This was the month that I only read two books.
Not even two books, because it was still October when I started to read Ellen Datlow’s collection of Shirley Jackson inspired dark tales, ‘When Things Get Dark.’ Appropriate, I thought, for the time of year. It has got awfully dark hasn’t it?
Datlow is a reliable anthologist for me, our tastes are similar, and her collections often introduce me to new authors whilst also giving me a fix from writers who she’s previously introduced me to, or I’ve encountered elsewhere. Laird Barron, Gemma Files and Seanan McGuire all fall firmly into the ‘Datlow writers’ camp and I was happy to see new stories from them. Barron’s story ‘Tiptoe’ is the stuff of nightmares. It’s very gently written, and it takes a while for the full measure of terror to hit, I think it’s my favourite story from them so far. ‘Pear of Anguish’ by Gemma Files explores relationships between misfit girls and is written with such descriptive ease that I can still visualise the settings of the story, weeks after reading. McGuire’s ‘In the Deep Woods’ is a solid horror story that won’t disappoint her fans.
‘Sooner or Later, Your Wife will Drive Home’ by Genevieve Valentine evokes the kind of feelings that I got from early Lisa Tuttle stories, I got the feeling that we’re looking at the same people in different dimensions / timelines. A creepy story that any woman who has driven in the darkness will relate to. Kelly Link’s ‘Skinder’s Veil’ is a slow burner with a punchline that’s worth staying home for, but my standout story of the collection has to be Josh Malerman’s ‘Special Meal’. It brings to mind one of the first sf anthologies I ever read, a tatty hardback edition of Clifford Simak stories. I loved it.
The second book of November 2022 was China Mieville’s ‘The Scar’. This continues my proud tradition of being utterly oblivious to sequels of great books. I read ‘Perdido Street Station’ not long after it came out. It was a maze of a book, and although I liked it, I never have got round to re-reading it. That was about twenty years ago. Then, last month, I was browsing in the local charity shop and spotted ‘The Scar’, a hefty hardback that was, apparently, the second book in the ‘New Crobuzon trilogy’. It was 30p. You can’t even buy a Freddo for 30p these days, but there I was, with several thick inches of early 21st century steampunk clutched to my breast. It went to the top of my tbr pile, along with a ‘December books’ request for the third book in the series.
I LOVED it. From the first pages of eldritch horror, right through the winding plot, the amazing locations, the writ bold characters who still drew sympathy and affection, to the final pages of resolution. Someone should have told me about this book a long time ago.