Saturday, March 26, 2016

Recently Read

Man, I am so woefully behind on my reading list. There's a digital pile of awesome on my tablet and not nearly enough hours in the day.

However, I did finish two books recently that I'd very much recommend, not only to readers of the Weird, but anyone who enjoys speculative writing. Actually, if you never read any fiction at all, you're missing out and should read them, too.

Molly Tanzer's Vermilion (Word Horde) is a highly entertaining read that blends the weird with the Wild West and the paranormal in a way that reminds me of Bravestar and Big Trouble in Little China. Protagonist Lou Merriwether is a psychopomp who aids the transition of the dead to the afterlife. It's a sometimes dull, sometimes risky job, but it's one Lou's good at, having learned the business from her father. Lou chain smokes and carries a big gun for a little girl. But she gets into trouble when she decides to investigate the mysterious sanatorium known as Fountain of Youth, who she begins to believe is responsible for the disappearance of numerous Chinatown boys, lured from Lou's own city of San Francisco by the promise of work on a railroad that shouldn't exist.

If you like unconventional, gender-bending heroines, Vermilion will no doubt appeal to you. Tanzer's novel is also a great introduction to the weird for those who want to get to know the genre better, but not necessarily via its pulp roots, which are set firmly in the early 20th century.

The Year's Best Weird Fiction Vol. 2 (Undertow Publications) edited by Kathe Koja and Michael Kelly. I'm a huge fan of Koja's writing, and knowing that she had selected the stories for this volume was for me, essentially, a moth-to-a-flame affirmation. While it's always difficult to pick favourites in a collection like this, I will highlight Nathan Ballingrud’s “The Atlas of Hell”, which I really loved (more so than "Skullpocket", actually), and as a result, I know have another book added to the ever-growing pile, Ballingrud's "The Visible Filth".

Weird fiction is not always an easy genre to penetrate, but then, I don't particularly think it is supposed to be. Which is what makes it so enticing. Like Vermilion, The Year's Best Weird Fiction Vol. 2 is perfect for introducing new readers to weird stories. While not every single entry might speak to you, the ones that do will keep at it for a long time to come, even when it eventually dies down to a whispering worm in your brain.

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