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Allusion is not Illusion

You'll pry my books off my cold, dead body. By the time you shift them all I'll be flat and dessicated.

Currently reading

Winter's Tales
Karen Blixen, Isak Dinesen
Black Lamb and Grey Falcon (Penguin Classics)
Rebecca West, Christopher Hitchens
Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell
Susanna Clarke
Already Dead
Charlie Huston
The Rings of Saturn
W.G. Sebald, Michael Hulse
Lady Audley's Secret
Mary Elizabeth Braddon, David Skilton
Unequal Protection: How Corporations Became "People" - And How You Can Fight Back
Thom Hartmann
The City, Not Long After
Pat Murphy
You Can Sketch: A Step-by-Step Guide for Absolute Beginners
Jackie Simmonds
Lonely Werewolf Girl
Martin Millar

Or, of course, the other way round.

The Humanity of Monsters - Neil Gaiman, Laird Barron, Joe R. Lansdale, Catherynne M. Valente, Kij Johnson, Nathan Ballingrud, Gemma Files, Kaaron Warren, Rachel Swirsky, Indrapramit Das, Maria Dahvana Headley, Chinelo Onwualu, Sofia Samatar, Michael Matheson
It's always hard to rate anthologies, and this one was particularly uneven for me -- not just because I'm not really a horror fan (not all the stories are horror, by any means).

The first story, "Tasting Gomoa" confused me. A barren women, sexually frustrated and now replaced by a new younger wife, seduces/molests her supplanter. It was not badly written, but there are no supernatural elements and no monster unless you view the protagonist as a rapist. Maybe there is some mythological reference I missed?

After the first story I put the book aside for a couple weeks, interest lost. But I did want to read the next story because I usually like Kaaron Warren. "Dead Sea Fruit" isn't my favorite of hers but it was very original and made me want to continue reading the collection.

Valente's "Bread We Eat in Dreams" was also of a high quality, although missing that elusive something that would make me love it, but at this point I'm feeling like the first story was an oddball and collection overall is above average.

Then came Gemma Files' "The Emperor's Old Bones" which was perfect for this theme: dark, grimy, horrifying, human. The meal being served maybe have been fantasy, but the meat was completely realistic.

Next came Peter Watts' "The Thing," which was a complete change of pace from Files' visceral story, but also excellent. He does a great job creating an alien viewpoint from which to retell the story of "The Thing" (You know, the John Carpenter film? I think it's fair to expect people to be familiar with this movie, but don't worry if you haven't, you'll catch on as the story goes along.)

Next came another well-done alien story, "Muo-Ka's Child", about an alien attempting to care for a human who crashes on her planet.

"Six" was that sort of story that feels more like the first chapter of a longer work -- which it may be. Bobet's Above looks like it may at least be set in the same ruined world. I'll keep an eye on this author, whom I otherwise know only from her contributions to the Shadow Unit series.

"The Nazir" was interesting but not quite to my taste. That's just me, though, I tend to feel that a short story is too little space to do one of those childhood-through-a-lifespan stories. I would have liked this better longer. As far as I know the Nazir is not a real mythical creature. Tell me if I'm mistaken.

Silvia Moreno-Garcia tells what Dracula's wives think of his departure. Liked this one too, although I'm not sure it will stay in my memory.

"In Winter" is a very short retelling -- not even a retelling, a referencing -- of the Snow Queen story with Russian soldiers set in the Winter War. It did little for me.

"Ghostweight" by Yoon Ha Lee was the first story I had read previously. The prose is very poetic but the action a bit hard to follow. Think Patricia McKilip with very alien advanced spacecraft (but actually not like that time McKillip tried to write science fiction).

"How to Talk to Girls at Parties" was Gaiman at his lighter and funnier. I enjoyed this quite a bit, but whatever may have been monstrous was completely off the page so in that sense it missed the mark of the anthology.

Then I hit Lansdale and was so revolted I put the book down and didn't return to it for some days. I never finished this story -- I did take another glance and it was simply too disgusting and nasty for me. Which I guess means that if that's your thing, this is a great story!

"If You Were a Dinosaur, My Love," but sadly you're not, there are no actual dinosaurs in this two-page story, nor is it amusing as one might expect from the title.

As you may be gathering, the book went down hill for me after the halfway point. None of the rest really grabbed me. Probably my favorite it the second half was Polenth Blake's "Never the Same" which was at least different. I'd say I would look for more of Blake's writing, except the author bio mentioned cockroaches.

Summation: although there were more stories here that I didn't like than ones I did, some of the good ones were very good indeed, so I'd still recommend grabbing this, especially if you can get it from a library, and cherry-picking.