Monday, September 07, 2015

Your October Read

I've mentioned before that Aarti's A More Diverse Universe event is coming up in October, which I'm very excited about.   There's another October reading event coming up, one that I don't usually participate in, but which is very popular: R.eaders I.mbibing P.eril.  It's RIP X this year, and it's being hosted by The Estella Society--basically your classic scary October reading event.

Doing both seems like way too much committed reading, but if you are going to give it a shot, I've got the perfect book for you.  And even if you're just doing one, or the other--heck, even if you're doing neither, you should really check out Tananarive Due's Ghost Summer.

Short stories aren't usually my thing.  I feel like you can't get at the meat of something with a short story, and I often need things spelled out for me in places where shorter fiction prefers to hint.  Anthologies tend to be uneven; collections by a specific author tend to be repetitive.  I know a lot of people who disagree with at least some of these premises (hi, Brenda!), but that's me.

But I like Tananarive Due (I discovered her during Diversiverse a few years ago), so when I saw this collection on Netgalley, I thought I'd give it a shot.  My new Netgalley rule is only authors I know or books I've been waiting for; she's a trusted author, and I was in the mood for just her brand of creepy.

These stories--I couldn't put this book down.  Every one was a little different, so many of them were moving, and some tore at my heart. They're all somewhere on the spectrum of horror and fantasy, some of them loosely connected--the mythology of one town; stages in the life of one character--others just thematically close, grouped according to these things. 

I finished this a few days ago; the ones that have stuck with me most are the ones about children.  Any horror book with children in it is going to have some creepy stuff--the survivor of the zombie apocalypse, the kid who's immune to the fast-spreading disease, the boy who gets more out of ghost hunting than he bargained for.  But the balance between the poignancy of innocence and the reality of fear and the raw simplicity of survival--these are not Stephen King's children, who embody Goodness and Innocence; they're kids written by someone who knows kids.

I think the one that upset me most was about a boy who lives in a lab, where the adults take his blood and only visit him in hazmat suits and slowly lose their hope and their sanity, as he gradually learns more and more about the world.  The first set of stories, about a town called Gracetown and some of the odd things that happen there, includes "The Lake," which I read as a standalone during last year's Diversiverse.  In this town, the odd happenings are sometimes simple and sometimes fraught; sometimes dangerous, and sometimes just the kind of thing that happens to every ten year old in town. 

I also loved that this book was often about the experience of being black.  Whether it was a primary theme (in "Ghost Summer," where a ghost hunting boy learns secrets about his town from a hundred years ago) or a part of the environment (in "Removal Order," when residents are ordered to evacuate, what might it be like to be the one who stayed?), from straightforward ("Free Jim's Mine" is about an emancipated slave and what he had to do to survive) to metaphorical (in "Carriers," the characters are isolated and disenfranchised because of their biology--not race, right?), these stories carry so many experiences and such a vision of the world. 

I loved this book.  It's one of those ones that's readable and ponderable and admirable and enjoyable.  So for October--for A More Diverse Universe, for RIP X, for that time of year when you want something vaguely creepy but not outright scary--pick this one up. 

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