Cover Image: The Very Best of Caitlin R. Kiernan

The Very Best of Caitlin R. Kiernan

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This book has taken a long time to finish it. I’d read a story here or there then pick up something else, but I’d always come back to it. I don’t’ necessarily love Kiernan’s style, but I deeply respect and admire her work. I appreciate her gritty and weird horror style, and her craft of the English language is impressive.

I think perhaps much of her writing is a bit gritty and real for me. I don’t like to think of people as dirty and unlikeable, even when it makes them more human, but Kiernan is great at that. Showing people in an unfavorable, realistic light even in the midst of otherworldly settings.

I think House Under the Sea was my favorite of these tales, as I’m a sucker for under water creatures, particularly the more horrific and less idealized mermaids and mythic creatures of the deep. Bradbury Weather was also interesting, but again gritty unsavory characters who I was following but not necessarily rooting for.

If you’re a fan of this style, though, there’s plenty to enjoy in this collection. I love the varied styles of storytelling, and Kiernan has a knack for world building, which I appreciate. I’m real late on this one, so you can pick it up wherever you get your books. I’ve even seen it available via Overdrive at my libraries.
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I'd written Kiernan off after her Dreaming run, a comic which epitomised the way late nineties Vertigo had sagged from edgy, innovative storytelling into rote transgression for transgression's sake. But a friend's defence of her later work was impassioned and intriguing enough that I thought I might dip my toes in again, and the stories to which she directed me caught somehow in my memory, such that when I saw this on Netgalley, I thought 'why not?'

And then took nearly two years to finish it. Because these are stories for a very particular mood, and for me at least, not at all something I could profitably race through. Queer (in both senses) and grubby and apocalyptic (though not this dull apocalypse – there are new plagues here, but they're ones marked by trickles of mercury from the eyes or ears, not dry coughs). Bodies are modified and malleable, by choice or otherwise. Many of the settings are tatty, feverish futures; alternate pasts; presents with a chemical reek left by science, supernature or some lurid crossbreed of the two. Ultimately, though, it's all about that lowering mood, all gathering storms and febrile sex – a sort of overcast cousin to Tennessee Williams, but able to push well past gayness and into new and hitherto unimagined transgressions. They're not always even strictly genre pieces, so much as cult fiction, and if they are all from long after that Dreaming run which I bounced off so thoroughly, there's still a definite tang here of stuff I'd read in the nineties. Has Kiernan changed as a writer, or have I as a reader? Both, I suspect: some of the most awkward edges have rubbed off her interests (though there remains more of a fascination with serial killers than I can altogether share), but also at this distance, gods help me, I think I just miss nineties edginess. Albeit these days it definitely feels less dubious getting it from a female perspective. A story about a steampunk cyborg stripper who muses "Other women are only whole, she thinks. Other women are only born, not made. I have been crafted." ...that's always going to be an unsettling authorial gaze, deliberately so, but feels much more defensibly so here than it would from a guy.

I also appreciated how often the stories weren't structured as stories, more as vignettes – the moments of greatest emotional resonance strung like pearls, not set in the plod of connective tissue. This commendable willingness to kill everything that's not her darlings is probably why, even when a given tale is a reimagining or set in the margins of someone else's world, the same distinctive authorial sensibility is there. The Ape's Wife, for instance, is a tattered epilogue to King Kong; Tidal Forces recapitulates the Cthulhu Mythos' central horror in the context of a lesbian domestic drama – and even manages to find a happy ending which doesn't feel forced. And yet both of them feel emphatically Kiernan. I'm not sure how much further I'll venture into the nighted forests of her bibliography, but I'm very glad I was tempted back for at least this much of a visit.
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There was much to enjoy here, but I found I couldn't connect with it. I'd read more from this author in the future though.
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Finally finished this anthology. Took me nearly a month to and I’m reminded again never to do anthologies. This was mildy entertaining. Firstly the writing style, if memory serves me right, was entirely first person view for ALL the short stories. After awhile, it got monotonous and draggy, and persisting to read it requires an avalanche of will. Alot of the stories had deeper meanings embedded in them and having to always wonder why the story ended that way was also a little off putting. Perhaps I only felt this way because I wanted to finish the book at one shot. And perhaps the book would have been better enjoyed as a “side chick” while you read others. I don’t know. For the reasons above though, I’m giving it a 2.5 rounded to 3.
Finally, Caitlin seems to have a fascination with the sea. There were quite a handful of stories centered around the sea and when they weren’t, there were casual mentions of the sea and its creatures.

Andromeda Among the Stones
A family of gatekeepers battle against their fears to save mankind. Would have been nice to read this as a longer standalone

La Peau Verte
My second story and I think I already know Caitlin’s style. Stories with cryptic endings that makes you wonder about the meaning. Did Hannah die (like her sister did)? Or did she merely entered another world?

Houses Under The Sea
The writing style of this story almost bored me to death. 

Bradbury Weather
Great start, kept me engrossed all the way till the mid point when Dorry met the Journalist. After that it got a tad too technical. This story setting would probably do better as a standalone? Heavy mention of the Fenrir but really mediocre explanation why.

A Child’s Guide to The Hollow Hills
A short unfortunate tale of the untimely demise of a fairy. I do agree when they say Caitlin Kieran is more of a dark fantasy writer than horror.

The Ammonite Violin
A fat man who supposedly isn’t human collects ammonites and strangles. One day he decides to kill himself for no reason. End of story

A Season Of Broken Dolls
I don’t get the point of this story, honestly. The only interesting part was Jane Darger’s bio.

In View Of Nothing
Ok so whats this another long drawn out technical scifi with main characters that have the same build up as Galapagos/Bradbury Weather/In View of nothing?

The Ape’s Wife
This was just downright boring.

The Steam Dancer
This one was slightly more interesting than the rest. I wonder if Missouri's account of how she lost her limbs was not in actual fact the reality.

Your classic sci fi short story. Lady flies to Mars to retrieve her colleagues or ex and to find out what happened to them and ends up finding all of them gone with one remaining crew presumably turned to a host for some sort of alien creature. 

Fish Bride
Was actually looking forward to reading this one, I think I've seen it being raved somewhere. I usually like quick reading so I like my stories short, but this one was incredibly short and unsatisfying. I was looking forward to some jump scares, or at least some nice sweet fairytale. But for all it was there was only the mildest horror ever. Mentions of two rows of tiny shark teeth, scales, and webbings between fingers. There was nothing sinister or chilling or terrifying in the meaning of the book either.

Mermaid Of The Concrete Ocean
Here the author dropped another one of her "So is it or is it not" stunts again. You are left wondering if that ninety + year old lady is actually the mermaid in the painting, and if she was the one that created that masterpiece found on the beach that was half bitten off.

A few people started leaking silvery streams from their orifices which may or may not have a life of its own depending on whether the main character is a person prone to hallucinations because of all the drugs he is taking.

The Maltese Unicorn
All I can think of is how much I want that unicorn tusk and how anti climax the ending is

Tidal Forces
This was such a strange story... a hole opened up in a girl’s body which led to the universe and it grew bigger everyday. It finally closed when her partner plunged her arm inside the hole

The Prayer Of Ninety Cats
I’m actually still wondering if this was in reality a movie because if it is I want to watch it. If it’s not, then this is an interesting writing style for a short story. Applause.

One Tree Hill
A science journalist travels to a village to debunk a myth and meets a supernatural being there. Said being warns her to leave or suffer the consequences, as well as the rest of the village, naturally, but journalist insists on staying. In the end, journalist stayed, slept with said being and decided to leave the village. In conclusion, always ignore a life threatening warning because not only do you get good sex but also you survive to tell the tale.

Interstate Love Song
Easily one of my favs in this book. What the twins had was macabre, it was bizarre, and it ended pitifully, ironically. 

Fairy Tale Of Wood Street
The book ended with a supposedly heartwarming fairy tale of a human in a relationship with an otherworldly being. The human doesn’t know at first, and the being tried to reveal it to her gradually
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This is a read that I was really excited about. I've only heard praise for Caitlin R. Kiernan, and was excited to read this collection of her "very best". It's a great collection of unconnected short stories that are both uncanny and unsettling. 

I very much enjoyed the passionate writing style of this author, and all of her characters felt grounded and entirely novel. 

However, I really struggled to finish this one. The plots were too obscure for me to find ground to understand what was going on. I'm hopeful that I might return to this collection one day and have a different experience.
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I am not quite sure how to start with this review except to say this book was not for me. There were a few good stories but the rest had me wishing the book was over. They were strange or I just lacked interest. I’ll be giving this 2 stars because of the few good stories.
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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 - 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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Such a great collection of Caitlin Kiernan works. I really enjoy her writing style and found each story really easy to read.
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Kiernan is a master. Cerebral, frightening, and always wickedly intelligent. Any anthology of her work is a must-have, especially for fans of weird fiction. Each story in this collection is an intricate, carefully-composed work of art, and Kiernan's signature prose will delight new readers. A wonderful introduction to her work.
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I was provided with an ARC of this title by Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. 

Wow. Kiernan's ability to breathe all that is hidden, ominous and foreboding into her stories is both masterful and captivating. These are not your typical horror stories. 

There is the down and out artist who becomes fairy prey, the grizzled old woman who is not what she seems. The gothic settings, florid language and unique plot twists reel the reader in. 

These are dark fantasy/horror stories for adults because they make you question all of things that exist in the unseen corners of your peripheral vision.
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I didn't finish this. I read the first third or so, really enjoying "Bradbury Weather" and somewhat enjoying "Houses Under the Sea" but really not clicking with any of the other stories. I have heard Kiernan described as a writer of atmospheric vignettes, and that holds true for me, although disappointingly so. Although many stories started in an interesting vein, and some crept with horror elements, they didn't capture my interest or imagination quite as thoroughly as I had hoped. I may someday finish this, or find Kiernan's volume of sci-fi writing at the library (based on my enjoyment of "Bradbury Weather"), but this volume didn't do it for me despite my interest in dark short stories/speculative fiction.
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I didn't get a physical copy but this collection is bang for your buck, you get a lot of short stories. It is interesting how the stories all have a Caitlin Kiernan vibe despite being different. I think I could identify one of her stories anywhere now. There is always mystery and suspense and sometimes she tantalizingly leaves you wondering (I imagine this may frustrate or annoy some people). I have no doubt that she could have made full novels of a lot of these ideas but you get the feeling she wants to leave you to think about the story all day. Then there is the sexy grossness; sexiness and desire but with a slimy, eerie component, lol. It's hard to explain ok? You know how something can be sexy and gross at the same time, like liking the smell of someone attractives' body odour? Well, this review is getting weird, probably time to wrap up. Thanks to Netgalley and the publisher for providing me a copy for my honest review.
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With a writer like Caitlín R. Kiernan, a title like The Very Best of… is begging a lot. Where’s the ferociously parodic, deconstructive urban fantasy she writes under her Kathleen Tierney nom de guerre? Where’s the Delta Green-flavoured Lovecraftian technothrillers like Agents of Dreamland and Black Helicopters? Where’s her comic contribution to the Sandman mythos? In any collection from such an author, there’s always bound to be, not only favourite stories, but entire sub-genres missed out. I want to put in this quote to illustrate the point, because it’s the kind of thing you so rarely get to include in a review: “Brown University’s John Hay Library has established the Caitlín R. Kiernan Papers, spanning her full career thus far and including juvenilia, consisting of twenty-three linear feet of manuscript materials, including correspondence, journals, manuscripts, and publications, circa 1970-2017, in print, electronic, and web-based formats.” Count ‘em: twenty-three linear feet. It’s a brave editor or publisher who would dare try to encapsulate every facet of an author so various, and so prolific. 

What this compilation does demonstrate is that Caitlín R. Kiernan is producing the very best of contemporary dark and weird fiction, regardless of whether or not that typifies her whole range. She not only has written more than nine-tenths of her contemporaries, she has also written substantially better than nine-tenths of them. She casually throws off metaphor and imagery in passing that would make any other writer’s career. Kiernan has a word horde as rich as Smaug’s, and a voice as mesmeric. 

Part of her mastery of different genres and sub-genres is her unerring ear for the idioms, idiolects, speech communities, buzzwords, shibboleths, jargon, psychobabble, technobabble, Mythobabble of each side alley and cul-de-sac of imaginative literature. Her debt to 1890s decadent literature might have helped tune her ear for distinct prosodies, but even when it’s fully on view, as in “La Peau Verte,” it isn’t anything like as overblown and cloying as Angela Carter or Poppy Z. Brite. Kiernan’s frame of stylistic reference isn’t anything like that narrow, and she doesn’t wallow in overwrought prose like many self-declared decadent authors. She tosses in quotations and references from the whole gamut of literature that you’d ache to see more often in genre fiction, yet she keeps a sinew and thrust in her writing that nails all the glitter and sparkle of her stylistic brilliance firmly to the underlying contours of her narrative. Sometimes her more experimental pieces do tax the reader’s patience – I’m no fan of the unparagraphed construction of “Interstate Love Song (Murder Ballad No. 8)” for instance – but such excesses are rare, and generally tempered by a propulsive impetus, let alone a turn of phrase, that makes her fables unputdownable. “Houses under the Sea,” does dip into the deep waters of her best-known single work, The Drowning Girl: A Memoir, but that doesn’t render this collection any less a partial glimpse at best. And there’s that word again.

Kiernan has gone on record in the past to state that she’s “getting tired of telling people that I’m not a ‘horror’ writer. I’m getting tired of them not listening, or not believing.” It’s true that miscegenation and body horror are recurrent themes – steampunk prostheses, flesh sculptures, alien distortion/transcendence of normal humanity – frequently embodied in or espoused by mutated former lovers. Yet she typifies horror as “an emotion, and no one emotion will ever characterize my fiction.” She’s also said that “story bores me. Which is why critics complain it’s the weakest aspect of my work.” I don’t see any lack of story in these stories, though. I also suspect that Kiernan wouldn’t have been able to keep readers’ attention across such a huge volume of work unless she was able to keep them engaged through extended narratives with more than just jewelled individual sentences. She shares that characteristic gift of a really good short story writer of tieing off a section or a passage with a line that hooks you and leaves you gasping, aching to see what comes next. And if she has any uniformity of tonal range or register, it’s one that carries superbly well across genre after genre, from the folk horror of “A Child’s Guide to the Hollow Hills,” to the superb occult noir of “The Maltese Unicorn.” Not only would what she pulls off in that one story alone make another writer’s entire career, I’ve actually seen it happen.

In their introduction to The Weird, Ann and Jeff VanderMeer write that Kiernan has “become perhaps the best weird writer of her generation.” There’s only two parts to that statement I’d  question: Only weird? And perhaps? Weird fiction as a genre, if it is a genre, should be grateful to be able to lay even partial or intermittent claim to her. Caitlín R. Kiernan is the fulfilment of every weird fiction pundit’s dream of a transgressive, inclusive, brutally contemporary author who brings all the territory’s sub-genres bang up to date while ditching their historical baggage – yet she effortlessly transcends such categories and limitations, just as she effortlessly transcends every genre she’s cared to touch down in. Even after successive World Fantasy Awards and Bram Stoker Awards, she’s still a writer who can’t be honoured and recognized enough. Words fail me. But they rarely if ever fail her.
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“No story has a beginning, and no story has an end. Beginnings and endings may be conceived to serve a purpose, to serve a momentary and transient intent, but they are, in their truer nature, arbitrary and exist solely as a construct of the mind of men.” 

Caitlín Kiernan is regarded as a master of dark fantasy and a collection of the ‘best’ of her stories sounded really interesting. The book is a collection of 20 short stories, each with different theme and setting. Though classified as horror, I would describe these stories more of dark fiction than horror. Let me warn you, these are not your usual horror stories. These stories are dark and often bizarre. It felt like being at a modern art collection; either you get the meaning what it’s trying to convey or you simply don’t. 

The stories are dark and disturbing with a mixture of horror and fantasy. Every story is set in a strange and atmospheric world, every character is both fascinating and frightening and everything in this world is strange and unnatural. 

Every story had some unique theme; Like Ann Darrow’s story after King Kong’s death, or the story about twins killing people, Art critics interviewing models of famous paintings. It’s like exploring a new world in each story. Kiernan’s style of writing is unique and her prose is dark, disturbing yet lyrical. 

The stories, mostly told in the first person, are pretty heavy and most of them start and end abruptly (which was really frustrating, at times) and make you really wonder about what’s going on and draw your own conclusions for the endings. There were times when I had to re-read a story to get the real meaning. A little background or context for these stories may have really helped. 

Almost every story asks for close attention, for serious and thoughtful engagement with the text. There are lovely turns of phrase, powerful images, and beautiful sentences but it’s all way too confusing to properly enjoy. In the end, it was a mixed bag for me. I really liked some stories, some stories were confusing and overall the collection was enjoyable but mentally exhausting to read. 

Overall, if you approach this book as a collection of 20 horror stories, you may be confused or disappointed. This collection is not for everyone. These are stories of different styles and plots and will require some patience to enjoy. However, if you are looking to explore new genres and try something weird, dark and different, this collection might be a great place to start. 

Many thanks to the publishers Tachyon Publications, the author Caitlin R. Kiernan and NetGalley for the ARC.
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Kiernan has a very distinctive style, her stories have a great eye for describing horror in excruciating detail, and then making it banal and every day by weaving it in with usually mismatched interpersonal relationships. The reader will either love this style or not. While I thought some of the stories were excellent, overall I just found the collection a bit of a bummer.
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‘It’s just the way I tell stories, right. You know that. I start at the beginning. I don’t leave stuff out.’ If only, Caitlin R Kiernan, if only!

For me a good short story is still complete in some way, it’s a stripped-back story or a snapshot of one but it still needs to be coherent and immersive in its own right. Although it may not have all of the elements of a novel it still needs something to pull a reader in - whether that’s a compelling main character, an interesting situation, a definitive ending or an intriguing backstory. I felt that the vast majority of stories in this collection by Caitlin R Kiernan failed in this definition. They felt a lot less like short stories and more like jumbled excerpts of larger, more interesting books. I was crying out for some of them to have a short synopsis at the beginning to tell me what I’d missed and what was going on so I could enjoy what was presented in front of me without feeling so utterly lost.

There were some stories, such as Houses Under the Sea, Bradbury Weather and A Season of Broken Dolls that from beginning to end I had absolutely no clue what was going on. I found myself skimming them and hoping the next story might be a little clearer. I think perhaps if we had been given context for these stories they may have actually been really interesting – they seemed to sometimes give a flash of something intriguing but it was gone just as quickly as it had appeared.

Even the ones I did like had their own problems. La Peau Verte for example, was a nice story with some great imagery and an interesting backstory, however it ended far too abruptly – as if the last chapter had been left out. In my humble opinion it would have tied much better together if her sister was sitting at the throne. Even the stories I would have rated 4/5 stars in the context of this anthology would only really have gotten 3 stars if I had read them standalone. The only story I actually enjoyed was the Ammonite Violin which had two interesting characters, told you enough about them to keep you engaged, had a sinister feel running all the way through it and a proper ending.

Overall if this is ‘The Very Best’ of Caitlin R Kiernan’s work then I’m afraid it’s not for me, there are some great ideas and imagery in here but it’s all way too confusing to properly enjoy. Thank you to NetGalley & Tachyon Publications for a copy of the ARC in exchange for a (very!) honest review.
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A very odd collection of short horror stories. These are great reads for someone who can’t commit to a whole novel. Perfect for reading on a lunch break. The author has a way with words that drags you right into each story.
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When I read “The Maltese Unicorn” in The Unicorn Anthology, I wanted to read more of Caitlín R. Kiernan’s work. Tachyon on Netgalley had The Very Best of Caitlín R. Kiernan up for download, so I loaded it onto my kindle and started reading a story or three. I was really captivated by a lot of her work because it’s a little creepy, unsettling, and grotesque, but in a way that showcases truths that sometimes we’re afraid to face or don’t know how to face.

My favorite stories in the collection were as follows: “The Maltese Unicorn” (of course, because you really can’t go wrong with lesbian unicorn noir), “A Child’s Guide to Hollow Hills,” “The Ammonite Violin,” and “Hydrarguros”. “The Ammonite Violin” has such a masterfully and terrific thrill to it that I read it twice. I knew the story was leading up to something, and the revelation was perfectly executed.

I had never read any of her work before her story in The Unicorn Anthology, and I think it’s because I don’t often dabble in the “horror” genre. I am hesitate to label Kiernan as “horror” in the traditional sense because so many of her stories were a quiet, creeping sort of horror rather than a shock and scare sort of thing that I generally tend to associate with “horror.” Her work is more an examination of the human existence in all its forms, from light to dark, and I think this collection of her work shows the broad scope of her abilities.
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Over the last year. I have reignited my love affair with short story collections and this one did not disappoint.  I was captivated by the characters and stories that wove incredible, yet somehow believable, tales.
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This is an extraordinary and substantial collection of stories. Most defy categorisation. Are they horror, sci-fi, fantasy? Surreal, beautiful, often with poignant despair. These are dreams, meanderings in another world. These stories are like nothing else I have ever read. This book is nothing short of a literary treasure trove.
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