This is a slightly gruesome story of transformation (if body-mod things squick you out, you might want to avoid this), and I almost really enjoyed it — it was suffused with love and freedom and acceptance. But it was told in 2nd person, and in this context, that POV just didn’t work for me.
Zombie stories aren’t really my cup of tea, even if the zombies involved “really were sort of cute”. 🙂 But Thimmes managed to find a distinctive premise, which got me immediately interested in the first few paragraphs. (Got bogged down a bit with the info dump a few paragraphs later, but that was a minor blip.) I give this story a thumbs up, and it’s even my own thumb.
Review of M. John Harrison, “Yummie”, in Settling the World: Selected Stories 1970-2020, with a foreword by Jennifer Hodgson (Comma Press, 2020): 99-108 — Purchase here. Reviewed by Sara L. Uckelman. (Read the Review of the anthology.
What a strange combination of banal and surreal this was! It reminded me of a Kafka story, where you get pulled along with this growing sense of horror as everything that should be normal goes sideways.
(Originally published in The Weight of Words, 2017.)
Review of M. John Harrison, “Running Down”, in Settling the World: Selected Stories 1970-2020, with a foreword by Jennifer Hodgson (Comma Press, 2020): 55-93 — Purchase here. Reviewed by Sara L. Uckelman. (Read the Review of the anthology.
One thing I have really enjoyed about Harrison’s stories is the way that he highlights experiences that seem at once very specific and yet at the same time also familiar. In “Running Down”, this manifests in the opening of the story when the narrator, Egerton, explains his relationship with Lyall, his erstwhile university roommate. The details of their story seem utterly unique to them; and yet, the experience of mutually dislike between close friends is one that has happened more than once in my own life (it makes me wonder, now, whatever happened to my childhood bestfriend whom I moved away from age 10. She and I loathed each other more often than not). The deft way that Harrison does this is what makes his stories feel so real, even when — once you get more than a few pages in — you cannot escape the utter unreality of the story being told (especially when an unexpected personage turns up!).
(Originally published in New Worlds Quarterly 8).
Not many ghost stories pay attention to the metaphysics of ghosts, but Aunt Edith knows all about the three kinds of ghosts, and make sure that Ray, her niece, and Beth, Ray’s best friend, know all about them too, and the ways in which they should — or should not — treat them. It is the three of them, plus Aunt Edith’s friend Mrs. Montoya, who have to exorcise the ghosts living in the old house that used to belong to Aunt Edith’s family.
If you like ghost stories, then you may enjoy this one. I’m rather meh about ghost stories, and so I was rather meh about this one.
Sometimes all you need is a good opening line or two to utterly sympathise with a character. In this case,
The Masons would not have booked their beds in advance. They were not that organised.
Oh, Masons, I feel you. I am not that organised either.
The more I read about the Masons, the more I liked them (and identified with them!). When their foibles dropped them in the lap of something more sinister and my laughter turned to grim delight at Turner’s deft working of horror, I found myself enjoying this story a lot more than many horror stories I read.
For such a short story (one of the shortest in the issue), there was a lot of description — it’s pretty much all description as Martin narrates to his father, Les, a dream he’d had the night before. It wasn’t too far into the dream-recitation that I had an inkling of what was going to happen, which meant that if I was right, almost none of the description was actually necessary to read. I feel like the tension leading up to the ending in this one could have been handled a bit better, but there was a bittersweetness in the sharp, swift ending that I really loved.
This story made me uncomfortable, and not in a “I’m scared/this is good horror” sort of way but rather in a “I don’t really like the way purported child abuse is being portrayed” way. I can’t really articulate what precisely bothered me, beyond that I did not think the author handled the subject matter with care or sensitivity. So: This was not the story for me.
What an absolutely stonking story. It carried me along, gulping for more, with its utterly entrancing Justine, an automaton built to sing opera like no human could ever sing, against a panoply of background characters — the Maestro, the Ballet Mistress, the dancers, and, most importantly of all, Lise, who gives Justine the final secret she needs. It’s the sort of story that telegraphs one ending from the start, but leaves the reader desperately hoping that that is not the actual ending. Really, really enjoyed this one.
Content warning: Drinking, gambling, domestic abuse.
This urban fantasy set in Jamaica centers around the titular character Mama Tulu, and Sasha, the young woman who goes to visit her to make an unspeakable request. I liked almost everything about it — but not quite everything. I have a deep ambivalence about the use of phonetic representations of dialect in written fiction; I am never sure how appropriate or successful they are. Reading them often feels like an uncomfortable caricature; but on the other hand, I think it’s important to recognise the varieties of ways in which people speak, and to recognise the legitimacy of, e.g., AAVE.