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The Very Best of Caitlin R. Kiernan

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The Very Best of Caitlin R. Kiernan 
by Caitlin R. Kiernan 
due 2-24-2019 
Tachyon Publishing, San Francisco 
4.8 / 5.0

If you enjoy brilliant written stories that are creepy, weird and dark.....in the best way.....Caitlin Kiernan is probably already an author you enjoy. This ia an excellent collection of some her best. I have been a fan since the 90's, and was so excited and pleased to receive this ARC. 
My favorites were "Houses Under The Sea", "A Child's Guide To The Hollow Hills", "The Ape's Wife" and "The Maltese Unicorn", but all are well worth the read. I love this weirdness and would recommend this engrossing collection. 
Thank you Tachyon Publishing for the ebook ARC for review.
#netgalley     #TheVeryBestOfCaitlinRKiernan
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5/5 stars

Recommended for those who like fantasy and science fiction with an edge to it.

This book took me a long time to read because every story was like reading a novel in and of itself. Not in that they were long, but Kiernan’s rich, immersive storytelling had me coming up for air after every ending. I stepped in and out of so many worlds between these pages, and when it was done, I needed time to sit and wrap my head around everything I’d just been through.

Their are skilled writers who inspire me to write, and there are skilled writers who make me step back and accept that I will just never be that talented, and Kiernan is one of the latter. The writing in this book is beautiful and captivating, even when the story is rough and full of grit.

If I had to give a criticism, it is that some of the endings did not feel entirely satisfying—like a thought half-finished that trails off—although I suspect that was intentional. All in all, I thoroughly enjoyed this collection.

I received a free copy of this book through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
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This book reminded me why I don’t like reading short stories; but I don’t mean that in a negative sense.

I have always tried to put my finger on why I don;t enjoy reading certain short stories, but love others.  I have read and enjoyed all of Stephen King’s short story collections, love Shirley Jackson”s stories and one of my favorite books ever is I Robot, by Isaac Asimov.  I have read countless other short story collections and enjoyed then immensely.  But, hand me a copy of The New Yorker Short Story edition, and I will avert my eyes and start making finger motions to ward off the evil eye.

Kiernan’s collection of stories finally allowed me to put my finger on what I like and don’t like about the form. One of the things I enjoy most about short stories is that they tend to be quite direct and to the point. I can sometimes have difficulty with normal length novels that introduce a lot of plot lines, or extraneous detail, that can cause me to have a difficult time remaining focused on the main plot line.  The short stories that I like don’t have any of that, and are often extremely well-written, as it seems like every word included in the story is supposed to be there.

But there is another type of short story that is slightly more abstract. I think of these type of stories as “slice of life” stories.  They may have a beginning, middle and end, but after finishing the story, the reader is left to wonder why the author chose to tell about that particular event.  These type of stories are often very evocative, both atmospherically, and in giving the reader a specific insight into the lives of the characters, but I often finish them and am left wondering “okay, but what happens next?”  For me, its like when a new TV show that I am enjoying gets cancelled early—I am left with the feeling that I have been somehow cheated.

I think this feeling is probably most acute when the short story that i am reading is a good one—the author successfully draws me into the world of the story, and then finishes it before i am ready to leave that world.  And that is where I get back to my review of this book.  I felt that exact feeling after reading the majority of these stories—I would read them, be excited to be within the world of the story, and learning about the characters and events, and then suddenly the story would end.  I almost felt cheated when each story was over.  

So, if you enjoy short stories in general, please don’t be put off by my only so-so rating of this book.  Give it a try...you might well find yourself thinking about these stories for days after you finish reading them.

Thanks to NetGalley and the publishers for providing me with an advanced reading copy of this book.
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A bracing collection of Kiernan's dark fantasy or weird fiction (an often fantastical blend of fantasy, horror, and any other genre that works for the story). In addition to her work in comics, I previously read The Ape's Wife and Other Stories--a short story collection like this one. Several stories from it are reprised here, including the title story. Kiernan is very prolific: in addition to several novels, there have been over a dozen short fiction collections.

The subjects are varied and unexpected. "Andromeda Among the Stones" opens the collection with the story of a family guarding a demonic gateway, trying to prevent the outbreak of World War I. A writer trying to write about a cult leader she was briefly romantically involved with; a Martian government official trying to track down a lover; and "The Ape's Wife," a mind-bending meditation on the relationship between Fay Wray and King Kong. 

Two of the most striking stories are the "Murder Ballads," each an immersion into the mind of serial killers. "Interstate Love Song" is especially horrifying, as the narrator describes her incestuous relationship with her sister and their killing spree, and the opening finally spirals back to the ending.

Kiernan's language is rich and complex. Coupled with the esoteric subjects, these stories are not a quick read. But they are consistently interesting, despite a tendency for unresolved endings.

Thanks to NetGalley for early access to an Uncorrected Proof.
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One of the things I've tried to do in recent years is expand my reading horizons.  Yes, the bulk of my reading is science fiction, but even within that genre I've been branching out to works that in the past I would not have had an interest in  reading.  Many of these works are much more literary in nature, and while I don't necessarily seek them out, I don't shy away from them either (It could be argued that science fiction has been heading in a literary direction for years, and I don'tdisagree).

And while I prefer science fiction, I've discovered that every now and again I like to stick my toes in the water of horror and dark fiction.  A few years ago one of the stories in this collection, "Interstate Love Song (Murder Ballad No. 8) appears in one of Jonathan Strahan's Best of the Year anthologies, so when I was presented with the opportunity to read this collection of Kiernan's work I decided it was time to dive in (rather than just stick my toes in the water).

Kiernan's work is...stunning.  It is dark and disturbing.  It is horrifying and frightening.  The characters are at once both repulsive and fascinating.  And the stories are unconventional, in the sense that there isn't always a traditional story structure.  Some of the stories are just scenes out of people's lives, a snapshot if you will.  And they are all beautifully written and intensely compelling.  And they *all* make you want to know just what it is that is going on inside Kiernan's head.

It took a while for the book to percolate within me before I wrote this review.  I can tell you that I knew only that one story, so I didn't know what I was getting myself into.  Once I finished, I wasn't sure what I'd just read, or whether I liked it or not.  So it took a week or so to gestate.  And after all that, I realized that I had been blown away.

"The Prayer of Ninety Cats" tells the tale of a movie critic watching an art house movie about the infamous Elizabeth Bathory,  the Blood Countess.  I was completely unaware, until I'd read the story, that Bathory was an actual historical figure.  Apparently the movie told us things about her that aren't in any of the official accounts of  Bathory's life.  The previously mentioned "Interstate Love Song (Murder Ballad No. 8)" follows a pair of twins as they travel the country, leaving butchered people in their wake.  And yet, there is a sadness to it that makes the reader almost want to feel for the characters.  "One Tree Hill (The World as Cataclysm)" follows a science journalist to a remote section of New Hampshire (as with "The Prayer of Ninety Cats", there is an element of realism with this story, as Kiernan provides latitude and longitude coordinates that actually exist in New Hampshire - I checked) who is investigating a weird occurrence of a lightning strike on a cloudless night up on a hill.  What she finds is unsettling.

Those are three of the last four stories in the book, and they're all terrific.  But outstanding stories are scattered 
throughout the rest of the book as well.  "The Mermaid of the Concrete Ocean", one of the non-horror stories in the book, follows an art critic as he interviews an elderly woman who was a model for a series of mermaid paintings.  "A Season of  Broken Dolls" is one of the most disturbing stories (to me, anyway) in the collection.  A reporter, at the urging of her girlfriend, goes to an "art" display of disturbing and grotesque pieces made of living humans.  "The Ammonite Violin (Murder Ballad No. 4) (which leads me to wonder if Murder Ballads 1 through 3 and 5 through 7 have been written as well) is a  fascinating look at a demented serial killer who creates violins from the remains of his victims.  The collection leads off with "Andromeda Among the Stones", a Lovecraftian tale of what can best be described as a dysfunctional family.  And "The Ape's Wife" just possibly gives you the answer to "whatever happened to Fay Wray?".  "Galapagos" is a science fiction tale of a woman sent to investigate what happened to the ship Pilgrimage after it abandoned its mission and stopped responding to communications efforts.  It is a combination of Alien and The Expanse that I found fascinating.

As I go through the collection I find that I want to summarize all the stories.  "The Maltese Unicorn", "Fairy Tale of Wood Street", and "Hydrarguros" are fascinating tales - and quite frankly, I just love the titles.  There are 20 stories here, and each one of them has something has something different to offer the reader.  One thing that's true is that every last one of them is compelling and thought provoking.

However, I would state that it is clear from reading this book that Caitlin R. Kiernan's work is not for every one.  It's very different in tone, style, and substance.  Readers looking for traditional horror or dark fiction probably won't find what they're looking for here.  However, if you're willing to stay with this stuff (and it isn't necessarily easy to do so),   I'm pretty sure you'll come out the other side as a changed reader, a reader who will never be the same.
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I had never heard of Caitlín R. Kiernan before, despite my love for dark fantasy, horror and short stories. I know, I’m ashamed of myself as well. Thankfully there is no time like the present and the moment I started The Very Best of Caitlín R. Kiernan I was sold. Within this collection is an amazing mix of sci-fi, horror, the supernatural and humour that will blow you away. Thanks to Tachyonn Publications and Netgalley for providing me with a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

There is a magic to short stories that novels can’t capture. You’re never entirely sure where a short story will leave you, how much it will reveal and how much will be left unwritten. A novel is much more tied down to structure, even if it is an experimental novel, since it has to support itself for hundreds of pages. A short story’s structure is much more translucent. It’s because of this that I adore short stories and in The Very Best of Caitlín R. Kiernan  Kiernan indeed presents the very best. Moving between genres almost effortlessly, Kiernan crafts moments of exquisite pain and aching beauty, whether her story is set on Mars or downtown New York. 

Although I have tried above, it is hard to encapsulate the whole of The Very Best of Caitlín R. Kiernan into a few sentences, so I’ll just talk about a few of my favourite stories. The collection starts with ‘Andromeda Among the Stones’ and it has a very distinct Lovecraftian atmosphere, but without the pretension. There are old texts, ancient evils and family curses, all coming together to weave a haunting tale. This story converted me to a Kiernan fan. ‘Houses Under the Sea’ is perhaps one of Kiernan’s most famous stories linked to Lovecraft’s Mythos, centering around the Mother Hydra figure. But somehow her story is more authentic, giving us an outsider’s perspective into the mystery and horror. ‘The Ammonite Violin (Murder Ballad No. 4) gives us a more straightforward horror in a flipped version of the famous ‘The Twa Sisters’ murder ballad. I loved the way Kiernan played with the reader’s expectation in this story and there are some truly touching moments in this story. Finally, ‘The Prayer of Ninety Cats’ is a brilliant take on Elizabeth Bathory as the story centres around a movie critic watching a once banned movie about the Bloody Countess. It’s meta but in a way that mirrors the reader’s own experiences of being drawn in by a piece of art. There is stunning imagery in this story and I wish I could see the movie itself. 

Caitlín R. Kiernan is a brilliant writer. The Gothic and Horror genres are often very unkind to women, although female agency is sometimes secretly present. Kiernan’s stories are filled with women taking control, losing control, going mad, loving each other, hating each other, fighting each other, you name it. That was perhaps one of my favourite aspects of this collection, the sheer variety of female experiences that Kiernan describes. Most of her characters are lesbians but rather than make this a big thing it is simply a given. It is not a plot point or a big reveal, it just is. A central theme to many of the stories in The Very Best of Caitlín R. Kiernan is the sea. From the first story, ‘Andromeda Among the Stones’, the sea was a constant in The Very Best of Caitlín R. Kiernan, a thread weaving its way throughout, both a threat and a source of comfort all at once. I myself love the sea and how it is used in music and in literature, so this made me love the stories even more. In the end what really struck me about the whole collection is that no matter how diverse the stories are in setting, genre, mood or theme, Kiernan’s tone stays strong throughout, binding all the stories together into an opus.

I’d wholeheartedly recommend The Very Best of Caitlín R. Kiernan to any reader with an interest in the Gothic, the supernatural or even just in a story collection that is slightly different than all the others. Her stories are shocking at times, but also beautiful. Kiernan pushes her reader’s boundaries but never beyond the point of no return. No matter how dark, there always seems to be a light.
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Review Copy

If you're looking for the fantastic, the strange, something out of the ordinary, stop right here. Caitlin R. Kiernan is one of the very best and this is volume collects just some of the very of her short stories stories.

She will drop you into a scene, guide you around and then exit. Was that stage left? Who knows? And best of all, none of her stories seem alike. That's what sets her apart from the pack. Did I mention she's smart? 

She's a gifted author as well.

If you've never read Caitlin Kiernan before this would be an excellent place to begin.
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I almost wish I had not asked for this book. I seldom read horror and now I remember why: I don't like being horrified. This book is not for the faint-hearted or empathetic reader; the images go right into your mind and heart and, for me anyway, they will take a long time to fade.
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This author has been on my list to read for quite some time.  So when I saw that Tachyon Publications had a short story collection, I was excited to read this.  I wish I could say that I loved this but unfortunately I think the author's short fiction doesn't work for me.  I only read 31% of the book and didn't really like any of the stories.  I found some of the imagery interesting but overall was dissatisfied.  I definitely believe that that this is a case of me and not the author.  I do still have her novel the red tree on me list to see if her longer works float me boat better.  Arrr!
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Caitlin R. Kiernan is the type of writer that can balance horror, sensuality, and sensational imagery and make it look effortless. Her work is beautiful, but the difficulty is so much of her best writing has previously only been available is short print runs. That makes getting a hold of some of her old work expensive and difficult. Tachyon Publishing is attempting to change that by collecting some of her best work in the collection The Very Best of Caitlin R. Kiernan.

Enter a world where young women discover their past with the fae after being hired to dress up for a party. See the life behind an infamous cult leader and her sacrifices. A big fan of art house cinema gets a chance to see a banned film and see exactly why it was not available for the public. 

Kiernan's writing is stunningly beautiful and I'm so thankful that her hard to find writing is now available again to readers. Treat yourself with this one if you like dark writing. 

The Very Best of Caitlin R. Kiernan is available March 1, 2019 from Tachyon Publishing.
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Wow, wow, wow. Tens across the board, and I don't even like horror on my good days, much less my bad days. Surprisingly, however, Kiernan's novel of her stories really did uplift my soul on a pretty bad day. Think bear market bad days, but I digress. On a day that I needed a great book to tuck up with on my worn armchair, Kiernan's novel did not disappoint in the least. Let me explain the sheer amazingness of Kiernan's genius.

I do not, on most days, enjoy horror. I hate the suspense and fear and sheer tension that runs through me whenever I watch horror movies, and this is replicated in stories, as well, but without the sound effects. 

She writes like she's there. Her characters feel frighteningly real, and each scene is imagined richly enough that it often feels like I'm right there...I can feel each and every crawl of an insect's legs, and I can see the shadows lengthening in my own room as I read her stories. It was disturbingly good.

And her writing, oh my dear loves, her writing is sublime. Just absolutely sublime and originally twisted. Her imagination is just incredible, and quite honestly, I would've kept reading if the book had more material. 

Among a few of my favorites amongst the selected stories were: "Houses Under the Sea," "The Ammonite Violin," "Fish Bride," "The Maltese Unicorn," and finally, "Interstate Love Song."

5 stars.
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5 stars--amazing collection. I've been reading Caitlin Kiernan since her babygoth horror days in the '90s. Her early collection, Tales of Pain and Wonder, is one of my favorite books.

This collection contains 20 of Kiernan's short stories (and she's quite prolific as a short story writer--which is, in my opinion, her strongest form). About half of them I've read before in other places. Each story is fabulous, and it shows how far she's come as a writer. The threads of horror are still there, but she's fully embraced weird fiction and dark sci fi as well.

I especially enjoyed "The Prayer of Ninety Cats," which I hadn't read before, and "Fairy Tale of Wood Street." Both are (horror?) stories about movies, which is a genre I particularly enjoy. "The Ape's Wife" is like nothing you've ever read, and "Interstate Love Song" is disturbing and sad at the same time. Highly recommended for lovers of horror, sci fi, and dark fantasy.

The collection includes:
* Andromeda Among the Stones
* La Peau Verte
* Houses Under the Sea
* Bradbury Weather
* A Child’s Guide to the Hollow Hills
* The Ammonite Violin (Murder Ballad No. 4)
* A Season of Broken Dolls
* In View of Nothing
* The Ape’s Wife
* The Steam Dancer (1896)
* Galápagos
* Fish Bride (1970)
* The Mermaid of the Concrete Ocean
* Hydrarguros
* The Maltese Unicorn
* Tidal Forces
* The Prayer of Ninety Cats
* One Tree Hill (The World As Cataclysm)
* Interstate Love Song (Murder Ballad No. 8)
* Fairy Tale of Wood Street

I received this review copy from the publisher on NetGalley. Thanks for the opportunity to read and review; I appreciate it!
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Caitlin

3.475 Stars.  I rated my enjoyment of each story and found the average to come up with my overall rating for this anthology of Caitlín R. Keirnan.  This was my first time reading Keirnan, and I did not know what to expect.  This was marketed to me as horror, but there are a broad range of stories in this anthology, and the majority of them do not have horror themes. 

Andromeda Among the Stones- 2/5
La Peau Verte- 4/5 
Houses Under the Sea- 3/5
Bradbury Weather- 3/5
A Child’s Guide to Hollow Hills- 5/5 
The Ammonite Violin- 3/5
A Season of Broken Dolls-2.5/5
In View of Nothing- 5/5
The Apes Wife- 4/5
The Steam Dancer- 3/5
Galapagos- 4/5
Fish Bride- 4/5
Mermaid of the Concrete Ocean- 4/5
Hydrarguros- 2/5
The Maltese Unicorn- 2/5
Tidal Forces- 2/5
The Prayer of Ninety Cats- 4/5
One Tree Hill- 3/5
Interstate Love Song- 5/5
Fairy Tale of Wood Street- 3/5

Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for a free copy of this ebook in exchange for an unbiased review.
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A masterpiece. Kiernan is a once in a generation writer whose stories reach deep into your very soul. An incredible collection that will peel back your skull and punch you in the brain. Highly recommended.
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The Very Best of Caitlín R. Kiernan
by Caitlín R. Kiernan
Tachyon Publications
Horror , Sci Fi & Fantasy
This author will give you nightmares and disturbed feelings long after you have finished and put down the short stories compiled here. Maybe not contemporary horror and just pitch dark fantasy she drops you in the middle as in life with no beginning or end,  just flashes back and forward. The most delightful of the stories for me was the model and absinthe tale and hungered for more  of the tale more than almost any other. That is one thing I noticed about every story,;like an exquisite desert in front of you you haven't quite made out about it's makeup and then it is snatched up from you before you have finished.  There is something Lovecraftian about her stories in the level of distress they build up in the readier without the climaxing proof on page of the full horror which can be more horrifying. Another story drug me back to a movie in my mind: Source Code and the elements were I think the same.
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Fans of Kiernan's writing will want this, even though many if not all of the stories included in it have been anthologized already. Overall I found this particular collection uneven, perhaps because of the mix of genres represented within. Kiernan's dark fantasies are often gems, but her noir pastiches are so over the top as to be unreadable expect as satire. Nonetheless, this collection will help new readers figure out what of her writing they'll enjoy and what to avoid as they look for further works by her.
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Oh yes. DELIGHTFUL. 
Delightful how, you ask? Delightfully creepy. Unsettling. Tension in the pit of your stomach. The feeling of drowning. Deliciously dark and wonderfully ephemeral. 
This is everything I love in short stories. Kiernan is a master craftsman. She evokes such horror, but wraps it in such beautiful imagery and setting. Her stories are haunting, melancholy, sensual. They are best enjoyed in the evening, with a glass of fine wine, in a darkened room, where, if you really listen, you can practically hear the waves crashing over your head as you read through her stunning imagery. 
I'd snap up a full length novel in a heartbeat - and you should snap these short stories up too. They'll nestle down deep in your ribcage; like a parasite, like a heart.
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