An accomplished collection of masterfully crafted horror from some of the genre’s finest practitioners.

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QUALIA NOUS

Bailey (Chiral Mad, 2013, etc.) edits this sci-fi/horror anthology of fiction and poetry.

In his introduction to this anthology, Bailey grimly ruminates on the nature of the potential immortality of art, even as its creators are condemned to eventual annihilation: “Every author in Qualia Nous will die. Yes, that is blunt, and a horrifying thought, but their words and the worlds they have created will survive (perchance in the infinite).” The liminal space between the infinite and the finite is much on the mind of the writers contained within this volume, including heavy hitters of the genre such as Stephen King, Gene O’Neill, Lucy A. Snyder, Richard Thomas, Jason V. Brock, James Chambers, Pat R. Steiner, and John Everson. With 25 stories, two poems, and four novelettes, the tome is a dense compendium of psychological horror rooted in the realm of hard sci-fi. The anthology offers a particularly literary-minded selection from the genres, with pieces that blend character study and emotionally complex narrative with plot-and-suspense-driven premises. The work is of a uniformly high quality, with particular standouts from Richard Thomas, Rena Mason, and Patrick Freivald. The best piece, perhaps, is “The Vaporization Enthalpy of a Peculiar Pakistani Family” by relative newcomer Usman T. Malik. Tara, a woman with a secret power, watches as first her family and then her city are pulled apart by violence and hate. As the terror piles up, the Beast inside of her whispers, “This is death, this is love, this is the comeuppance of the two, as the world according to you will finally come to an end.” The destructive otherworldly power possessed by Tara and her brother becomes a metaphor for humanity’s capacity for destruction in modern Pakistan—but also for humanity’s capacity for forgiveness. In addition to steeping readers in sci-fi dread, much of the work in the collection comments on the social, natural, and technological ills of the modern world, reaffirming the important role speculative literature can play in reframing the cultural dialogue.

An accomplished collection of masterfully crafted horror from some of the genre’s finest practitioners.

Pub Date: Aug. 31, 2014

ISBN: 978-0578146461

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Written Backwards

Review Posted Online: April 1, 2015

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Kin “[find] each other’s lives inscrutable” in this rich, sharp story about the way identity is formed.

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THE VANISHING HALF

Inseparable identical twin sisters ditch home together, and then one decides to vanish.

The talented Bennett fuels her fiction with secrets—first in her lauded debut, The Mothers (2016), and now in the assured and magnetic story of the Vignes sisters, light-skinned women parked on opposite sides of the color line. Desiree, the “fidgety twin,” and Stella, “a smart, careful girl,” make their break from stultifying rural Mallard, Louisiana, becoming 16-year-old runaways in 1954 New Orleans. The novel opens 14 years later as Desiree, fleeing a violent marriage in D.C., returns home with a different relative: her 8-year-old daughter, Jude. The gossips are agog: “In Mallard, nobody married dark....Marrying a dark man and dragging his blueblack child all over town was one step too far.” Desiree's decision seals Jude’s misery in this “colorstruck” place and propels a new generation of flight: Jude escapes on a track scholarship to UCLA. Tending bar as a side job in Beverly Hills, she catches a glimpse of her mother’s doppelgänger. Stella, ensconced in white society, is shedding her fur coat. Jude, so black that strangers routinely stare, is unrecognizable to her aunt. All this is expertly paced, unfurling before the book is half finished; a reader can guess what is coming. Bennett is deeply engaged in the unknowability of other people and the scourge of colorism. The scene in which Stella adopts her white persona is a tour de force of doubling and confusion. It calls up Toni Morrison’s The Bluest Eye, the book's 50-year-old antecedent. Bennett's novel plays with its characters' nagging feelings of being incomplete—for the twins without each other; for Jude’s boyfriend, Reese, who is trans and seeks surgery; for their friend Barry, who performs in drag as Bianca. Bennett keeps all these plot threads thrumming and her social commentary crisp. In the second half, Jude spars with her cousin Kennedy, Stella's daughter, a spoiled actress.

Kin “[find] each other’s lives inscrutable” in this rich, sharp story about the way identity is formed.

Pub Date: June 2, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-525-53629-1

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Riverhead

Review Posted Online: March 15, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2020

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More Hallmarkiana, from a shameless expert in the genre.

THE RESCUE

High-stakes weepmeister Sparks (A Walk to Remember, 1999, etc.) opts for a happy ending his fourth time out. His writing has improved—though it's still the equivalent of paint-by-numbers—and he makes use this time of at least a vestige of credible psychology.

That vestige involves the deep dark secret—it has something to do with his father's death when son Taylor was nine—that haunts kind, good 36-year-old local contractor Taylor McAden and makes him withdraw from relationships whenever they start getting serious enough to maybe get permanent. He's done this twice before, and now he does it again with pretty and sweet single mother Denise Holton, age 29, who's moved from Atlanta to Taylor's town of Edenton, North Carolina, in order to devote her time more fully to training her four-year-old son Kyle to overcome the peculiar impediment he has that keeps him from achieving normal language acquisition. Okay? When Denise has a car accident in a bad storm, she's rescued by volunteer fireman Taylor—who also rescues little Kyle after he wanders away from his injured mom in the storm. Love blooms in the weeks that follow—until Taylor suddenly begins putting on the brakes. What is it that holds him back, when there just isn't any question but that he loves Denise and vice versa-not to mention that he's "great" with Kyle, just like a father? It will require a couple of near-death experiences (as fireman Taylor bravely risks his life to save others); emotional steadiness from the intelligent, good, true Denise; and the terrible death of a dear and devoted friend before Taylor will come to the point at last of confiding to Denise the terrible memory of how his father died—and the guilt that's been its legacy to Taylor. The psychological dam broken, love will at last be able to flow.

More Hallmarkiana, from a shameless expert in the genre.

Pub Date: Sept. 19, 2000

ISBN: 0-446-52550-2

Page Count: 352

Publisher: N/A

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2000

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