Unvarnished Reviews

Didn’t get a lot of reading done this past week (that wasn’t critique-related). It looks like I did, because I went through some flash stories. As usual, I tried to take as much time reviewing them, unpolished and off the cuff…

Thomas Ligotti, “A Soft Voice Whispers Nothing” – From The New Weird, this was a short piece that seemed to go nowhere at first. But the pace picked up, and the message of the piece was finally revealed. It’s not a pleasant one, but that’s actually not why it gets 3 out of 5.

China Miéville, “Jack” – I thought I must’ve read this when I first picked up China’s Looking for Jake and Other Stories. I must not have; I would’ve remembered a story this good. The best part was listening to a narrator that ended up being as interesting as his stories of Jack Half-a-Prayer. 5 out of 5.

Benjamin Rosenbaum, “The Orange” – I might’ve read this before, too, as I went through the Flash Fiction Forward antho; I maybe even talked about it. The story doesn’t have that “snap” at the end that you see in a lot of flash fiction. It pulls off something harder, building up a smooth narrative arc from start to finish in such a small space. 5 out of 5.

Jim Crace, “21” – Also from Flash Fiction Forward. A good experimental piece, blurring the lines between showing and telling. The showing was the telling. It leaned a touch too far on the showing side to me, though it made sense later as I read that the piece was an excerpt. 4 out of 5.

Karen Joy Fowler, “Contention” – From her collection Black Glass, the story brought to mind Amy Hempel’s “Celia Is Back.” But where the protagonist’s ultimate desires in that story were up for interpretation, the protagonist in this story wants something more specific. I felt there was a disconnect between how the tale was initially presented and what it was ultimately about, but the writing made that transition almost seamless. 4 out of 5.

Karen Joy Fowler, “The Black Fairy’s Curse” – Also from Black Glass, here’s another reinterpretation of a classif fairy tale. More like an amplification, really. 5 out of 5.

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