Short Stories

Review: Dear Sweet Filthy World

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Review: Dear Sweet Filthy World

“Be careful,” she says and smiles again. “You’re starting to taste like regret.”

“And how does regret taste? I imagine it’s bitter.”

She shakes her head. “Then you’re mistaken. It’s not bitter. Regret tastes like dead roses and stale bread. Regret tastes like dust.”

I’ll admit it; I’ve been in kind of a rotten mood lately, what with the gloomy weather, multiple unfinished projects, and the daily train wreck that constitutes the national news. Last week I decided hell with it, I’m just going to grab a review copy of another collection of short stories, one with the darkest, most depressing title I could find, so there.

Dear Sweet Filthy World is the latest collection by Caitlín R. Kiernan. The twenty-nine stories (horror, fantasy, a little bit of sci-fi and a lot of erotica) were first published in Kiernan’s online ‘zine “Sirenia Digest”, so this is the first time they’ve been made available to anyone other than subscribers.

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Review: Six Scary Stories

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Review: Six Scary Stories

Stephen King’s last short-story collection came out a year ago. If past behavior predicts future performance then it could be as long as eight years before we get another one.

Before anyone (like me) starts to despair, we’ve got a little something to tide us over while we wait. Part of the promotion for Stephen King’s book The Bazaar of Bad Dreams was a competition where UK authors would submit short horror stories, with King himself choosing the best one. King ended up being so impressed with the finalists that he recommended having all of them published together in one collection. Six Scary Stories is the result.
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Review: Swift to Chase – A Collection of Stories

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Review: Swift to Chase – A Collection of Stories

My kind is swift to chase, swift to battle. My imperfect memory is long with longing for the fight.

Yes, okay, I know. I’ve already done a collection of short horror stories this month. In my defense, Laird Barron’s collection Swift to Chase came out just this month, and as soon as I saw it I knew it was going to have to be part of the spooky books I reviewed in October.

Last week’s book had one story by Laird Barron, arguably the most off-the-wall one in the collection. Take that and magnify it by a hundred and you’ll come close to the insanity of a dozen of his stories in a row. Set in Alaska (or influenced by Alaska. Or has characters retreating to Alaska, or running away from whatever happened there), all of them are connected (somehow) and filled with some of the most disturbing images and gruesome ways to die. I’ve read through most of the book twice by now and I’m still not sure I understand what was going on. Or if I’m even supposed to understand. Strap in, folks, this is going to be a weird ride.
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Review: Tenth of December

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Review: Tenth of December

I picked this one up because of a challenge. Or maybe it was more of a dare. My youngest sister (*waves* Hi Hannah!) read this collection first, and while she was impressed that the author had the range to write such wildly different stories – many of them in completely different genres – she also found it grim, depressing, and with a truly bleak view of humanity, and by God she wanted someone else to read it so she could have someone to talk to about it.

There are ten stories in George Saunders’s collection Tenth of December, and I tore through all ten of them in about two days. Maybe closer to a day and a half. Readers beware, these are all very dark (with an occasional moment of dark humor), but the author’s writing style flows so easily that it makes for perfect summer reading. But maybe not bedtime reading, since you might have trouble sleeping afterward.

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Review: Her Husband’s Hands and Other Stories

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Review: Her Husband’s Hands and Other Stories

Last week the Binary System Podcast was on vacation (check out the BSP Facebook page for pictures taken in and around Niagara Falls), and traveling means picking something want to read, something out of a list of books I’ve been saving for a special occasion. Adam-Troy Castro’s short story collection Her Husband’s Hands and Other Stories was the perfect choice for some light reading while waiting around in airports.

Keep in mind that “light” in this case refers to the size of the book. It does not mean “happy”.

Shakespeare wrote that art is “a mirror held up to nature”; for this book Adam Troy-Castro is using a funhouse mirror with a magnifying glass, reflecting some of the very worst that human nature has to offer. These stories are dark like you wouldn’t believe. They’re also fascinating, thought-provoking, hard to put down and, in several cases, deeply upsetting. You could plow through all eight stories in a matter of hours, but I’d recommend following the suggestion David Gerrold wrote in the intro: don’t read all of them at once.

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Review: Just Over The Horizon – The Complete Short Fiction of Greg Bear

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Review: Just Over The Horizon – The Complete Short Fiction of Greg Bear

I’ve been meaning to read more of Greg Bear’s short stories, especially after reading Blood Music (my review can be found here), a groundbreaking novel that was originally based on one of his earlier stories. Fortunately his short-story collection Just Over the Horizon caught my eye right when I was looking for something to read over my vacation. This collection is volume one of what I hope will be several more books, and it features some of Bear’s earlier works from the 1970’s and 80’s, when he was already showing a dazzling skill at taking a concept that’s very tricky to understand, explaining it in a way that a non-scientist can at least start to understand, and then wrapping a story around it.

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Review: Three Moments of an Explosion

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Review: Three Moments of an Explosion

I’ve said it before, but my favorite thing about China Miéville’s writing is how he comes up with ideas that are so off the wall, so completely out of nowhere, and then builds a whole story around them. And they become such a matter-of-fact part of the world you accept the idea completely, as if it wasn’t the most bizarre thing that couldn’t possibly exist in reality.

He did that with oceans made up of crisscrossing train tracks in Railsea. He did it again when two metropolises exist in the same place simultaneously in The City & The City. And he does it again dozens of times in his latest book of short stories Three Moments of an Explosion.

I loved most of the stories, was completely confused by several, and disliked a couple. But not a single one was boring, you can definitely say that.

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Review – Blood Sisters

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Review – Blood Sisters

A lot of people think the “Vampire Bubble” may have burst (Vampire Diaries seems to be gearing up for its final season, True Blood is already gone, Jonathan Rhys Meyers’ Dracula never got off the ground) and that zombies have taken their place in that part of geek culture that wants to be scared by something that looks human but really, really isn’t.

And every time I think I’ve gotten my fill of vampires too, a collection like this comes along.

Blood Sisters is a selection of vampire stories (edited by Paula Guran) from as far back as 1982 and as recent as 2012. The fact that they’re all written by women is almost inconsequential; the focus is on both male and female characters, and there isn’t an overriding feminist theme to the stories. Many of them are fine as stand-alone pieces, some are okay, but several made me want to hunt up the authors who wrote them and see what other vampire stories they’ve created, because when it comes to off-the-wall interpretations of the original vampire myth, the well definitely isn’t dry yet.

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Review: Make Something Up – Stories You Can’t Unread

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Review: Make Something Up – Stories You Can’t Unread

Readers of Chuck Palahniuk’s comic book sequel to Fight Club might see his recently released short-story collection Make Something Up and think “Oh hey, it’s the guy who wrote the book that the Brad Pitt film was based on. I’ll probably love this.”

Whoa. Slow down. Hold up. Hang on just a minute.

Palahniuk is the author of Survivor and Rant, two books which are close to the top of my list of all-time favorites. However, his novels also include – among other things – graphic detail about drug use, horrific violence, sex addiction, hell, rape, death by eating diamonds, and a porn star trying to set a new world’s record. The man kept a running tab of the number of people who passed out during live readings from his novel Haunted (which remains the only book so gruesome that I had to stop reading it) and each story in Make Something Up is a distilled sample of everything that makes Palahniuk’s work so fascinating and appalling.

In short, there aren’t enough trigger warnings in the world for this collection. Enter at your own risk.

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Review: Trigger Warning – Short Fictions and Disturbances

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Review: Trigger Warning – Short Fictions and Disturbances

I remember Icarus. He flew too close to the sun. In the stories, though, it’s worth it. Always worth it to have tried, even if you fail, even if you fall like a meteor forever. Better to have flamed in the darkness, to have inspired others, to have lived, than to have sat in the darkness, cursing the people who borrowed, but did not return, your candle.

Elizabeth and Kathryn bought this same book on the same day – to the surprise of absolutely no one – so we’ll be doing a joint review this week. It’s a twin thing.

Kathryn here. Remember last April, when I posted a review of Fragile Things and complained about the fact that it had been over eight years since Neil Gaiman (one of my favorite authors) had released a collection of short stories (one of my favorite literary formats)? You can imagine how happy I was last week to get my copy of Trigger Warning – Short Fictions and Disturbances. Neil went for a slightly grimmer tone for this book: twenty-five dark little stories of murders and obsessions, forbidden knowledge and technologies, and twisted fairy tales.

(Hey, Universe? As long as you’re granting wishes, I’d also like a pony.)

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