October 24, 2016 § Leave a comment
Almost Insentient, Almost Divine
Undertow Publications (2016)
It’s commonly accepted practice, when reviewing story anthologies, to make brief mention of the work as a whole and then pick out a handful of key tales to work through in detail. This is not one of those reviews.
Although the stories in DP Watt’s collection are almost universally excellent, it’s the sense of world building that develops through them which is the most impressive part of this book; a weirdly out-of-time Mitteleuropa, cut through with theatricals and theatricalities, where masks fall from mannequins only to reveal yet more masks underneath, puppet-mummers snigger in darkened rooms and the human players shimmer between realities, sometimes never to return. Even the handful of stories that don’t fit directly into this milieu are haunted by fragments of a greater whole; mysteriously indistinct figures that lurk outside the circle of firelight or even atavistic thoughts that echo beguilingly from the darkness. The sense of theatre, of the blood-smeared grand-guignol being acted to its terrible conclusion whether wittingly or not, pervades the book and gives the observant reader a more subtle interpretation of that most contentious of themes; the weird. « Read the rest of this entry »
September 27, 2016 § Leave a comment
Year’s Best Weird Fiction: Volume One
Edited by Laird Barron & Michael Kelly
Undertow Publications (2014)
I’ve arrived slightly late to Undertow’s ‘Year’s Best Weird Fiction’ series, this first volume being released in 2014 and presenting the best short tales from the previous year, but the door to the weird is always ajar, so let’s push it open, ignore the protesting creaks and distant mutters, to take look inside.
The conceit of the volume is more clearly explained in its title than in any preamble I could give, and is clarified still further by guest-editor Laird Barron’s short and succinct introduction (his description of ‘the weird’ as “a sense of dislocation from mundane reality; the suspension of the laws of physics, an inversion or subversion of order, a hint of the alien” is as good a one as I’ve come across), that I may as well cut straight to the meat and pull out some of the choicest cuts from this weird platter.
Before that, however, it’s worth noting that this volume is remarkable in that, even if some of the stories are not to my precise tastes, none of them are poor; the content has been so well-distilled down from what must have been a screed of submissions, taken from journals like Shadows & Tall Trees and Fungi amongst others, into so select a congregation that all aspects of the weird are covered – from the slight to the outre and from the subtle to the blatant, all are gathered here – so even those that might not quite hit the mark of personal taste are at least technically interesting for the voice they bring to the storytelling circle. Even so, a good handful of stories stand out for me as worth specific comment… « Read the rest of this entry »