Remarkably powerful urban tales, each one brilliantly in harmony with the others.

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NOWHEREVILLE

WEIRD IS OTHER PEOPLE

A short story collection provides mixed-genre, speculative fiction, with the tales bound together by mutual love, fear, and fascination with the concept and mystique of the city.

As Gable’s introduction puts it, “weird” fiction lies somewhere between the “Impossible” heights of fantasy and the “Inevitable” depths of SF. This anthology, edited by the team of Gable and Dombrowski (Welcome to Miskatonic University, 2019, etc.), aims to blend these elements—not to confuse readers but to present them with something that feels true in their uncertainty. Cities, then, form the perfect backdrop, as they feature constant cycles of new growth, preservation, and demolition as well as juxtapositions of wealth and poverty, high and low culture, and a melting pot of people, languages, and ideas. Cities represent the concept that anything can happen at any time while imparting the knowledge that true divergence from the quotidian is rare. The tales range as widely as the cities in which they take place, from Enugu, Nigeria, to a futuristic urbanscape called Punktown. Some, like Nuzo Onoh’s “Walk Softly, Softly,” in which a mysterious shadow haunts the dreams of men and steals their genitals, invoke a sort of fabulist horror to take on complex social ills. Others, like “Y” by Maura McHugh and “Nolens Volens” by Mike Allen, throw their protagonists into situations where they have little or no control over how things will turn out, their impossible choices mirroring real-life traps. Meanwhile, in Jeffrey Thomas’ “Vertices,” humans must contend with aliens who’ve merged with their own lost explorers, raising questions about adaptation and the cost of change. Throughout these and other stories, the beautiful, horrible, and, above all, the strange intermingle, producing a host of different sorts of surprising tales. The offerings vary widely in tone and style, but they are universally thought-provoking and engaging. What’s more, they complement one another in a way that’s rare even for collections by single authors, much less an anthology delivering 19 disparate voices. Indeed, the effect of this collection is not so much that of a set of loosely comparable episodes but of a kaleidoscope: variegated and multifaceted yet all of a piece.

Remarkably powerful urban tales, each one brilliantly in harmony with the others.

Pub Date: Dec. 17, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-940372-48-8

Page Count: 302

Publisher: Broken Eye Books

Review Posted Online: Dec. 2, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2020

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Nothing original, but in Hilderbrand’s hands it’s easy to get lost in the story.

BAREFOOT

Privileged 30-somethings hide from their woes in Nantucket.

Hilderbrand’s saga follows the lives of Melanie, Brenda and Vicki. Vicki, alpha mom and perfect wife, is battling late-stage lung cancer and, in an uncharacteristically flaky moment, opts for chemotherapy at the beach. Vicki shares ownership of a tiny Nantucket cottage with her younger sister Brenda. Brenda, a literature professor, tags along for the summer, partly out of familial duty, partly because she’s fleeing the fallout from her illicit affair with a student. As for Melanie, she gets a last minute invite from Vicki, after Melanie confides that Melanie’s husband is having an affair. Between Melanie and Brenda, Vicki feels her two young boys should have adequate supervision, but a disastrous first day on the island forces the trio to source some outside help. Enter Josh, the adorable and affable local who is hired to tend to the boys. On break from college, Josh learns about the pitfalls of mature love as he falls for the beauties in the snug abode. Josh likes beer, analysis-free relationships and hot older women. In a word, he’s believable. In addition to a healthy dose of testosterone, the novel is balanced by powerful descriptions of Vicki’s bond with her two boys. Emotions run high as she prepares for death.

Nothing original, but in Hilderbrand’s hands it’s easy to get lost in the story.

Pub Date: July 2, 2007

ISBN: 978-0-316-01858-6

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2007

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More about grief and tragedy than romance.

FRIENDS FOREVER

Five friends meet on their first day of kindergarten at the exclusive Atwood School and remain lifelong friends through tragedy and triumph.

When Gabby, Billy, Izzie, Andy and Sean meet in the toy kitchen of the kindergarten classroom on their first day of school, no one can know how strong the group’s friendship will remain. Despite their different personalities and interests, the five grow up together and become even closer as they come into their own talents and life paths. But tragedy will strike and strike again. Family troubles, abusive parents, drugs, alcohol, stress, grief and even random bad luck will put pressure on each of them individually and as a group. Known for her emotional romances, Steel makes a bit of a departure with this effort that follows a group of friends through young adulthood. But even as one tragedy after another befalls the friends, the impact of the events is blunted by a distant narrative style that lacks emotional intensity. 

More about grief and tragedy than romance.

Pub Date: July 24, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-385-34321-3

Page Count: 322

Publisher: Delacorte

Review Posted Online: Nov. 14, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2012

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