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Wow, this Joe Hill collection is rocking my world. So far I either like or love every piece in it (and I've only got two left to read), with the most negative reaction being 'Huh, interesting experiment, and kinda pretty' which isn't a negative reaction at all, really (and that's for a vignette about the ghosts of trees, which suffers from a lack of plot and characters, two things Hill does very well, so I was sad he didn't do them there). I'm not sure what my favorite is yet. "Best New Horror" is certainly wonderful, and "My Father's Mask" reminded me of Kelly Link's stuff; good depiction of a young protagonist, and a sense that the world of the story is just slightly off-kilter and more strange than the world we inhabit, and good imagery, and a creepy ending, and Hill has the understanding that implication is more disturbing than explanation sometimes. Its only flaw is that some of the elements seem a bit like off-the-shelf horror story components (creepy kid riding a bicycle, blood on teeth, etc.). On the other hand, "The Cape" delights me completely -- it's not as complex or rich a story as some of the others, but it's exactly my kind of story, a magical innocence/experience tale with a dark and violent heart. There are fine mainstream stories, too, like "Better than Home" and "The Widow's Breakfast." I went into this thinking Hill was a horror writer, but he actually writes across genres quite capably. He writes about the human condition, and occasionally uses the tools of the supernatural/horrific to achieve his effects. What strikes me over and over is his craft -- he knows how to put a story together, the sentences and events pull me reliably along, and his narrators are all engaging in different ways. I don't remember when I've enjoyed a collection this much (well, besides Kelly Link's newest, of course) -- maybe not since More Tomorrow by Michael Marshall Smith. I'll definitely be reviewing this.

I also enjoyed "Crow's Changeling" by Sarah Prineas, from last week's Strange Horizons. Nice writing, good fairy-tale pacing, well-told. I'm sure it will annoy the same people who were annoyed by my own "Living with the Harpy", and for the same reason. (Some fantasy readers think choosing the magical over the mundane is always the better choice, even when it demonstrably isn't.)

I really wish I could take about a month off and do nothing but write stories. Ah, well.



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