This review is a part of the blog tour for Collision! Be sure to check out the other stops and click to enter a giveaway for a $25 giftcard now through March 8!
The twelve stories in J.S. Breukelaar’s Collision encapsulate a wide range of speculative fiction and are captivating, strange, and amorphous in ways that I didn’t expect, but ways that truly delighted me.
With blurbs from Kathe Koja and Stephen Graham Jones, this book was instantly intriguing to me. From a story about a pianist with no arms to a twenty-first century Frankenstein and his monster, there is such a range in these stories, you just don’t know what you’re going to get with each new page.
Breukelaar has an excellent ear for dialogue especially, and though she uses it sparingly, I found the interaction between characters vivid and realistic even despite the often heightened reality of the situations.
Beyond the weirdness, the stories wrestle with interesting and relevant themes, such as how “Glow” brings up obvious themes of immigration and racism in our current political state though it is a story about space aliens. The brilliant novella “Like Ripples on a Blank Shore” that closes the collection was a definite favorite of mine and is a zombie story of sorts, as characters deal with people who aren’t all there. What defines humanity? Where do we draw the line and who should have rights?
These moments are the moments why horror is so important to me. Horror gives us a safe place to examine real issues, real fears, and say what if? It also allows us to hold up a mirror to what is going on in the world and, sometimes in crazy and ridiculous ways, say, look what we are all doing wrong. I love horror as a medium for change.
There are also great comic book-type illustrations that accompany each story—this is a new trend I am seeing with short story collections that I really love.
My thanks to Meerkat Press for sending me a copy of this one to read and review as part of the blog tour for the book.
Little Darlings is a mix of domestic thriller and police procedural, based on the traditional folk tale of the changeling—when a newborn is replaced with some kind of fairy or creature.
I am always interested in stories of changelings, the most impressive recent adaptation having been Victor LaValle’s The Changeling, which I definitely recommend you check out. There is something so unsettling, so eerie about imagining that a new baby—so innocent and yet someone you really know nothing about, even if it is your child—could be replaced with a lookalike.
There is a lot to like with a story that keeps you guessing. In Little Darlings, the narrative plays on the reader’s suspension of disbelief: is new mother Lauren being visited by a strange hag who is trying to take her twins away, or is it all in her head? What can we believe?
Lauren’s situation is definitely frustrating to read about. Having not been a mother myself, I can’t really imagine how exhausting it must be, but to not have a support system can only be fraying on one’s nerves and mental state. The way her husband manipulates her so that he doesn’t have to take any responsibility for the twins is disgusting. It is easy to see how with sleep deprivation, stress, and previous conditions she could have worked herself up to a state where she is hallucinating a malevolent presence.
But then, she is so sure of what she sees—and we, as the reader through her perspective, see it too.
I was not as interested in the police investigation side of the story. It felt forced that Detective Harper would have been so interested in her case (or lack thereof) to continue pursuing it, and then when she has this sudden and strangely obvious realization at the end, for me it really cheapened the detective’s character.
The last chapter in specific felt unfinished to me. It ties up nice bows with the detective which are fairly yawn-worthy and lets you know what happens with Lauren, but I wanted more resolution with the husband. The reader is never allowed in to his perspective, so we don’t really know what his deal is, but he doesn’t come off as sympathetic. Without a cohesive conclusion for him, I was just left on uneven ground and the story felt lackluster.
Overall, I found this thriller engaging though a bit clunky. If you are into domestic thrillers, you will probably enjoy the ride. The topic of the changeling has been covered extensively and this book doesn’t really offer anything revolutionary to the fairy tale.
My thanks to Crooked Lane Books for my advance copy of this one to read and review. This review is part of the blog tour for this book—please check out some of the other stops on the tour!
A slow-burn mystery about a man's inexplicable death under the unforgiving outback sun that becomes a story of family dynamics, secrets, and loyalty.
I've now read all of Jane Harper's books. While I did find this newest book more interesting than the Aaron Falk novels, I don't think her books are really my style.
The Lost Man follows Nathan, estranged brother of the deceased. I would argue that he is the "lost man" of the title, not his brother. The story is much more about their family dynamics and events that happened long ago than about Cam's death, so there is a lot of dredging up the past, old relationships, moments gone wrong, and situations that perhaps seem different in retrospect.
This is one of those narratives that is so tied up in the past (i.e. events that the reader knows nothing about until given unwieldy flashbacks or the characters decide to remember them) that you can't really know what is going on until it is really obvious. While this narrative technique isn't necessarily bad, it does make for inactive storytelling as the reader can't be a part of the discovery and creation of the story. It can feel very static or stale to read because it feels like everything has already been predetermined and as the reader we are only privy to those past events (that are shared by the characters) when it becomes relevant to the story. It just makes me feel like I'm being spoon fed a narrative, and I find that boring.
What I did enjoy was reading a book set in the Australian outback. I'm not sure that is a setting I've read about before in a novel and I really like reading about new places, especially ones I've never been to. It's always a fun trip you can take in your head.
My thanks to Flatiron Books for sending me an advance copy of this one to read and review.
Associate editor, amateur photdographer, bibliophile, and occasional sleuth.