Monday, August 26, 2019

Book Review: The Very Best of Caitlin R. Kiernan

The Very Best of Caitlin R. KiernanThe Very Best of Caitlin R. Kiernan by Caitlín R. Kiernan

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Horror is certainly the right genre for many of these stories. Some really amazing ideas and writing within the 20 short stories compiled here. There is soo much lesbian representation in these stories; which isn't surprising if you know that Caitlin Kiernan is a transgender lesbian. My favourite part of most of the stories is that the f/f relationships are so well portrayed and have a beautiful depth to them.

A small note about each of the stories is below:
Story #1 - Andromeda Among the Stones
Well if this story is representative of the whole anthology then I’m guessing I’ll barely understand half of it... this was a very convoluted story. Thankfully that turned out to not be the case for all the stories
Story #2 - La Peau Verte
Translates to “Green Skin”. Ohh this one is both clever and horrifying. I’d love to read the whole story here as I think there’s a lot more to be said and done with the concept.
Story #3 - Houses Under the Sea
A very well revealed story told by a lesbian about her girlfriend who is obsessed with a deity at the bottom of the ocean.
Story #4 - Bradbury Weather
This felt like the longest short story ever. It went on and on describing and rambling from first person narrative. As I didn’t care about our leading lady, I also didn’t care about her ‘mission’.
Story #5 - A Child’s Guide to the Hollow Hills
Short, sweet and grotesque; but great.
Story #6 - The Ammonite Violin (Murder Ballad No. 4)
This story triggered by hydrophobia (that's how you know the writing is amazing!):
“...all the young women he has murdered by suffocation, always by suffocation, for that is how the sea would kill...”
What an amazing serial killer book this would make!! A girl on the hunt for her sisters killer, that killer targeting certain ways... great story but could be so much more if a full length novel."
Story #7 - A Season of a Broken Dolls
Either I’m too tired or you need a PhD in English literature to understand this jumble of a mess. I did like the La Llorona quotes however.
Story #8 - The View of Nothing
A story given to us out of order and from a narrator that doesn’t know herself what is happening or where she is. Love the cyborg to female relations. A bit graphic on the sex side of things but there is a point so I’m good with it. I’d have to read this story 3-4 more times to really nail it down I think; but that's not a bad thing.
Story #9 - The Ape's Wife
Best King Kong story ever! Maybe because it has Kong but yet is not about him at all. This is a weird mind bending story (as all these seem to be) but I really liked it. I was able to follow it and it had a great ending. One of the best stories yet (and I'm not a big fan of the King Kong lore).
Story #10 - The Steam Dancer (1896)
I adored this story!! I believe there are so many disabled folks out there that would really appreciate this one.
It reminded me of a time my cousin with Cerebral Palsy (who cannot walk) told me he loved video games because in them he was a “whole person who could kick-ass”. ❤️
Story #11 - Galapagos
Another story feels like you might need a fancy degree to really understand it. I know there’s a huge realm of discussion that can come from a story such as this one; however, the question for me is whether anyone actually cares... I think the answer is primarily no.
Story #12 - Fish Bride (1970)
This is like forbidden love; although perhaps closer to the idea of impossible love. A sad little story set on the coast where land and sea meet.
Story #13 - The Mermaid of the Concrete Ocean
Short and sweet. Not quite what I was expecting but still a lovely little bit of veiled writing.
Story #14 - Hydrarguros
I was really hoping this story was going somewhere and super curious what the silver stuff represented. Sadly it’s not all what I was hoping and instead is all metaphorical. 😕
Story #15 - The Maltese Unicorn
A fabulous story! Could easily be a full length novel as well; but had just enough content to be good as a short story, without having too much complexity. Lots of odd perversion and sex in this one. A line that really stuck out for me:
"And then she offered the unicorn one of her breasts, and I watched as it suckled."
Story #16 - Tidal Forces
An odd commentary on the size of the universe; or at least that’s what I think the point is. Best part, main characters are very much in love lesbians.
Story #17 - The Prayer of Ninety Cats
This is a story about a man watching a movie. We get his thoughts on the movie at the same time we get the main story of the film. It’s clever and I quite enjoyed it.
Story #18 - One Tree Hill
Not like the show. Lol.
I liked this one a lot. A man investigates an off “positive lightning” incident that hit a sole single tree isolated 25m all around from the rest of the trees on the hill. A very well written Goddess helps this story really sparkle.
Story #19 - 96.0% "Story #19 - Interstate Love Song (Murder Ballad No 8)
A gem of a story! Two ladies become the terror of the road; proving that these lesbians don’t need no men. They are scary enough on their own. I don’t want to say much about this for fear of spoiling it (as the surprises here are the best!). But I will say that it is not for the faint of heart. Lots of blood, gore, minder, sex and well more sex.
Story #20 - Fairy Tale Wood Street
A sweet little story. Given some of the horror, gore and sex in the other stories this one is tame and romantic. An interesting choice to end the collection on.

While a few stories were a bit blah or just not for more the large bulk of them were wonderful. I loved all the lesbian representation, the feminism (without being obnoxious) and the relationships (love, hate or otherwise) that are well portrayed. It's hard to do characters well in short stories (as they tend to focus on plot primarily) but Caitlin Kiernan hasn't left anything on the cutting room floor with page/word count here.
There are a few stories that would make amazing novels or movies if they were expanded; but that didn't detract from my love of them in the shorter form.
If you want horror, sex, lesbians and/or love, I believe, you'll find all of those here in abundance.

Please note: I received an eARC of this book from the publisher via NetGalley. This is an honest and unbiased review.

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