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

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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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Unrelenting gloom relieved only occasionally by wrenching trauma; somehow, though, Hannah’s storytelling chops keep the...

FLY AWAY

Hannah’s sequel to Firefly Lane (2008) demonstrates that those who ignore family history are often condemned to repeat it.

When we last left Kate and Tully, the best friends portrayed in Firefly Lane, the friendship was on rocky ground. Now Kate has died of cancer, and Tully, whose once-stellar TV talk show career is in free fall, is wracked with guilt over her failure to be there for Kate until her very last days. Kate’s death has cemented the distrust between her husband, Johnny, and daughter Marah, who expresses her grief by cutting herself and dropping out of college to hang out with goth poet Paxton. Told mostly in flashbacks by Tully, Johnny, Marah and Tully’s long-estranged mother, Dorothy, aka Cloud, the story piles up disasters like the derailment of a high-speed train. Increasingly addicted to prescription sedatives and alcohol, Tully crashes her car and now hovers near death, attended by Kate’s spirit, as the other characters gather to see what their shortsightedness has wrought. We learn that Tully had tried to parent Marah after her father no longer could. Her hard-drinking decline was triggered by Johnny’s anger at her for keeping Marah and Paxton’s liaison secret. Johnny realizes that he only exacerbated Marah’s depression by uprooting the family from their Seattle home. Unexpectedly, Cloud, who rebuffed Tully’s every attempt to reconcile, also appears at her daughter’s bedside. Sixty-nine years old and finally sober, Cloud details for the first time the abusive childhood, complete with commitments to mental hospitals and electroshock treatments, that led to her life as a junkie lowlife and punching bag for trailer-trash men. Although powerful, Cloud’s largely peripheral story deflects focus away from the main conflict, as if Hannah was loath to tackle the intractable thicket in which she mired her main characters.

Unrelenting gloom relieved only occasionally by wrenching trauma; somehow, though, Hannah’s storytelling chops keep the pages turning even as readers begin to resent being drawn into this masochistic morass.

Pub Date: April 23, 2013

ISBN: 978-0-312-57721-6

Page Count: 416

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: Feb. 18, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2013

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THE COLDEST WINTER EVER

Debut novel by hip-hop rap artist Sister Souljah, whose No Disrespect (1994), which mixes sexual history with political diatribe, is popular in schools country-wide. In its way, this is a tour de force of black English and underworld slang, as finely tuned to its heroine’s voice as Alice Walker’s The Color Purple. The subject matter, though, has a certain flashiness, like a black Godfather family saga, and the heroine’s eventual fall develops only glancingly from her character. Born to a 14-year-old mother during one of New York’s worst snowstorms, Winter Santiaga is the teenaged daughter of Ricky Santiaga, Brooklyn’s top drug dealer, who lives like an Arab prince and treats his wife and four daughters like a queen and her princesses. Winter lost her virginity at 12 and now focuses unwaveringly on varieties of adolescent self-indulgence: sex and sugar-daddies, clothes, and getting her own way. She uses school only as a stepping-stone for getting out of the house—after all, nobody’s paying her to go there. But if there’s no money in it, why go? Meanwhile, Daddy decides it’s time to move out of Brooklyn to truly fancy digs on Long Island, though this places him in the discomfiting position of not being absolutely hands-on with his dealers; and sure enough the rise of some young Turks leads to his arrest. Then he does something really stupid: he murders his wife’s two weak brothers in jail with him on Riker’s Island and gets two consecutive life sentences. Winter’s then on her own, especially with Bullet, who may have replaced her dad as top hood, though when she selfishly fails to help her pregnant buddy Simone, there’s worse—much worse—to come. Thinness aside: riveting stuff, with language so frank it curls your hair. (Author tour)

Pub Date: April 1, 1999

ISBN: 0-671-02578-3

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Pocket

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 1999

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