Audrey's Reviews > KL NOIR: RED

KL NOIR by Amir  Muhammad
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bookshelves: eldritch-horrors, noir, malaysia

Overall, a mixed bag, but that's what you have to say about 95% of anthologies. It's difficult to find 14 short story writers and an essayist who can all hold it together on theme, plot, character and technical excellence. And rating this anthology is complicated by the fact I'm a white non-Malaysian, so I have exactly zero standing to comment on things like authenticity or exoticness. For me it's just good enough that now I know there's a place in the world called Port Klang.

So, in the order they appear in the book:

"The Runner" by Adib Zaini: Teenage girl gets in over her head with drug-runners, has to figure out how to get out. Solid ending.

"Rukun Tetangga" by Preeta Samarasan: About a weird bachelor uncle who gets weirder, but not in any interesting way.

"Mamak Murder Mystery" by Marc de Faoite: was indeed mysterious, and a little ambiguous, but I got the idea it was mostly written to draw attention to the existence of an Indian immigrant population who staff Malaysian fast food restaurants and dream of returning to India. And on that front it was successful.

"Asian Angel" by Shaz Johar: Nice twists, but mostly forgettable.

"A Gift of Flowers" by Shih-Li Kow: I think this story really wanted to go the O. Henry or Isak Dinesen route but the vignettes just weren't sharp enough for the direction to hold.

"Kiss from a Rose" by Fadzlishah Johanabas: Almost worked. Maybe for someone more romantic than me.

"After Dark, My Love" by Dina Zaman: The one essay in the book, it's captivating and informative, but comes totally out of left field. I kept trying to figure out if it was fiction or not.

"The Oracle of Truth" by Eeleen Lee: Brutal and curious, and very nicely done.

"Chasing Butterflies in the Night" by Kris Williamson: Excellent! One of the two most squarely noir stories on offer, and better than a good 80% of the noir shorts I've read lately.

"The Dualist" by Shivani Sivagurunathan: The one story I could not follow at all. At. All. I had no idea who was sleeping with whom, or who thought they were sleeping with someone and who the professor was and who wasn't supposed to know. Someone smarter than me should read this and explain it to me.

"Vanished" by Khairulnizam Bakeri: There's a note in the introduction that the publishers like noir that veers more towards what's thought more as pulp than American conceptions of noir, and this is the story that really kicks off the serious pulp portion of the book. And it's good. It's strange and modern and ghostly and weird.

"Cannibal vs. Ah Long" by Megat Ishak: Not my favorite story in the bunch, but holy crow is it good. It's just balls-out pulp and horror and if that's not enough to convince you to read it, there's this quote from it in the frontispiece to the book: "Several teeth shot out from his rectum and clinked against the porcelain bowl before dropping into the water." Should probably win some sort of award.

"The Machete and Me" by Dayang Noor: My 2nd favorite of the collection, it tells the story of complicated, tragic matriarchies and cursed heirlooms. It passes the Bechdel Test and it's astonishingly good.

"The Unbeliever" by Amir Hafizi: My favorite, hands-down. Three words: Malaysian Cthulhu mythos. All pulp, all the time, no line, no waiting. Like smelling fresh cigar smoke in the library of a mansion when no one's been home for decades. Fantabulous.

"Mud" by Brian Gomez: Mean, nasty and very well done.

Three stars for the collection overall because for me, there was that long section in the middle that felt a little sloggy, but this is the first of four themed volumes from this publisher, so I'll be sure to pick up the next one when it comes out.

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Reading Progress

April 16, 2013 – Shelved
May 13, 2013 – Started Reading
May 13, 2013 –
page 120
44.44% "A very mixed bag so far, but two stories that are completely, astonishingly good."
May 15, 2013 – Shelved as: eldritch-horrors
May 15, 2013 – Shelved as: noir
May 15, 2013 – Shelved as: malaysia
May 15, 2013 – Finished Reading

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