Cover Image: The Best of Our Past, the Worst of Our Future

The Best of Our Past, the Worst of Our Future

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Member Reviews

A collection of strange, dark stories. Some are not what I would personally classify as horror but they are all leaning to darkness. I appreciated the variety and imagination in the stories but for some reason didn't really connect with most of them. Maybe it was the feeling I often had that I couldn't quite understand enough to feel the full impact. A sense of mystery is good in a story, but for me it was too deep in many of the tales. This is certainly a book to consider if you want something a little outside of the box, however.
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These short and surreal stories will be a hit for fans of Brian Evanson and Kelly Link. They lean more into vibes than plot but each one is fascinating.
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The book is a collection of psychological and supernatural horror stories. Their rural and small-town characters confront difficult pasts.  The stories are dark, mysterious, haunting and disturbing.  The author has a strange and weird imagination making it a perfect collection of horror tales.  I found that I liked the stories though I did reread them as at times I found the story difficult to understand.  The book is not what I expected but found it to be good.
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3 Stars!

I am always up for a new challenge and one seemed to be presenting itself in The Best of Our Past, the Worst of Our Future by Christi Nogle. With a title like that, this looked like a collection of short stories that would require some work to get through. It was a Flame Tree Press release, though, so I decided I was up to the challenge and took the plunge. 


My assumption going into the book was correct in that this collection does take a lot of thinking in order to work through the stories. This is not necessarily a bad thing, but some of the stories did remain a bit obscure to me even after reading them a couple times and trying to digest what the writer was trying to get at. That is the point of the stories, to let the reader find meaning, but it is a tricky method of storytelling and it does not work in every story in this collection. The horror is kept at a slow burn and is often in the background or simply atmospheric. In fact, most of the stories in the collection do not really lie within the horror genre or even dark fiction. This may turn some readers away from the collection, but this is more of a speculative fiction collection rather than a horror or dark fiction collection.  


Some stories did stand out, for various reasons: 


Unschooled:  4 stars.  To what lengths will a mother go to protect her children, even when the entire world is against her.  And when one of her children may be the world’s savior, or destroyer.  This is a strong story that explores the cost of being different. 


In the Country:  3 Stars. This was a strange story and was entertaining but I felt as if the message of the story was unclear. It is a worthwhile read but one that ultimately did not work for me. 


You Will Make Me Strong Again:  4 Stars. Where can one turn for strength when there is no one else in the world? This story takes a walk through the past to find the strength that can be drawn from memories, or maybe from the ghosts of the dead. 


The Pelt:  5 Stars. This story left me a bit confused as to its meaning but its melancholy atmosphere leaves much open to interpretation. Is it acceptable to be content with the few things that bring us comfort if not joy? This is a powerful tale of the peace that comes with being content with what we have despite what the rest of the world may think. Or maybe it is a warning of what happens when one gets lost in their own existence to the detriment of what the world has to offer. 


Mirrorhouse:  4 Stars.  This was another story that left me searching for meaning. As a woman reconnects with a man from her past, she soon learns of his obsession with building a house of mirrors. She begins to share the obsession even in the face of nature trying to undo his work. Is this a tale of mankind building a future based on dreams, or of nature working to overcome the frivolous whims of man imposing his will on the world? 


Cinnamon to Taste:  4 Stars. What is it to live? Life can be so simple and mundane, but it is the little things that can make all the difference. 


Packet C: 5 Stars.  This is a short and strange power of what can happen when putting together a living doll. What could possibly go wrong if the instructions are not followed? This is a simple tale on the surface but is oddly haunting. 


There are many other stories in the collection, but these are a few that caught my attention for one reason or another. 


The Best of Our Past, the Worst of Our Future is an odd collection that may not appeal to everyone. It does take time and thought to work through the stories within the book’s cover and I am certain that some of my interpretations of the stories will vary greatly from what other readers and even the author read. That is part of the beauty of the collection, but also part of the frustration as some stories just left me wondering what I had read. If you are looking for surreal stories that challenge the mind, this collection is for you.  If you are looking for some easy reading material, give this book a hard pass. 


I would like to thank Flame Tree Press and NetGalley for this review copy.  The Best of Our Past, the Worst of Our Future is available now.
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The Best of Our Past, the Worst of Our Future is a collection of wonderfully weird and interesting short stories. I love reaching for a short story when my time for reading is limited. As is the case with all short story collections, I enjoyed some more than others but found the overall collection to be well done.
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THE BEST OF OUR PAST, THE WORST OF OUR FUTURE is a wondrous, weird, and dazzling collection of quietly unsettling stories where the sinister, uncanny, dreamy, and/or nightmarish is always near. Sharply realized, rich with imagery and layers, these are masterful dark tales from Christi Nogle. She excels at taking the seemingly ordinary and effortlessly imbuing it with ominous implications and/or eerie atmosphere. There are shades here of Jackson and Oates, but her voice is assuredly, distinctly modern, unique, and her own. This book will haunt you. BRILLIANT.
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I think this collection was just not for me. None of the stories really caught my interest, especially not the first one. The writing was good, I really think that this was simply a matter of taste.
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I wasn't really able to connect with the earlier stories in the collection, but then "Cinnamon to Taste" and the following stories I really enjoyed.
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A wonderful collection of short stories which are creepy enough to make your skin crawl. All the stories have a different kind scary vibe. I have never read something like this. Christi Nogle, is indeed, an amazing horror writer. But, her stories are not for beginners, as, they are little bit difficult to understand. The plots totally have a spooky tone which makes it even more unputdownable.

Definitely, 4 stars for the book. Thanks to Netgalley and Flame Tree Press for providing me with an opportunity to be a part of the blog tour.
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This collection of creepy short stories was really enjoyable. The stories are expertly crafted and Christi Nogle's mastery of suspense and atmosphere is impressive. The characters are realistic and the writing is lush and compelling. Several of the stories left a lasting impression on me. Fans of horror and scifi will find this collection to be a thrilling and captivating read.
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Though the stories in Nogle’s debut collection range from the psychological to science fiction to supernatural horror, they all share a sense of dread and tension. Her protagonists are profoundly uneasy in the worlds they inhabit and with themselves.

As I read, I was left with a sense that the human world is a thin, surface layer stretched over a darker, deeper reality. There’s something uncanny lurking in the margins of the world or hiding beneath the surface of conversations and observations. At any time, Nogle’s characters might lose their tenuous grip on reality and slip into this strange place, and this generates a constant sense of dread even when they’re engaged in mundane activities.

As in Beulah, a sense that time, memory, and identity are unstable lies at the heart of this collection, especially in stories such as “A Children’s Treasury of Windows and Doors” and “The Porches of Our Ears.” The “past” constantly intrudes on and interrupts the “present” to the point where you start to question linear time. Because time and memory are unreliable, these characters must perpetually question who they are, an exhausting and existentially terrifying task. The real possibility of memory loss through injury and illness and the devastating impact I’ve seen it have on people whom I care about made these stories very real and frightening to me.

Excellent and precise use of detail make Nogle’s fictional worlds convincing and real despite the abstract feelings of dread and the uncanny which haunt her protagonists. Descriptions of food in particular cut like a knife through characters’ inner turmoil, momentarily grounding them in a specific sensory experience. These grounding details convey a clear sense of the characters’ whole history and how they view their world.

Nogle has a talent for ending her stories at an exact moment of reality-shifting insight. She resists the urge to pull everything together in a tidy denouement, which makes her stories complete and satisfying without resolving the tension and anxiety the reader feels. It’s thrilling to read a story like “Packet C” and realize you’re actually holding your breath in anticipation, waiting for that final explanation which, gloriously, never comes.

I highly recommend Nogle’s first collection of deeply disquieting horror fiction!
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I want to say, this book was too “smart” for me, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. I just personally didn’t connect with the type of domestic horrors you encounter in the stories. Each story is intense yet subtle and are meant for the reader to reflect upon, no throwing gore and spooks in your face, it relies on heavy atmosphere.
   I could see this being a fantastic read for book clubs to discuss and draw from their own experiences on.
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Christi Nogle’s first collection demonstrates why she is helping to define modern horror. A veteran of such prestigious publications as Vastarien: A Literary Journal and Pseudopod, Nogle excels in dread and slow build while having so much to say about the world we live in and the human condition. The Best of Our Past, the Worst of Our Future collects some of her finest stories.

Nogle’s writing style is hard to quantify. She is a mix between Shirley Jackson and Robert Aickman, with a blend of fantastical premises married to human emotion. The opening story, “Unschooled,” is told from the perspective of a young werewolf mother unsatisfied with her lot in life and wishing to depart with her children. Nogle dives into her head, showing us the life she has lived and the struggles she endures, coupled with her love for her children and her longing for a new life.

What sets Nogle apart is her blend of humanity to horror. There is no viewpoint character in any of Nogle’s works who is bland and devoid of personality. With few words, Nogle gives them depth, realization, and life. The reader cannot help but care about these people and feel as though they are old friends.

Each word is chosen with almost delicate precision, such as the titular tale. A visit from a rather unremarkable cousin morphs into something unique, strange, and bizarre. It is a gloriously dark tale, transgressive and daring. Nogle rarely delves into explanation or holds the reader’s hand.

Instead, she invites the audience to think about the stories, to follow along as though peering through a cloudy lens into imperfect and twisted lives while she completely upends them. The narratives feel frighteningly authentic and each story is completely and fully realized.

One of the best collections of the year.
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There are seventeen stories in this collection, and each contain a kind of insidious, subtle horror – dreamlike in its distorted intensity.

Yes, there are zombies and werewolves and other horror tropes within these pages, but they are presented in ways I haven’t come across before. There is no shock horror here, no gore or overt psychological terror. Instead this is a horror of the real world, the familiar, made somehow imperceptibly wrong, word by word, line by line, so that it creeps up on you and takes you by surprise.

I’m not exaggerating when I say that some of these images – the least gory, apparently innocuous images of mirrored houses, tiny grandmas and sleeping pups – are definitely going to stay with me for a while and I expect to see some of them recurring in future dreams… and nightmares!

The writing feels literary in tone and style and the ideas are complex and nuanced, needing time to digest and ponder what the writer is presenting, what exactly you are reading. Nothing is fully explained or neatly tied with a bow. These are almost vignettes – glimpses into a twisted version of our own reality – enough to unsettle without fully understanding.

This isn’t horror for those looking to be thrilled with shocks and scares, viscera and violence. This is the subtly surreal and vaguely disturbing, aimed at those who appreciate a refined, dignified step through the darker mirror.

Review by Steph Warren of Bookshine and Readbows blog
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This book caught my attention as ‘A collection of short horror stories’  and I love a horror story.

However this collection seemed
“wishy washy” to me. Not my idea of horror. To me horror is something that leaves you scared. None of the stories in this collection did this for me.
Don’t get me wrong, they weren’t bad just not how I was expecting them to be.

Thank you #NetGalley and the publishers #FlameTree for the E-arc of #TheBestOfOurPastTheWorstOfOurFuture
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Nogle never fails to present readers with great scenic and atmospheric settings with vivid imagery, reflective interiority, and a slow building dread that is further amplified by the complexity of characters and the deep intimacy she develops between readers and the characters of her stories. The Best of Our Past, The Worst of Our Future, draws on narratives of trauma, interweaving the past and present to create a warped and frightening reality. There is significance with the most mundane of included details. The prose is lush and melodic, like an elegant nursery rhyme but with all the sophistication. The writing has a unique voice and style, and strives to paint a complete portrait of characters, where readers cannot believe these people to be anything other than real. There are moments of quiet desolation and one theme that really stood out to me among the stories is consumption. Nogle is a storyteller who takes on many identities, voices, stories, and weaves tales by a low-burning campfire. 

Goodreads Review:
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Very, very good. Though this is billed as horror, it's closer to a chilling, surreal take on domestic life, the relationships between men and women, family... A few stories are explicitly fantastical, but all of them offer new, disturbing takes on horror tropes, like werewolves, zombies or serial killers. The general effect is dark, nightmarish, but also layered and truly riveting. It's horror at its best: exploring the dark side of the mundane, representing daily life in a way that is very slightly off, that often makes you question who is the monster and who is the victim, and the limit between nightmares and reality. Truly outstanding, and worth a read regardless of whether you only read literary fiction or are a horror fan.
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This book was sadly not for me. I struggled to connect with the characters in each short story, and found some of them a bit jarring and confusing. An interesting concept though and a different take in the horror genre that many will appreciate!
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Not the best, not the worst. Much like most of Flame Tree Press selections lately.
Mostly this collection didn’t work for me, except for the few final tales. And I’m not blaming the book in this instance. It’s likely more due to the basic author/reader chemistry failure. 
Specifically, I actually think there is talent here, can see it in the individual sentences. But the sum total of them doesn’t quite come together right. It’s one of those forest and trees things.
The trees are solid, but the forest laves a lot to be desired.
The vague moodiness of it all, the overall style of narrative that frequently leaned dense and/or dreamy, the nightmarish magic realism (is that a genre?) of it all largely didn’t appeal to me. User mileage may vary. Thanks Netgalley.
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Blog Post is scheduled for Feb 7th
 Instagram (imgr link) post scheduled for Feb 17th

   The Best of our Past, the Worst of our Future is a creepy, quiet collection of short stories from Christi Nogle that genuinely define the words ‘quiet horror’ for me. In fact on starting this arc I had honestly forgotten what I was going in for. I knew it was short stories and I remembered being excited about the premise so I picked it up wanting something I could read a story here and there. Jokes on me. I read the whole thing in two days.  
    Each story starts somewhat mundane, taking the first as an example - a mother look for a place to have her children. From there it slowly unveils it’s ‘horror’ aspect, and for the most part in ways I didn’t expect. Mushroom horror has been very big lately, and while there is one in the book it’s done differently and far more creepy than I’d seen yet. It’s a surprising and impressive collection of ideas. Additionally each story features a House in some way, and I cannot stress how none of these were your typical ‘haunted house’ they each took a different role and aspect.
    There are a few that didn’t come across for me, as is the norm with collections like this. Some of the stories lean a bit far into experimental horror such as the one of the young girl and the yellow book of stories. But a few of the more experimental ones did work, like the story with the café! Experimental horror almost never works for me so the grade and variation in stories impressed me here as well.  
    Overall this was a great collection and one I’d recommend for lovers of the genre. Quiet, unsettling horror that I wouldn’t recommend before bed, but I definitely recommend if you want that slow unsettled, goosebumps on your skin feeling.
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