Cover Image: The Very Best of Caitlin R. Kiernan

The Very Best of Caitlin R. Kiernan

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Member Reviews

Although this author has a fantastic reputation on the horror circuit I failed to get into this book. I found many of the stories too slow and uninvolving and ultimately lacking punch. I appreciate the melancholic tone of many of the stories, a number of which are themed around the sea and the ocean. Many were beautifully written, but still did not move me too much, it is probably because I prefer more 'bang' in my short fiction. As this was my first read of this much hyped author I found this collection to be slightly over-rated.
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This anthology was phenomenal! I don't typically pick up horror of any kind, but I'd heard good things about Caitlin's work and wanted to give it a go. I was blown away by the complexity, character structures and writing style. This was not your typical "horror" stories though. These reminded me of Black Mirror or Twilight Zone type stories. From sadistic girlfriends, to nicotine stained dentures and symbolism for days. As these are not all new stories, it was a thrill to be able to watch as she morphed and changed with her stories. Stories that had the same themes were vastly different, writing styles - while always true to her voice - are wildly differently, yet eerily similar. Even if one story did not resonate with you, another one surely will. Dark and twisted, her collection is one for constant reread, and you'll never feel disappointed with it! I am now a fan for life! 5/5 stars!!!
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This collection of short stories is detailed, strange, and atmospheric.  Nothing in these stories remain unquestioned.  Romance is questioned, as is knowledge and power.  Art suggests ambiguity, as do films and tomes.  Nothing exists within a vacuum, and everything is strange and unnatural.

These stories are perfect for those who enjoy the creepy, weird, and strange.  These stories are smart, written with great detail and observation.  Not to mention, of course, the style and voice!  Each character was so starkly different and viewed the universe in their own way.  Kiernan is truly a talented writer.
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My rating: 5 of 5 stars
A best of collection is a wonderful concept. Especially if you’re writer Caitlín R. Kiernan, who has published over two hundred and fifty short stories. This is her third ‘Best of’ collection, which speaks to the absolute wealth of her bibliography. For The Very Best of Caitlín R. Kiernan, Tachyon and the author decided to draw stories from her limited-edition publications. This is great, because it gives us an opportunity to experience works that we may have missed in the past. The stories within this collection are powerful and diverse, each one polished to perfection. You can see the hours of work poured into every page. I expected an incredible collection (Caitlín R. Kiernan never disappoints), and she truly delivered.

The TOC is 20 stories deep. Each of them is its own little monster, with a patchwork of different genres and influences. You can see Caitlín’s own brew of Lovecraftian horror in stories like Andromeda Among the Stones or Houses Under the Sea. There are tales of dark fantasy, fantasy noir and more traditional weird fiction. Not all of them would be considered horror, but a thread of darkness is almost always present. Each story is well-written, packed with fibrous prose and rich description at every turn of the page. As you work your way through this stacked book, you can see what makes for an essential Caitlín R. Kiernan story. They are often about loss and the murky power of the sea. The narratives are usually fractured and then sewed back into something emotional and monstrous. The endings are quieter than most short fiction in the genre, but there is always something lurking beneath the silence.

While I loved nearly every story in the collection, a few stood out for me. The Ape’s Wife is a sorrowful version of a story we know very well. La Peau Verte is a piece about the truth of fairy tales that ends with a gut punch. The Prayer of Ninety Cats is a horror tale told with a vivid cinematic flair.

‘The Very Best of’ is not hyperbole. This is a collection released by a multiple award winner at the top of her game. Each story is a testament to the power of fiction and the versatility of genre fiction as a whole.
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actual rating: 3.5

I enjoyed this book but it is a LONG book and therefore took me about two weeks to read, and that was with me trying to hurry because I'd already missed the publishing date! Looking back I can't think of any stories here that I actively disliked, but most of them are pretty heavy so I think it's definitely a book that you should maybe pick up every few days and read a story out of or else you might get burned out. There is a good mix of pretty much all genres here, but I would say most of them definitely have horror elements [more specifically Lovecraftian elements] and there are quite a few sci-fi stories as well. And lesbians. Loads and loads of lesbians! I definitely approve on that front. 

As I said before, the stories are pretty heavy and also most of them have a kind of rambling stream-of-conscious feel and make you really think about them and draw your own conclusions for the endings. Not a light read by any means, but definitely rewarding if you are in the right mood. People who have read Kiernan's work before will not be surprised, but for any newcomers I just wanted to mention that there are a whole host of trigger warnings that could go with this book: body horror, drug use, semi-graphic torture/murder descriptions, incest, bestiality, and probably several others that I've forgotten. All of these elements are not present in every story, but if you have certain things you'd like to avoid I would definitely proceed with caution.
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Caitlín R. Kiernan is amazing as always.

Beautiful short stories, beautiful book.

Have recommended it to our stores.
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Caitlin R. Kiernan gets recommended to me a lot. Probably because her stories seem to be mostly Lovecraftian weird fiction and I typically love that style of fiction. I’ve read her books The Red Tree and Agents of Dreamland and somewhat enjoyed them…until the end. I have yet to read a book by this author that feels like it has an actual ending. They just kind of end. I have enjoyed her short fiction so I was excited to try The Very Best of Caitlin R. Kiernan.

First of all I want to say that I do love the way Caitlin Kiernan writes. She has a wonderful sense of wordplay and poetic writing. If you don’t like meandering plots then you might not like it but I don’t mind as long as they’re interesting and hers are. The only problem is that very rarely are the subplots and main plots finished.

Such as the story La Peau Verte. It had a very interesting story and subplot about fairies and Hannah’s sister. But it kind of ends oddly.

Houses Under the Sea was very good. I really liked the story. It built the suspense well and had a payoff that felt rewarding.

Another that I didn’t care for was A Child’s Guide to the Hollow Hills. It might just be my preference, however, as I don’t usually get that interested in fairie stories.

One of my favorites was The Ammonite Violin (Murder Ballad No. 4) because it had a Twa Sisters feel to it and the story was very good. I had read it before in an anthology book (damned if I can remember which one) but was very happy to find it again.

Another that was really good was Interstate Love Song (Murder Ballad No. 8). The imagery was creepy and the writing was beautiful and lyrical.

Even though it’s very easy to get lost in the writing the characters themselves are fairly hard to get lost in. They all seem kind of cold with condescending attitudes. Maybe that’s just my interpretation, though. 

In all it is a very good collection if you’re a fan of the writing style. I will probably end up giving another book by Caitlin R. Kiernan’s a try because I keep hoping that one will end with a satisfying conclusion and I do really love her writing. The stories themselves are very well-written and I would recommend her short fiction if you’re new to the author. It feels less meandering and more to the point than her longer fiction.
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Picking up this collection of stories was like being given a traditional quilt as a present. Each square a unique story with its own narrative meaning. A piece of craftsmanship you can spend many happy hours examining, thinking about the history of the fabrics and the story each has to tell you. Once you have worked your way through the entire piece, you begin all over again noticing the embellishments of stitch work you might not have seen before, thus renewing the pleasure of your acquaintance.

Caitlín Kiernan slips comfortably between the science fiction, fantasy and horror genres, as well as modern nods to epic Gothic horror, at times melding them all together. If you like something dark and unsettling this is the collection for you. Put The Very Best of Caitlín R. Kiernan down for a moment and you will feel the need to keep looking over your shoulder, or find yourself waking up with a sudden start in the middle of the night.

Creating a nagging sense of disquiet is something the author is very skilled at. Stories which slowly detach themselves from reality abound. There are also those which have no connection at all, but because the narrative is divorced from physical reality, there is always the psychology to work on, which Kiernan does ruthlessly, leaving the reader with the sense that they are reading something which might just swallow them whole and not bother to spit them out.

The collection is an excellent example of someone capable of consummate worldbuilding within a limited word count, resulting in the feeling of experiencing a bite-sized epic.

I’d never read any of Kiernan’s work until now, but this collection has certainly made me very interested in her writing, so I will hunt out her backlist and be on the lookout for any new work.
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Thankyou to NetGalley, Tachyon Publications and the author, Caitlin R Kiernan. for the opportunity to read a digital copy of The Very Best of Caitlin R Kiernan in exchange for an honest and unbiased opinion.
I thought these short stories provided good, quick reads. They were well written and were a creepy read. 3.5 stars.
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All the stories in this collection were intriguing. Kiernan's writing paints vivid pictures, and I enjoyed trying to unravel what was happening in each one.

My one complaint is that I think it could have used a bit more variety; the stories themselves had plenty of variety, but the way they were structured/written was often the same, and after a few stories that began to dull the enjoyment just a little.

Overall, a great collection for those who like weird, creepy, unsettling stories.
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Everyone who's familiar with Caitli­n R. Kiernan's works knows that we're talking about a master storyteller, especially skilled in the horror genre. For those who don't know her, prepare to get familiar with one of the best horror writers of our time.

This is an anthology of Kiernan's best, atmospheric, mysterious short stories. Carefully selected, these are some of her best works. Be advised, some of them will highly resemble Lovecraft's works - something you'll either love or hate on the spot. Either way, this is definitely a recommended read for all fans of horror.
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A very comprehensive collection of weird fiction. This is a good place to start with Kiernan and where I started as I had been recommended her books (specifically the Red tree) before.
Thanks to Netgalley for letting me have an ARC
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Not my cup of tea. The stories ranged from did not finish to 'okay.' Many of the stories were slow and not very creepy despite being labeled as dark fantasy.
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I don't know why I haven't read anything previously by Caitlin R. Kiernan!  Her writing is beautiful and really draws you into the stories.  This book is a collection of short stories.  The stories range from sci-fi to full out horror.  There is a darkness to her writing style that really gives these stories an edge.  I will definitely have to check out more by her!!

Thank you to Netgalley and Tachyon Publications for this ARC.
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A deliciously unsettling group of stories on a wide range of subjects -- sort of sci fi, sort of realism tinged with elements of horror...  Can't wait to read more Caitlin Kiernan -- why haven't I heard about this author before?
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An interesting collection of stories, with the general feel of hazy, historical eeriness, sometimes with a Lovecraftian feel. I couldn't get into many of them, perhaps the lengths were a bit prohibitive for me - I like a short story that gets to the point in a timely way, and doesn't do too much lingering and building, otherwise I tend to lose my focus. These stories were a bit long in the tooth - so many with multiple sections, sometimes changing times or characters from section to section, to where it just sort of became exhausting to keep reading on to the next story.
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I only read the first 4 stories. It's just not for me. I was expecting horror. I may have been willing to take a chance on the other stories if there had been a working table of contents included but there wasn't so I gave up at around 25% because it was just too much to try to skip through to find the next story.
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The Very Best of Caitlín R. Kiernan is a collection of stories that defies expectation. You’ll find fantasies to startle and impress the imagination. Horrors to shock and enthrall you. Most importantly, you’ll find a brilliant writer that gives you every detail, no matter how gruesome or grotesque. Kiernan’s talent oozes off the page, forcing itself into your mind, leaving you startled by how skilled one person could be. The stories gave me chills at times, and I was in awe of these strings of words that acted more like spells than stories. It’s a collection to be read and savored.

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I’ve read a story or two from Kiernan over the years, but never read a novel or collection (and she has many of both). So when given the chance to check out her latest collection I figured it was high time to dive in. While most of the tales here are dark fantasy or sci-fi, almost all have elements of classic, sometimes extreme horror.

‘Andromeda Among the Stones’ is an apocalyptic Lovecraftian chiller set in California during WW1. An astrologer attempts to bring about the end after studying an ancient book he has taken home from the Middle East. His young daughter manages to keep him at bay with the help of her ghost mother and dying brother. One wicked opener...

In ‘La Peau Verte,’ Hannah turns to alcohol to deal with the death of her sister...or was her sister taken by mythical creatures? A wondrous dark fantasy and one of my faves of the collection.

‘Houses Under the Sea’ is the story of Jacova Angevine, a Berkeley Professor who has been fired after her controversial book is published. A man investigates her story, which leads to romance and an ancient cult. A great Lovecraftian piece to get the chills going.

In ‘Bradbury Weather,’ lovers are affected by a weird cult on Mars, and although sci-fi, this one is a psychological horror novella at its core. Loved it.

‘A Child’s Guide to the Hollow Hills’ is an inventive (and dark) look at a fairie’s fate.

In ‘The Ammonite Violin (Murder Ballad No. 4),’ a serial killer, who also happens to be a Collector, hires a woman violinist to play his new, custom made instrument. A couple of surprise twists made this one of the best of the lot.

In ‘A Season of Broken Dolls,’ a couple living in a post “micro-nuked” NYC manage their loose relationship over an extreme downtown art scene. Interesting but felt like part of a bigger story.

‘In View of Nothing,’ finds an assassin taken hostage during a future war somewhere in Asia. Told in future then past events, this sci-fi thriller is as weird as it is darkly suspenseful.

‘The Ape’s Wife’ features alternate versions of what could’ve become of Ann Darrow, the forced bride of KING KONG. And if like me, you’re a fan of the original film, this will be one of your favorites. Kiernan’s prose here is fantastic.

‘The Steam Dancer (1896)’ is a character study of a dancer and her mechanic husband who takes off one morning with her mechanical leg. Held my interest and ends on a melancholy note, but doesn’t really go anywhere.

In ‘Galapagos,’ a scientist from earth is called to check out a spaceship that has changed its course after encountering a bizarre alien “cloud.” She recounts her experience from a psychiatric clinic and this sci-fi head scratcher ends on an unexpected note.

‘Fish Bride (1970):’ A woman, who is turning into an aquatic being, falls in love with a man she knows can’t come with her. Reminiscent of classic mermaid tales yet quite different, this is a depressing look at loneliness, family and accepting one’s destiny.

‘The Mermaid of the Concrete Ocean’ features an art journalist interviewing an elderly parapalegic woman who had modeled for a series of paintings by a late artist. As much a mystery as a fantasy, the author’s writing sings in this beautifully written collection highlight.

‘Hydrargurous,’ is another sci-fi tale about a drug transporter who’s convinced he keeps seeing people leaking an odd liquid. The ending had me a bit confused but the ride there was worth it.

In ‘The Maltese Unicorn,’ demons battle in Manhattan in an attempt to find a dildo (yes, a dildo) made from a unicorn horn. As funny as it sounds, this one is played straight (although there’s some dark humor—how can there not be?) and makes a way out there noir/Lovecraftian dark fantasy fans of weird tales will love.

‘Tidal Forces’ features my favorite ending of the collection, another dark fantasy about two women who live seaside when one develops a mysterious hole in her stomach that keeps expanding.

In ‘The Prayer of Ninety Cats,’ gothic horror is explored through a film about Countess Bathory who lives in her late husband’s castle. She now seems to prefer women over men, and stranger sexual fetishes, as she tortures victims. Despite her dwarf servant and believing her prayers will help, her destiny is literally sealed by members of the outraged state. Best of all, Kiernan managed to make this one interactive, if you will, putting the reader in the center of the story. Great stuff here.

‘One Tree Hill (The World as Cataclysm)’ finds a science journalist investigating a New England town where a home and its adjacent tree were struck by lightning. One of the spookier stories here, it reminded me a bit of 80s-era small town horror tales ALA Rick Hautala and TM Wright.

In ‘Interstate Love Song (Murder Ballad No. 8),’ The Southwest becomes the killing grounds for two lesbian sisters in this nasty, sex-charged tale of mayhem.

And finally there’s ‘Fairy Tale of Wood Street,’ perhaps the strangest piece here (and that's really saying something), a dizzying account of a woman, returning from the restroom, observing what she sees from the back of a movie theater’s auditorium. The onscreen images hint the woman may or may not have a tail. Like a David Lynch film, the point of this one may decide to reveal itself to me (or any reader) at some point, but on this first read we’re with this woman and completely engrossed in the author’s odd visions and narrative.

These are 20 previously published stories, so this might not be of much interest to long time fans. But for this newbie, it has made me a fan, and a big one at that. Kiernan is easily one of the best writers of weird fiction working today and I'm looking forward to digging into her catalog.

(The Horror Fiction Review, 1./28/19)
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Wow! I was entirely captivated from the first story to the last! Each story was completely different from one another. So much so that I forgot it was all by the same author(which is a good thing). Caitlin Kiernan has a beautiful writing style that leaves the reader wanting more. Her description of characters and their personalities is next level. I would recommend this book to anyone who thoroughly enjoys horror, adventure and fantasy. One of my newly loved authors for sure.
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