘸𝘢𝘺 𝘰𝘧 𝘥𝘦𝘢𝘵𝘩.
𝘚𝘶𝘤𝘩 𝘪𝘴 𝘵𝘩𝘦 𝘸𝘢𝘺 𝘰𝘧 𝘭𝘰𝘷𝘦."

𝙎𝙝𝙖𝙙𝙚 𝙤𝙛 𝙩𝙝𝙚 𝘾𝙚𝙞𝙗𝙖 𝙏𝙧𝙚𝙚- This one is gorgeous and dark, set in a time when virgin girls, adorned in necklaces and bracelets of jade, set out for a ceiba tree in the jungle to be sacrificed. One girl takes it upon herself to follow in the footsteps of her sister, heading to the ceiba tree to uncover the dark secrets that await there.

"𝘚𝘩𝘦 𝘴𝘭𝘦𝘱𝘵 𝘶𝘱𝘰𝘯 𝘩𝘦𝘳 𝘣𝘦𝘥 𝘰𝘧 𝘥𝘢𝘳𝘬 𝘦𝘢𝘳𝘵𝘩 𝘢𝘯𝘥 𝘥𝘳𝘦𝘢𝘮𝘦𝘥 𝘰𝘧 𝘢 𝘩𝘶𝘨𝘦 𝘵𝘳𝘦𝘦. 𝘉𝘰𝘯𝘦𝘴 𝘴𝘶𝘳𝘳𝘰𝘶𝘯𝘥𝘦𝘥 𝘵𝘩𝘦 𝘵𝘳𝘦𝘦 𝘢𝘯𝘥 𝘵𝘢𝘯𝘨𝘭𝘦𝘥 𝘶𝘯𝘥𝘦𝘳 𝘪𝘵𝘴 𝘳𝘰𝘰𝘵𝘴; 𝘴𝘰𝘮𝘦 𝘸𝘩𝘪𝘵𝘦 𝘢𝘯𝘥 𝘰𝘵𝘩𝘦𝘳𝘴 𝘺𝘦𝘭𝘭𝘰𝘸."

𝘾𝙚𝙢𝙚𝙩𝙚𝙧𝙮 𝙈𝙖𝙣- The dead get new life against the backdrop of the Mexican Revolution. Catalina is a soldadera, or Adelita- a woman soldier during the Mexican Revolution. After finding herself injured, Catalina awakens in the custody of the notorious Cemetery Man. Mad scientist vibes, the undead, and plenty of tension abound in this one.

"𝘞𝘪𝘭𝘥 𝘥𝘳𝘦𝘢𝘮𝘴. 𝘉𝘪𝘻𝘢𝘳𝘳𝘦 𝘪𝘮𝘢𝘨𝘦𝘴, 𝘢𝘴 𝘪𝘧 𝘷𝘪𝘦𝘸𝘦𝘥 𝘵𝘩𝘳𝘰𝘶𝘨𝘩 𝘴𝘮𝘰𝘬𝘦 𝘢𝘯𝘥 𝘧𝘪𝘳𝘦. 𝘛𝘩𝘦 𝘊𝘦𝘮𝘦𝘵𝘦𝘳𝘺 𝘔𝘢𝘯’𝘴 𝘸𝘪𝘥𝘦 𝘨𝘳𝘪𝘯 𝘢𝘴 𝘩𝘦 𝘭𝘰𝘰𝘬𝘦𝘥 𝘢𝘵 𝘩𝘦𝘳, 𝘴𝘩𝘢𝘳𝘱 𝘬𝘯𝘪𝘧𝘦 𝘪𝘯 𝘩𝘢𝘯𝘥."

𝘽𝙡𝙤𝙤𝙙𝙡𝙞𝙣𝙚𝙨- This was a thoroughly enjoyable story about a family of brujas.

"𝘋𝘰𝘯’𝘵 𝘨𝘦𝘵 𝘪𝘯 𝘢 𝘸𝘪𝘵𝘤𝘩’𝘴 𝘱𝘢𝘵𝘩. 𝘌𝘴𝘱𝘦𝘤𝘪𝘢𝘭𝘭𝘺 𝘪𝘧 𝘺𝘰𝘶 𝘢𝘳𝘦 𝘵𝘩𝘦 𝘸𝘦𝘢𝘬𝘦𝘳 𝘸𝘪𝘵𝘤𝘩."

Overall, this is a great collection full of Mexican folklore, which, like Silvia Moreno-Garcia's entire body of work, spans across genres and time periods. A must read for fans of her work.
Profile Image for Michael Healy.
Author 2 books5 followers
January 8, 2014
A beautiful collection that flawlessly mixes Mythos based horror, magical realism, and outright urban fantasy without missing a beat. Normally I'm not much of a fan of single author collections, tiring of a single voice trying to tell several different but vaguely thematic stories but Moreno-Garcia demonstrated an ability to weave countless different voices from many walks of life.

Profile Image for Carol.
1,219 reviews
October 15, 2020
Loved it! There's literally a story for everyone here. There's witches, nahuales, zombies, vampires, Death, a wide array of characters thrown into so many different genres like fantasy, horror, scifi, magical realism... Silvia delivers variety like I've never seen before and every tale is just amazing. Many creepy ones, this is just perfect for the Halloween season. Others are more perturbing, some just weird, but in every single one of them I had to keep on reading.
This books is so full of Mexican folklore, and this time I'm actually having a hard time picking a favourite. I mean 'This strange way of dying', the story that gives the book its title it's absolutely amazing... But 'Cemetery man' had me glued to the pages, as practically all of them.
If you want to get to know Silvia's writing style, this is certainly a must. It's a good way to start with her because there will be a story you'll love. And you'll get to explore more how she narrates her stories.
Profile Image for Liv.
205 reviews1 follower
July 23, 2023
A collection of the author's early short stories. There's typos here and there and there's a bit more telling than showing than I'm used to from newer Moreno-Garcia. works.
Each story still has its own familiar eeriness and clever humour I've come to love, though some stories are stronger than others.
It's very cool to see what skills the author has sharpened over time.
Profile Image for Patty.
212 reviews1 follower
March 22, 2021
Some of the stories were interesting, some were eerie, and others were just plain confusing and muddled.

My favorites were Cemetery Man, This Strange Way of Dying, Bloodlines, and Shade of the Ceiba Tree.
Profile Image for Knight Of.
369 reviews8 followers
July 26, 2022
I've been enjoying Silvia Moreno-Garcia's work. The way they write is so intriguing and detailed. I think my favorite in this are the Strange way of Dying, Flash Frame, Death Collector, and Maquech.
Profile Image for Julie.
739 reviews11 followers
December 9, 2022
Some really interesting stories in this collection. You can kind of tell some of them are earlier works - but definitely interesting and worthy of the read if you are a fan of SM-Gs writing.
Profile Image for Jess.
534 reviews80 followers
January 29, 2016
Check out this review and more on my blog!

Check out my review of Signal to Noise here!

You should all know by now that I adored Silvia Moreno-Garcia's debut novel, Signal to Noise, and with her second novel, Certain Dark Things , not being released until October I turned to her short fiction for my next fix.

This Strange Way of Dying is a collection of speculative fiction, much of which incorporates Mexico and Mexican mythology; I loved the Mexican setting in Signal to Noise, so I was really excited to read more stories set in Mexico, especially as it's one of the countries on my Travelling Bucket List.

First of all: let's all marvel at that glorious cover. Isn't it beautiful? Something about short story collections really seems to attract pretty covers, which is great for shallow people like me who like to fill their shelves with aesthetically pleasing books. Even if this book were terrible I still wouldn't be able to fault that cover.

Luckily, This Strange Way of Dying isn't terrible at all. I'll happily admit straight away that I didn't enjoy it as much as I enjoyed Signal to Noise, but I wanted to make sure I didn't compare the two all that much anyway because novels and short story collections are two such different art forms. In fact the only complaint I could make about the stories in This Strange Way of Dying was that some of them weren't long enough; a few I happily would have read even more of because I was so interested in Moreno-Garcia's characters.

There are fifteen stories altogether in this collection, and there were five of them I particularly enjoyed; 'Bed of Scorpions' and 'Jaguar' were two of the stories I would have loved more of, particularly as they both featured women becoming empowered and gaining the upper hand in their respective situations. In fact women gaining the upper hand seemed to be a recurrent theme in many of the stories throughout the collection, such as in 'Shade of the Ceiba Tree', a dark and melancholic story steeped in folklore, and 'Bloodlines', which I especially loved because it featured witches.

My favourite story in the collection, however, was definitely 'The Doppelgängers'; it was so creepy, but so well-written.

I love Moreno-Garcia's imagination; she's one of those writers whose love for speculative fiction is clear, and now that I've read this collection I'm looking forward to reading her other collection, Love & Other Poisons , and her next novel. Basically I'm happy to read whatever this woman releases, and I'm so pleased I discovered her last year. If you haven't checked her out yet, you're missing out!
Profile Image for Arinn Dembo.
Author 19 books63 followers
September 12, 2013
I had the pleasure of reading an advance copy of this little collection earlier this summer, and I was delighted. Silvia Moreno-Garcia is a fantastic writer whose work has appeared quietly in a number of venues, but this is the first time that a large body of her work has been gathered in one place.

I don't want to spoil the tales in this collection, but a few facts might be useful to prospective readers.

One: most of the author's fiction is set in Mexico, and most of her characters are Hispanic and/or Native. The characters are not at all difficult to understand or identify with for this reason--they're just a welcome relief from the sameness of the relentlessly WASP characters and settings that are typical in a lot of genre fiction.

Because she writes about non-Anglo characters and settings south of the Rio Grande, Moreno-Garcia's writing will inevitably be compared to that of Borges, Márquez, and other male Hispanic authors; because of the similar settings and characters, I sometimes thought of Rudolfo Anaya, whose young adult novel "Bless Me, Ultima" was taught when I was in school.

There is little that I can say about the inevitable comparisons, except that Moreno-Garcia's writing compares WELL with those of other Latin American/Hispanic authors, male and female. She has no difficulty holding her own against Marquez, and for that reason alone I expect to see this collection on the ballot for more than one literary award next year.

Two: her stories often glide sinuously through more than one genre without committing to any of the cliches that nail them down. A typical Moreno-Garcia story can simultaneously contain elements of romance, magical realism, pure fantasy and horror--even humor or erotica. They are better and richer stories for this reason, and her guilty habit of creative freedom is shared by a lot of the great short story writers in genre fiction, notably Harlan Ellison.

Beyond that, I would note that most of these tales are set in the crossroads between Love and Death, Desire and Doubt, Self and Other. They are quite often tales of negotiation, of the moment when the nature of Reality is up for grabs and a new worldview--and the lives and loves that go with that epiphany--become possible.

The Strange Way of Dying is, at least on some occasions, strange because it is actually a way of being re-born.

Don't miss this one. It's that good.

Profile Image for Betty.
139 reviews9 followers
April 28, 2015
Title: This Strange Way of Dying
Author: Silvia Moreno-Garcia
Genre: I think we'd have to call this anthology speculative fiction. It crosses many genres, including fantasy, horror, magical realism, and sci fi. In places it is quite dark.
Setting: Mostly Mexico in various time periods.
Reason for Reading: I have been getting some support and suggestions from a livejournal community, and one of the members suggested this anthology.
Relevance to the Project: Something I haven't mentioned here before is that some of the books I am most excited about reading for this project I have difficulty finding in order to read. This beautiful, well-reviewed, recent book was not available in the Minuteman Library Network. That's a network of many Boston-area libraries that I usually think of as having everything. It seems to be most difficult when I am looking for a book that is written by an author of color and also not mainstream in some other way, like LGBT or a "genre" book. However, I also belong to the MIT Science Fiction Society and they had the book so I was able to get it.
Finished In: Weeks. It's not long or difficult to get through, but I wanted to savor it. Mostly I didn't read more than one story a day.
Pages: 216
Copyright Date: 2013
Cover: A deeply beautiful cover - a woman wearing a lovely Day of the Dead mask, holding a skull. Her long dark hair streams behind her.
First line: "A child wailed in the dark, in the scrubland."
Favorite stories: "Flash Frame," "This Strange Way of Dying," "Bloodlines," "Shade of the Ceiba Tree."
Themes and Triggers: Mexico, jaguars, ghosts.
Best part: The language is beautiful. I also enjoyed the way the stories are linked.
Worst part: Some of the stories were profoundly creepy, especially "Flash Frame" and "Cemetery Man."
Imaginary Theme Song: La Llorona by Lila Downs, a traditional and beautiful Mexican song about a woman who kills her own children.
Grade: B+
Recommended for: If you like magical realism but wish it were a little darker, this is the collection for you.
Related Reads: Tagging the Moon: Fairy Tales from LA by SP Somtow. The Elementals by Francesca Lia Block.
Profile Image for Zoe Brooks.
Author 21 books50 followers
March 15, 2016
The author of This Strange Way of Dying approached me for a review ages ago and I am embarrassed to say I forgot about it. I therefore apologize to Ms Moreno-Garcia and to you my readers as this is a short story collection I can recommend. Not all the stories are magic realism, as the description above states, but several are, and I enjoyed the examples of other genres as well. But then many of the stories actually span genres and move between them.

She takes what might be conventional genre characters - aliens (Driving with Aliens in Tijuana), historical zombies (Cemetery Man), vampires (Stories with Happy Endings), witches (Bloodlines) and shapeshifters (Nahuales) - and gives them a new spin and a depth. Most of the stories feature complex female protagonists, not necessarily the "strong heroine" stereotype, but ones that are dealing with difficult and real issues. Her central characters are often outsiders in some way, alienated from the world they find themselves in. I loved Dopplegangers, a tale in which a daughter wishes away her embarrassing non-comformist parents and chooses their dopplegangers. Name me a teenager that hasn't felt that desire at some time or other.

The author's website describes Moreno-Garcia as "Mexican by birth, Canadian by inclination". This dual identity can be detected in the stories. Although all but one of the stories are set in Mexico and use Mexican folklore and history, the collection was published in Canada for a Canadian market by Exile Editions. As we have noted elsewhere on this blog duality is at the heart of magic realism.

My favourite stories in the collection were This Strange Way of Dying (a love story with Death as one of the lovers), Bed of Scorpions (in which a female con-woman has a choice) and Jaguar Woman ( a story about colonialism, and the woman as the conquered wild spirit of the indigenous people). But yours are likely to be different as there are fifteen to choose from and all offer something different to the reader.

I received this book free from the author in return for a fair review.
Profile Image for Allison.
489 reviews185 followers
February 5, 2016
I've had such wonderful luck with speculative anthologies and collections over the last year! I only recently read Moreno-Garcia's Signal to Noise which I really enjoyed, so I decided to go back and read her story collections (Love & Other Poisons is also on my Kobo to read soon).

I don't think there was a single story I didn't completely love.
Profile Image for Helen Marshall.
Author 95 books187 followers
July 24, 2013
Lushly realized, vivid, gorgeous prose. Silvia Moreno-Garcia is a writer of the highest calibre and I'm delighted to see her first full collection in print. Highly recommended.
Profile Image for Halleygriffin.
28 reviews
August 30, 2023
Let me start by saying I know this is a debut collection, and SMG has gotten much better at writing. I KNOW.

That said, every story in this collection reads like rough notes for the idea of a short story, rather than the story itself. The concepts, while vaguely interesting at times, are rarely followed through to their natural end, or even middle.

The writing itself is, for the most part, choppy and unsubtle; sentences either blandly describe the action occurring on the page, or they directly tell the reader what theme the action is supposed to represent. Where the writing is decent, however, it’s painfully clear that SMG was leaning on her artistic influences.

Here’s a good example of her average writing style, which makes up 90% of the book:

“I drummed my fingers against my steno pad. What I had was nothing but some European exploitation movie, probably filmed in the late 70s by the looks of it, which for some odd reason attracted a group of about a hundred people to its weekly screening. And it wasn't even screened completely, just a few minutes of it. Why?”

So there’s the basic structure of SMG’s narrative paragraph: Sentence with specific noun to support characterization. Sentence that describes what you’ve just read in specific detail, in case you missed it. Sentence that points out why that thing is weird. Supplementing sentence to indicate that the weird thing is important, or else a question?

Now here’s a good example of an unusual bit of her writing:

“The sound was yellow. A bright, noxious yellow. Festering yellow. The sound of withered teeth scraping against flesh. Of pustules bursting open. Diseased. Hungry.”

When I read something like this, which has such a stark contrast in quality to the rest of the piece, I don’t see a developing author with occasional flashes of brilliance. I see a very amateur author who occasionally tries to mimic authors she likes, but does not have the technical skill to blend it in with her own style. I see someone who has read a lot of Lovecraft and Blackwood and Chambers, or at least read a lot of work influenced by those authors (mean! Sorry. But I get the sense that a lot of people who talk about The King in Yellow know it influenced Lovecraft, but have not actually read the book), and wants their own work to resonate as deeply. But since they only have a surface-level understanding of the technical writing skill it took to make those stories, they can only imitate it on a surface level, which leaves their own piece feeling hollow and cheap.

This doesn’t extend to SMG’s Lovecraftian influences - no matter what the genre of the story, this issue is ever-present in her work. If it’s a gothic story, you can easily tell which sentences are SMG mimicking specific gothic writers; if it’s sci-fi, or romance, or fantasy, ditto. And while this is her debut collection, and her overall writing does improve, that issue seems to follow her in every other book she’s written. You can see the seams where she’s excised bits from writers she’s admired, and sewn them into her own prose.

Is this problem specific to SMG? No, it’s a common issue; lots of writers have this problem (myself included). So why am I harping on it in such detail? Because I see a lot of five-star reviews for this book from people SMG has worked with/knows in real life, talking about how nice she is, what a pleasure it was editing such-and-such with her, etc etc.

Hey guys, if you’re going to leave a five-star review for someone you know regardless of the quality of their work, at least pretend to be subjective and don't mention that you know her in your review. 🫠
150 reviews42 followers
November 15, 2021
"Scales as Pale as Moonlight" - 4.5 stars. A woman who has experienced repeated heartbreak in her efforts to have a child is banished to her childhood home in the country. Uses mythology as a window into deep emotion. Sad and beautiful.
"Maquech" - 4 stars. Interestingly draws on Yucatan tradition and presents a bittersweet story about a would-be rare animal dealer, with just a hint of magic.
"Stories with Happy Endings" - 2 stars.. A journalist chats with a maybe vampire at a cafe. Didn't quit go anywhere for me.
"Bed of Scorpions" - 5 stars. Con artist siblings go to a creepy house hoping to marry the sister to the mysterious tenant. Even in short format compellingly weaves in gothic horror and builds to a super ending.
"Jaguar Woman" - 4 stars. Short, apparently allegorical story about a woman regaining her magic after being subjugated by a Spaniard husband. I read it as a story about colonialism, but it could actually be applied to other things, too.
"Nahuales" - 3.5 stars. Cleverly builds up a foreboding presence of a small group of vampires intimidating the narrator as he goes about his commute. Reflects the fear well but didn't quite come together for me.
"The Doppelgangers" - 4 stars. Uses the quiet background mechanism of parental doppelgangers to present well the stress of being the child of a difficult marriage and the wish for something better. Ends on an interesting note that poses a philosophical question about the trade-off for getting what you wish for.
"Driving with Aliens in Tijuana" - 4 stars. A quirky story about a Mexican woman who works for an alien during its stay in Tijuana. Engaging and often funny, though it ends on a sad note that left me wanting something more.
"Flash Frame" - 3.5 stars. A journalist discovers a mysterious group of people watching a silent movie in an old porn theater. Builds a sense of unease very well, but the conclusion feels a little forced.
"Cemetery Man" - 4.5 stars. Frankenstein meets the Mexican Revolution. I like it more the more I sit with it.
"The Death Collector" - 3 stars. A tourist from modern times goes into the past to witness deaths. There is an intriguing philosophical question underlying this story, as the premise is that modern deaths have become banal and therefore uninteresting. The story itself is good enough but didn't do a ton for me.
"This Strange Way of Dying" - 4.5 stars. This comes across as something of a folk tale about a girl who is proposed to by Death. Has a classic feel and a satisfying arc.
"Bloodlines" - 4 stars. A girl in a witching family grows up somewhat on the periphery because of her weak powers, and must find a way to come into her own. Not necessarily a new concept but well put together.
"Shade of the Ceiba Tree" - 4.5 stars. A neat little fairy tale about a young woman who goes after her sister who has been sacrificed to a local god (sort of).
"Snow" - 3.5 stars. A young woman stays on campus during winter break after a sad breakup, and a huge storm comes through. Interesting enough if taken as a metaphor for getting over the breakup. Didn't quite hit me the way some of the other stories did.
Profile Image for Ian Casey.
395 reviews14 followers
January 28, 2018
Silvia Moreno-Garcia had a number of accomplishments as an editor under her belt before launching her debut fiction work, the short story collection This Strange Way of Dying. Unfortunately, my copy doesn't provide details of when the individual stories were first published, but she was definitely writing and editing concurrently from around 2011 at the latest.

This is a solid and varied collection that ranges across many styles of the 'fantastique', from magical realism to dark fantasy to gothic and to weird horror. Her Mexican heritage comes through entirely organically, and the mythical and folkloric elements are refreshing insofar as they've yet to be beaten to death in Anglo-American literature.

Being largely ignorant of these aspects, I shall look forward to learning more background on them, such as via Juan Sauvageau's 'Stories That Must Not Die'. I shall also have to investigate the varied ouevre of David Bowles to provide some further points of comparison. Presently my closest reference point is Rios de la Luz, and whilst there are some commonalities they are altogether different voices.

The mix of styles and influences is perhaps most evident in 'Flash Frame', which is in the vein of many 'The King in Yellow' themed stories, albeit I'm unclear whether this was deliberate. It also has the feel of a distinctly Mexican take on hardboiled noir, with a jaded journalist scratching out a living with a low life expectancy. Further, it plays on the surprisingly active niche of 2010s film-themed weird horror I've mentioned elsewhere, and sits nicely alongside works by Gemma Files, Michael Wehunt, Josh Malerman, Orrin Grey and others.

In other words, Moreno-Garcia was exceptionally versatile from the start of her career and I look forward to catching up on the rest of her authorial and editing efforts to date, and hopefully into the future.
Profile Image for Amarinske.
587 reviews12 followers
May 29, 2021
This definitely shows what Silvia's brain can conjure up. I loved the title story: This Strange Way of Dying and the story Cemetary Man. I think it has to do with the length. I did enjoy the longer stories more. The rest was either too short or didn't interest me. Plus the writing wasn't very good. I could see this was an older release, which isn't a bad thing. It's just that the writing clearly needed more practice. To the point where I could see it getting progressively better throughout the book.
Until one of the last stories used the sentence:
She should have given him her menstrual blood to drink.
Someone, please tell me why that sentence should ever be in a book... I get the sentiment that comes with it. But I don't see why this thought someone clearly thinks in anger should be put on the page. More specifically when you're not even half a page into a story. Granted, this was in one of the final stories and I had generally lost my interest when the title story was over so I skimmed more than I deeply read. But I still don't get why it needed to be expressed that way.

But I can see in this what turned into books like Gods of Jade and Shadow and Mexican Gothic.
For some reason, there was a lot of emphasis on referencing the Yellow Wallpaper. Too often and too much in my opinion. Not every story that does something with psychology and that is set in a rural area needs to have blatant references to that short story.

My thoughts and feelings on this book are conflicted. There are parts I liked or loved and parts I didn't enjoy as much. I guess I'm fine with that :D
Profile Image for Adriyanna Zimmermann.
114 reviews110 followers
April 9, 2023
Actual rating 4.5 stars, rounded up to 5.

THIS STRANGE WAY OF DYING by Silvia Moreno-Garcia is a fascinating yet bizarre collection of short stories that are sure to entice every type of reader. This collection is quite diverse, not just in characters and plots but also themes and genre. Almost every story pulled me in and had some type of an effect on me, even genres I don’t usually like to read (horror as an example).

I was immediately pulled into the first story, SCALES AS PALE AS MOONLIGHT and it remains my favourite of the entire collection. I am still haunted by the ending, in a way that none of the other stories have.

Honourable mentions:


Of the entire collection, I feel these stories were the most vivid and exciting. While all the stories have closure, if the author ever went back to those characters I’d pick up the book in a heartbeat. I think they’d make for really entertaining television adaptations, even a limited series.

The only story I did not like and felt zero interest for was STORIES WITH HAPPY ENDINGS. A journalist meets a vampire at a restaurant and has an impromptu interview with him. The conversation seemed to switch between seriousness and not, with the journalist sometimes implying that the vampire only thinks he’s a vampire. It was probably an inverse take on vampires from classics like DRACULA and INTERVIEW WITH THE VAMPIRE but it was utterly boring for me.

Finally, the great thing about reading this anthology is being able to read the stories out of order. I like to finish chapters in one sitting but if my time was limited I’d skip to a story with a shorter page count.
Profile Image for Peter.
150 reviews3 followers
June 17, 2019
The cover art says it all. Chances are that if you are a unilingual North American you will not have encountered stories like these. Further, if you haven't, I can't say whether or not you will love them or hate them; that's up to you. I can, however, predict with confidence that you will not soon forget these stories.

For me, these stories are a breath of fresh air. They are unlike those usually coming from the United States, from Canada, from the UK or, from Europe for that matter. I haven't read enough from Asia or from Central & South America to opine about those but my thinking is that Moreno-Garcia's writing is that rara avis - a thing unto itself, totally sui generis. And what a wonderful thing! A voice so distinctive that it merits consideration in and of itself defying easy comparison with the writings of others.

And yes, the stories are that good.
Profile Image for Barrita.
1,229 reviews86 followers
October 24, 2017
Mi primer contacto con la obra de Silvia pudo ser mejor. Signal to Noise es una historia muy bella pero me incomodaron los diálogos y eso opacó la experiencia.
Con esta colección si me enamoré. Las historias son variadas pero algunas rozan el weird, que ya habrán ustedes notado que es uno de mis géneros favoritos (se le puede decir género al weird o es más bien un no-género?... bueno, eso lo pensaré mas a fondo después).
Me encanta esa bella mezcla de folklore mexicano con ideas remotas. Es la clase de saltos mentales y revoltijos que damos los que amamos nuestro país pero también nos enamoramos de otros mundos con cada historia.
Profile Image for Deborah.
1,311 reviews24 followers
May 13, 2021
I really enjoyed MEXICAN GOTHIC so have been wanting to pick up more of her writing, so I chose this story collection for my #ReadTheWorld21 pick for May. The collection is subtitled “Stories of Magic, Desire & the Fantastic” which is an apt description. The stories are speculative with magical realism and fantasy mixed in. There is a good mix of stories in the collection with folklore and magic covering a variety of subjects.

As with any collection, some stories were more impactful than others, but I am appreciating her narrative voice throughout. There have been a few stories where I can especially pick up on the same atmospheric writing that I loved in Mexican Gothic.
Profile Image for Violet.
253 reviews
July 8, 2021
Although most of the stories feel more like musings, snippets… sketches for a larger telling… Kind of like journaling ideas… Some are good and thoughtful. A few felt incomplete. Some seemed derivative like one of my favorites, “Stories with Happy Endings” which is a bit like ‘Interview with the Vampire’. “Jaguar woman” is like “Cat People”. The best of the bunch (and the collection’s namesake), “This Strange away of Dying” reminded me of “The Immortal Life of Adie LaRue”. I also enjoyed “Maquech”, which was one of the more unique stories.
Profile Image for Shannon (That's So Poe).
1,022 reviews108 followers
August 18, 2021
I adore Silvia Moreno-Garcia's storytelling, from the way she creates such a creepy atmosphere in each of these short stories to the way she integrates Mexican history and folklore into them. I have a
video review where I talk about it in even more depth, but if you like SFF short stories, I'd highly recommend this!

Content Warnings:
miscarriage, incest, rape, abuse, illness, violence, death, murder, harassment, child neglect, body horror, enslavement, medical experimentation
Profile Image for Hesper.
392 reviews50 followers
December 31, 2018
I love the ordinary, almost casual, way the fantastic intersects with the mundane in these stories. Not having cared for Certain Dark Things, I put off reading this anthology in spite of it having lived on my TBR longer than the novel. To an extent, Silvia Moreno-Garcia's stark and spare style feels like a better fit for the compact narrative of shorter fiction, but I know I'm saying that because it worked so well here. Far from turning on style alone, this is a smart, perceptive collection that seamlessly blends folklore, the eerie, and social commentary.

Profile Image for Caley.
125 reviews2 followers
June 20, 2022
This is possibly the best collection of stories that I’ve ever read. I loved each and every one. This is so rare for me as usual here’s a least favourite,but not in this collection
This author was already one of my autobuy authors since I’d previously loved 4 of their novels. I was not disappointed
Profile Image for Arcelia.
110 reviews1 follower
August 1, 2022
I don’t usually read short stories but picked this one up because I’ve read two of the author’s other books. There were definitely some stories that felt very similar to Mexican Gothic and Velvet was the Night. Many great stories that I would love to hear more of, and expanded, but the last two threw me off. They just seemed to be coming from a different author.
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